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A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit Hardcover – November 3, 2009

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About the Author

Mike Huckabee won eight states and more than four million votes during the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. He served as the governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and as lieutenant governor from 1993 to 1996. Before politics, he worked in broadcasting and advertising and spent twelve years as a pastor and denominational leader. He lives with his wife, Janet, in North Little Rock, Arkansas. They have three grown children, three dogs, and at least that many friends!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

2. Sacrifice

On February 9, 1964, I was one of seventy-three million Americans watching The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles made their first appearance in the United States. My family usually watched Ed Sullivan anyway, but that night was something special.

Like many kids who saw this quartet of long-haired Brits with electric guitars and drums, I realized their music was something very different, and I immediately knew that I wanted a guitar so I could become one of the Beatles. So what if I was only eight years old at the time and had never played a guitar in my life? I wasn't concerned with minor details like that, and playing a guitar real loud and having girls scream for me seemed like a great goal in life. I was hooked.

The kids in my neighborhood were just as stricken as I was, and we started gathering Coke bottles that we found discarded on the side of the road and turning them in for their two-cent deposit value. Eventually we earned enough to buy the 45 rpm record of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," with "I Saw Her Standing There" on the B side of the record. It was the first record I ever bought. Before that, I only had little 78 rpm recordings of children's stories with songs, like "The Poky Little Puppy" and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Coke bottles (in the South, we call all soda Coke even if it's actually a different brand) were the great equalizer of economic disparity among kids where I came from. Some kids automatically got money from their parents as an allowance, which seemed pretty terrific, but the rest of us could take our little red wagons (everyone had one) and pull them around town and pick up enough empty bottles to get some easy money, even if it did require some serious scavenging around tall weeds and ditches.

The little record player I had was better suited for "Poky Little Puppy" records, but it would play a 45, although I had to turn the volume all the way up to get anywhere near the "rock and roll" level I wanted. The little two-inch speaker distorted horribly when pushed up to ten on the dial, but I didn't care. The louder the better. Unfortunately, the louder-the-better mind-set stayed with me after I advanced to larger speakers backed up by an amplifier that emitted 120 decibels—enough to take paint off the wall! Yes, I know that I shouldn't have played music that loudly, and yes, it has affected my hearing somewhat, and yes, I regret it. I have already had the lectures from my parents when I was a kid and from doctors as an adult, so please spare me another one!

Playing the 45s and later the LP albums of the Beatles was great, but that really wasn't enough to fulfill my passion for rock and roll. That summer, several kids in the neighborhood decided we would produce a Beatles show for our parents and all the neighbors. Of course, we didn't have real instruments and none of us knew how to play, but those were minor details. We would make our own instruments and pantomime the songs played by the record player.

Every kid in the neighborhood had a job. My sister Pat ran the record player. Amelia Leverett from down the street sold tickets and Cokes. The "Beatles" consisted of Tom Frazier as George Harrison (he would later give up being a Beatle to become a prominent hand surgeon); Carol Frazier (Tom's sister, who is now married and works as a community-affairs specialist at a pediatric hospital) as Ringo; Betty Rodden (who, last I heard, was a basketball coach) as John Lennon; and me as Paul McCartney, the bass player (I'm still one today). Bob "Bo" Frazier, the little brother of Tom and Carol (now a CPA), was the opening act and entertained the audience by wearing a bedsheet and singing a song called "Ghostly Solo." It had absolutely nothing to do with the Beatles, but Mr. and Mrs. Frazier wouldn't let us use their back patio as a stage unless we included Bo in the show.

Our guitars were cardboard cutouts taped and glued to yardsticks, and the drums were made from round patio tables turned upside down. The larger tables were used for the bass drums, and the smaller tables were for the other drums. Cymbals were cardboard cutouts attached to mop handles.

Our families and the other neighbors were quite charitable and paid twenty-five cents each for a ticket to watch us lip-synch as many Beatles records as we had been able to purchase with the money earned from collecting Coke bottles. I'm sure they were all glad we hadn't found more bottles!

The Fraziers were better off than most of us in the neighborhood and owned an 8 mm movie camera. Somewhere the movies that were made of this momentous event probably still exist, but I pray daily that no amount of coercion ever forces anyone to cough them up for public consumption.

Playacting the Beatles with cardboard and yardsticks was okay, but I wanted a real guitar. It shouldn't have surprised anyone who knew me back then. As young as age five, I was banging away at an old Gene Autry cowboy guitar that my dad had and would play occasionally. At the time, I thought I was Elvis or at least figured I would replace him as soon as I got old enough or he retired. (The photo on the cover of this book is in fact one of me at five years old with that old Gene Autry guitar, striking my best Elvis pose.)

