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The Observer, Dec. 23 

It is The Observer's opinion that working women should get December off. Not to cast too wide a net here, it's not their menfolk who are sitting up until midnight needlepointing the stockings, knitting the scarves, sitting on a cold floor wrapping gifts. They don't give a damn about the shopping, of course, and it's a rare man who wants to bake cookies with children. Clean the house? Forget it. Getting the ornaments down from the attic? Probably not. They aren't stringing popcorn and cranberries, nor are they sitting at their desks wishing they were. They aren't writing Christmas cards, and they aren't baking loaves of their grandmother's fruitcake to give their chums (neither is The Observer, sadly). Do they care if the lights on the tree fink out, leaving half the beautifully decorated evergreen in darkness? They do not. They won't iron the wrinkled tablecloth or the napkins. They will cut down deciduous holly loaded with red berries if they happen to be out in the woods, and for that The Observer is grateful.

Maybe some men do all these pre-Christmas chores. They should get December off, too.

Doctors' waiting rooms are generally better at bringing The Observer down than lifting him up, but we got a shot of feel-good in one such room last week. Flipping through the Dec. 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, we came on an article about the best SI covers of all time, and suddenly The Observer was young again, the world right again. It was the cover from Feb. 12, 1978. Sidney Moncrief is soaring higher than ever lark or even eagle flew, gripping the ball behind his head with both hands, just about to slam it through the Texas basket. Longhorn players are fleeing in terror.

Those were the early Eddie Sutton years, when Arkansas was still new to big-time college basketball, and Razorback fans were feeling thrills they hadn't felt before. It seems to The Observer now that we never followed Razorback basketball, before or since, quite as passionately as in those days, crouched beside the radio. There were few televised games back then.

Sidney Moncrief was the greatest hero of the era. And he was black, Arkansas's first great black sports hero, and that made you feel that not just in basketball but in life, things were looking up for Arkansas.

Not even Sidney could maintain that kind of high, and we're all older and wiser now. But it's nice to remember when we weren't.

So the person in front of our niece at the Heights Starbucks the other day was being really fussy about his coffee. You know, the milk had to have exactly the right butterfat, the cup had to be filled to a certain depth, the barista had to make sure he used this coffee and not that coffee, yada yada yada.

It made The Observer's niece giggle, because Mr. Picky was in full camo. From the deer woods, or whatever animal woods it might be, making his hairy-chested way from a greasy dawn breakfast no doubt to his latte at Starbucks.

Feeling full of the holiday spirit, The Observer took to the highway with Miss Observer and her family and headed to Hot Springs to see the Christmas lights at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Since late November, and continuing through December, the premises have been downright cloaked in holiday lights, about 1.8 million of them to be exact. There are lights of every color, some that twinkle, some that drip, some that pulse to the beat of Christmas carols. There's a train, a gingerbread house, candy canes, butterflies, flowers. Strands of lights line the walkways and light passageways through the garden grounds.

It was beautiful, just how we'd imagined. One thing we didn't prepare for? The cold. It was a tad chilly the night we ventured out. In between the "oohs" and "ahs" The Observer had to find creative and covert ways of wiping the little drips from the end of our frozen nose. Luckily, the lights kept Miss Observer's attention elsewhere. After an hour or so of walking around and taking in the festival of lights we found true happiness in the warmth of a worn-out vehicular heater and a crumpled glove box napkin we quickly repurposed to make a Christmas Kleenex.

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