"With every Christmas card I get," mused Owen J. Remington of Lancaster, Va., "I dream of Christmases past. I hate to say I feel sad in the midst of this jolly season, but I do.

"I feel sadness when I recall the old friends who have gone on ahead and will not be sending me any more cards.

"I think of boys with whom I played sandlot football and baseball. And of that girl whose mother got huffy with my mother just because I dipped her braid in my inkwell.

"I think of boys who went fishing with ancient bamboo poles, and of girls who cringed when I asked them to dance, because I was so awkward.

"The boy whose father owned the saloon. The lad whose widowed mother ran the grocery. He let me drive the horse-drawn delivery wagon.

"The girl who later won the beauty contest. And the other one, the girl who was my first shy date.

"I see them all now as they were then. I recall skating with them, iceboating, walking the logs in the river after the spring drive. Some of them went to college with me. Later we drifted apart, but when Christmas approaches I think of them. I remember them as young people, not the wrinkled old men and women we survivors have become."

As you can see, Owen's sadness is more wistful and introspective than gloomy. The things that bother Lyda Nonne Rochmis of Reston may be more profound. Perhaps she's been watching too many old movies on TV.

"Down through the decades," she says, "I managed to sidestep the number of age. My soul sang.

"Tonight, however, I feel old. I no longer cry as Jimmy Stewart saves Pottersville or Bing replaces the church for Barry Fitzgerald and God.

"I don't particularly care if the Grinch steals Christmas or if Gimbel's loves Macy's. For years, like the bells that jingle and the sleighs that go merrily through the snow, these stalwarts have wrought their magic in my imagination. Why, then, do they suddenly appear shopworn and predictable?"

In my own case, Lyda, I answer that question by assuming that God, in His infinite wisdom, is preparing me for a trip by causing me to feel that I have seen the whole show, and that if I stick around to see any more of it I'll find myself watching Reel 1 again. It's easier to go after you think you've seen it all.

A young woman who lives in suburban Maryland experienced a Christmas Eve she will never forget.

She tells her story in these words: "It was the most frightening night of my life. My mother and I live in (deleted). Until last night, we felt this was a safe neighborhood. Until last night, we thought we could depend on the police.

"My mom had to be away, and I was at home alone. We live on the bottom floor and have been bothered by someone rapping on the windows.

"I was reading in bed when I heard someone walking outside. Then it happened: someone not only rapping but violently banging in the bedroom window.

"I left my room and ran to the phone. As I dialed 911, someone began banging in the sliding glass door in back. As a young woman alone, I was terrified. I told the police about the noises and gave them my address and phone number. I was told someone would be over, but nobody came. After 20 minutes, someone knocked on the front door. Thinking the police had finally arrived, I foolishly flew to the front door and opened it. There was no one in sight.

"By then I was hysterical. Now I want to buy a gun. Isn't that awful? I am strongly in favor of gun control, but when you're alone at night and even the police don't come, a gun could be a very good thing to have. You wouldn't believe how much it hurts to even think about buying one of those things, but right now I can't think of anything else to do. Please don't let anyone know my name or where I live."

I think that so long as criminals own millions of guns, home owners need guns for self defense. However, the moron who has been frightening this girl may be less of a danger to her than her own gun would be.

She appears unfamiliar with guns and unlikely to seek instruction in their use -- and a gun in the hand of a novice is a hazard to the gun wielder and to everybody else within range.

Instead of buying a gun, this young woman should file a formal complaint with the police in her jurisdiction and demand to know why they failed to respond. THE D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled that police who ignore calls for help can be sued for negligence.