Most of the other kids in our "band" moved on to other things after that night on the "stage." Not me. I was hooked, but I didn't want to spend the rest of my life lip-synching songs with a cardboard guitar (Milli Vanilli would do that just fine several years later). I wanted to "do the real thing." (Sounds almost like a book I think you ought to read called Do the Right Thing.)

I decided I wanted an electric guitar. I asked for but didn't get one for Christmas of 1964. Ditto for 1965. By 1966, when I was the ripe old age of eleven, I decided that I had to change my strategy. Each year until then, I had made a Christmas list of things I wanted. I knew the list had a lot more on it than could ever be expected, but I wanted to cover all the bases. As I "ma-tured," and got wiser, it occurred to me that while I had included the electric guitar on the list, there were other things on that list as well, and I was in effect giving my parents a way out of giving me an electric guitar, which was all I really wanted anyway.

In 1966, my Christmas list was very simple. An electric guitar. That's it. The whole list. Nothing else on it. No more negotiating and compromising. It was all or nothing.

They said, "Son, don't you want to put something else on that list in case Santa can't come up with a guitar?" Not that I still believed in Santa or anything, but heck no, I didn't want to put something else on that list! Been there, done that, and still no guitar. I dug in my heels.

"All I want is the guitar. Nothing else," I told them. "I promise I'll practice and learn how to play it. If I don't, you can take it away from me." Of course, I knew that if I ever really got that guitar, I would practice it. and anyone taking it away was probably as likely as someone going up to Chuck Norris and taking away his chest hair. Ain't happening.

Of course, I had no idea what my parents could actually afford to buy me. I certainly was old enough and observant enough to know that we always drove a used car, didn't have air-conditioning like some families, never went on nice vacations like the Fraziers, and didn't get Eskimo Pies anytime we wanted like Amelia Leverett. But it never really occurred to me that we were that much different. I never asked to see my parents' checkbook or examine their tax returns to better assess their financial capacity. That stuff wasn't my problem anyway. I was concerned with one thing—getting that electric guitar.

I found one that seemed perfect in the J. C. Penney Christmas catalog. It was a red and black model with a white pick guard, and it came complete with a little amp, a carrying case, and an instruction book. The whole package was featured in the catalog at the special low price of ninety-nine dollars. I cut out the page and attached it to the piece of paper on which I had written my Christmas "list."

My parents asked me several times if I wouldn't mind giving them some "other ideas." I knew what that meant—"You aren't getting the guitar."

"Nothing doing!" I said. "You guys asked me what I wanted, and this is it. I want this or nothing." I was fully prepared to get nothing, and only years later did I find out how close I came to getting just that.

Was I being totally unreasonable, selfish, and ungrateful? Absolutely. But I honestly didn't realize it. At eleven, I really didn't know what my parents could or couldn't afford, and they hadn't asked me what I wanted within their budget. They had just asked what I wanted. Of course, through the years I asked for stuff I knew I wasn't going to get, like a pony, a chimpanzee, and a trip to Disneyland, but the guitar wouldn't poop all over the floor like a chimp, so I thought it might be a realistic request. And I really, truly wanted it.

Because of my previously confessed habit of opening up my gifts before Christmas, my parents had resorted to hiding things in places where I couldn't find them—apparently at the homes of people they worked with or at the fire station where my dad worked as a fireman. I guess they figured my sister and I couldn't go rummaging around places like that.

So as we gathered for the ritual of Christmas gift opening (which we did on the night of Christmas Eve most years because my dad usually worked on Christmas Day), nothing was under the tree for me. I had rolled the dice and gone for broke, and it was looking like I had crapped out. Nothing. Nada. I had said, "If I can't have the electric guitar, I don't want anything." For once, it looked like I was going to get exactly what I had asked for and most ...

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel HC; First Edition edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595230629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595230621
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Mike Huckabee served as the governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007 and as lieutenant governor from 1993-96. Before entering politics, he was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and worked for twelve years as a full time pastor. He recently started a political action committee, HuckPAC, to extend his grassroots movement. He lives with his wife, Janet, in North Little Rock, Arkansas; they have three grown children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The sweetest book I've read in years. Regardless of political party, it will melt your heart. No politics here just great memories of a simplier time. I laughed and I cried and you will too.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on November 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories that Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit by Mike Huckabee is a pretty gentle reminder that the spirit of Christmas isn't at Macy's, or Belk's, or under the tree on Christmas morning.

Mike Huckabee shares twelve candid and heartwarming stories from his life. The story of an early Christmas in his married life when nothing about the future was assured is one of the most touching and sincere lessons in the book. What comes shining through is that while Huckabee seems self assured and on point as a politician and political spokesman, his personal life has been one of ups and downs......not unlike the rest of us.

