By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It was a spot of color at the edge of the desert. Some anonymous merry soul had put three bright red velvet bows on a mesquite bush.
Every now and again, I’m almost daunted by some Scrooge or Grinch…usually from another part of the world, who starts trash talking about holiday excesses.
Then, when I’m heading to the wilderness to try to walk off the latest overload of commercial overkill and psychic projectile holiday depression, I come across a spontaneous manifestation of pure artistic cheer and goodwill toward men…and presumably roadrunners, quail, jackrabbits and other desert critters.
I’m continually surprised by creative expressions of holiday spirit in Las Cruces.
By now, I’m used to seeing chile pepper santas and angels on car antennas, and vintage trucks sporting wreaths and ribbons on their front grills.
But it can take more than a jolly jalapeño St. Nick to offset the impact of braving the malls to talk to people about Black Friday, and the other potentially grim holiday assignments that can further jade already cynical and less-than-merry newsroom staffs.
But here, too, are surprises. I reluctantly accost beleaguered parents, making lists and checking them twice while juggling a baby and a toddler hyped on sugarplums and unrealistic Santa expectations.
The overextended parents do not cut me dead, as they have been known to do in less kind, gentle — and sometimes downright mean — metropolises. No. They take time to chat with me and even wish me a Merry Christmas.
It’s hard to maintain Grinchiness in Las Cruces.
In fact, even my hardened colleagues exhibit softer sides during this magical time of year.
There’s usually a group collection of some kind for a family in need, and boxes of toys show up in a corner of the newsroom.
Our publisher David McClain ambles through the building, distributing seasonal posies. He gracefully contains his military vet’s appraisal of our less-than-orderly newsroom and cheerfully plops the bright red poinsettias on top of the paper piles, if he can’t find a clear square-foot on our cluttered desks.
New SunLife editor Richard Coltharp shows up with red and green Converse All-Star high-tops laced with bells that jingle jangle jingle, as he goes, roaming merrily along....
Snack alerts are e-mailed. Cookies and traditional favorites are baked and proffered, generating familiar memories for those of us who can’t get to our childhood homes, or the homes of our children and grandchildren, for the holidays.
Reporters occasionally even admit to being touched by stories of compassionate souls or the tragedies and accidents, the sudden deaths and mindless violence that seems, alas, to also have become too-familiar American holiday traditions at this time of year.
The weather gets colder and skins get thinner.
But the yuletide seems to bring out the deeply weird and wacky side of journalists, too.
A tiny stocking shows up, hung with care a few inches off the floor in an editor’s cubicle. It’s for the newsroom mouse.
My contribution is the newsroom Christmas tree, traditionally, for the last decade, a live potted specimen that exhibits Charlie Brown rustic form and spirit, and decorations to match. My colleagues contribute something from their desks, on loan to ornament the tree.
This year’s version, installed just after Thanksgiving, is already shedding: needles, sunglasses and a Barack Obama sticker came drifting down today. Otherwise, it’s a little more polished and artistic than usual. It is crowned with a Star of David ornament, fashioned from Norm Dettlaff’s page one photo of an adorable Hanukkah baby. Jason Gibbs created a paper clip garland. There are some actual Christmas tree ornaments and candy canes, unusually orthodox for our newsroom tree, but several repurposed desk collectibles add to the eclectic spirit. There’s a golden Homer Simpson who shouts “Yahoo” when he falls with another shedding of needles, and assorted frogs, a lizard, a tiny Lucha Libre action figure, a Candy Cane Magic Lottery ticket (prescratched, not a winner, or course) and a tattered cartoon that informs us that the leading cause of fear in society today is 24-hour news.
But there’s nothing to fear here. We’ve got the spirit.
We hope you do, too. Merry Christmas.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org