Dan Barkin

Help us all to get 'In the Spirit'

Staff WriterNovember 24, 2007 

We've started running a feature called "In the Spirit" on this page. We know there are lots of organizations that are trying to do good works for the needy during this season but need help trying to reach donors and volunteers.

Maybe your group is collecting toys. Maybe you are working on a holiday event for seniors.

I invite you to look at the explanation that I've written on this page. And then I invite you to look at the item on the Angel Tree project underneath my explanation. I got a little verklempt as I was typing it in. I'll probably have a bunch of those moments in the days ahead. Most of us are pretty lucky, truth be told. We have the wherewithal to go to the malls at 5 a.m. in search of the -- what do they call them? -- "doorbusters."

I am hoping Santa brings me a satellite radio so I can listen to something other than BBC reports on unrest in Moldova on my morning commutes. But some folks are just hoping for winter coats for their kids, and that makes me a little ashamed.

CHRISTMAS PARADES: Some of my fondest memories will continue to be watching my offspring march down the main drag in Clayton in the Christmas parade. My son did it with a trumpet in the middle school band before he gave it up for soccer, and my daughter did it in the middle school and high school marching bands, for years, up to and including her reign as drum major. I think in one long-ago parade, in Raleigh, she twirled a baton.

I bring this up because for the dozens of small towns around the Triangle and its edges, the Christmas parade is still a very big deal indeed.

For the from-heres, these are parades that they marched in, and their parents marched in. Maybe even their grandparents. For the newcomers, it's a way to plug into the community and visit that downtown that once was a railroad stop and the only place to shop.

Downtowns all over the Triangle are making heroic stands despite the bypasses, and the malls and power centers that you visited yesterday. It's just not the same watching a parade wind through the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. Nothing against Mr. Sam, but a Christmas parade needs a Main Street.

Many of you parents will be on downtown sidewalks over the next two weeks, shuffling your feet and swinging your arms to keep warm. If you are of a mind to, I'd invite you to post some of the pictures to share.triangle.com.

And not just Santa. Think clowns on funny little motorcycles, elaborate floats bearing Boy Scouts, snappy convertibles bearing Miss Teen (fill in your county's name).

The favorite images in my mind's eye are of county courthouse pols from Smithfield riding in the parade, waving to all the voters spilling off the sidewalks of downtown Clayton who didn't live here five years ago. "Who are these people?" reads the expression on their faces -- the politicians and the newcomers alike.

THINGS YOU MISS: Speaking of traditions and newcomers ... If you are one of the 25,000 annually relocated to the Triangle, maybe you're missing something. One of our editors, Michelle Valenzuela, has come up with a feature called Homesick Holidays. She's looking for stories about what you miss most. Like snow. (Although I can tell you I don't miss that at all.) Maybe it's skating outdoors on a frozen pond. We want to publish these, so send e-mail to mvalenzuela@newsobserver.com or post to share.triangle.com/ homesick.

REVALUATIONS: Monday, I'll be running some excerpts from our forum on the Wake and Durham revaluations. It's at share.triangle.com/reval.

dan.barkin@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4562

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