A Simple Christmas is a gift you should give yourself and those you love.

I highly recommend.

Peace and Merry Christmas
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By B. Davis on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for an inspirational book for the holidays, this is it. I was very surprised at the stories Mike Huckabee shares with the reader. I didn't realize all the hardships he and his family have experienced and the problems he has overcome. I now understand who this talented man really is. Whether you agree with his political views or not, this is a must read.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Henry Flood on November 21, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
The Power of Simplicity

Whether you are a believer or not, Christmas is a time of family gathering, personal reflection of the year expiring and of course, the year to come. Most importantly, it is an affirmation and celebration of what C.S. Lewis termed "the Grand Miracle".

As is usual, the bookstores are full of re-issues of Christmas classics and new books too. They come in all varieties. There are inspiring stories that lift the spirit and others that display the many shades of faith. Each year, I try to find at least one Christmas book that offers something unique.

Such is the case with A Simple Christmas by Mike Huckabee, a former Governor of Arkansas, a Baptist minister and now host of the Huckabee program on Fox. He shares 12 stories that celebrate the true Christmas spirit--stories than can engage all audiences--not just Christians.

By turns large and small, the former Governor shows us the importance and power of simplicity for families during the Christmas season and beyond. The stories are largely autobiographical and told with unusual grace warmth and wit. You get to know Huckabee in an intimate, direct and personal way. He writes much like he speaks and you can identify with him on many levels as each story unfolds.

In the introduction, Mike uses his famous wit and humor to describe how he would have done things differently if he were God but in the end, God's "Grand Miracle" was both radically simple and superior to our sophisticated thinking. In doing so, he makes the story of Mary and Joseph become alive for us in contemporary times 2010 years later. You feel the power of simplicity.

And then, we are treated to 12 stories from childhood to now in Huckabee's personal and family life.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By James R. Holland VINE VOICE on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This reviewer is not a big Mike Huckabee fan, but this book has some very moving non-political messages in it. Even a jaded, cynical critic like me found some pretty powerful messages in at least two of the chapters in this autobiographical book. Those dramatic Christmas stories may have affected me as strongly as they did because I find them particularly poignant because our family is going through a similar situation as the life and death battle against cancer of the spine that Huckabee's young bride faced only a year after they were married. The lessons the author details about how this first-hand experience with miracles was only another of the important lessons he learned as a twenty-year old man. His words give hope to all of us.
As the title suggests, this collection of twelve Christmas Stories from Huckabee's life do celebrate the true Holiday Spirit. Not all of them will move the reader to tears, but they all have a moral and in a few instances it's easy to see the source of the former Arkansas Governor's conservative philosophy. This is the story of a man who lived the American Dream and moved from real poverty to the highest success that hard work and trust in God that only America offers all its residents. This is definitely an inspiring read even for the Ex-Governor's political opponents and people who simply don't like him. Some messages transcend mere politics.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Although each chapter eventually suggests simplicity at Christmas, this book is more a biography of a pastor/communicationist/politician, his 50s-60s childhood and beyond. But it is a fun bio, often quite humorous, in a similar style like another pastor/writer/commentator (Philip Gulley) that I find homespun and worthwhile reading. Being only 7 years older than Mike Huckabee, I can relate to much of his early life, and the beginning marital financial struggles. The Simple Christmas connection to each chapter's theme was a different way to link together chunks of Huckabee memoirs. It's like a Huckabee 12 Days of Christmas.

For those caring to see some chapter details, with favorite quotes:
Intro: A Simple Christmas-- An earthy nativity rendition. "God spent His first few moments as a human in a food dish (manger)." p.xxvii
1 PATIENCE-- Lord, give me patience 'right now.' "I've come to terms with my "sins" of unwrapping gifts before Christmas" p14
2 SACRIFICE-- p.26 "the pain of seeing someone gather up my prized (guitar)" after the necessary sale. His parents also sacrificed their own gifts to buy this author's 1st childhood guitar. Christ sacrificed His own life.
3 LONELINESS-- "rarely...dead, death, and passed away. We just said it was "potato salad time."" p.38. Painful moments worse than cancer--loneliness.
4 FAMILY-- p.57 "not Jamestown but Georgia...dumped out of debtors prison in the old country...poorer than the dirt." Funny descriptions of members of author's family tree; nuttier than any oak or walnut tree.
5 TRADITIONS-- consistency, wholeness, tranquility, connections, certainty, & security "If there ever was a place where things stayed the same, it was church." p.79
6 CRISIS-- Cancer and "refugees from Arkansas" p. 101.
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