The first magical Christmas I recall is a faint memory of when I may have been four or five. I remember a two-story metal gas station/garage with miniature cars that my aunt had bought for me. I’m not sure how I knew that she bought it since I totally believed in Santa Claus. But that is the first present I remember ever getting.
Each year, thereafter, had a common thread of memories. The slow march of days in anticipation of the big reveal. Then the day finally arrived, with all my brothers and sisters waking early on Christmas morning tearing through presents placed under an often scrawny tree tricked out in tinsel, then the emotional crash soon afterwards realizing that the magic was over--and it wasn’t even noon yet.
I was big into cowboy stuff. My favorite, when I was ten years old, was a set of toy pistols (cap guns, I believe) in a double holster. I loved practicing my quick draw. Somehow I managed not to become touched in the head by those innocent endorsements of handguns and army weapons. It is difficult to explain to parents these days how exciting it was to play ‘Army’ or ‘Cowboys and Indians’. We never thought of those games as violent. Today parents are criticized for buying their children toy guns-if you can even find them. Yet video games, that are violent beyond anything we could have ever imagined, are common!
My mother usually managed a good Christmas even though we had next to nothing in money. When you have five siblings, the number of presents piled under the tree looks impressive. Often it was my grandmother or an uncle that helped. Sometimes it was the local church.
That all changed when my wife and I became parents. Again we got into the wonder of Rudolph, Santa, and his elves. The kids picked up on Christmas like they were born with a knowledge of its story and all its traditions. We were excited about them being excited and looked forward to Christmas morning almost as much as they did.
I confess that I never really liked wrapping presents nor did I like putting up Christmas lights that never seemed to work. Worse yet, they worked off and on. I would try to fix them when they went off, eventually getting into a terrible mood when it took up half my day. But all the preparation and work was worth it on Christmas morning, watching our kids open presents which, by the way, came with rules. My wife insisted the kids take turns opening their presents, one at a time. That never happened when I was a kid.
Then come the grandchildren! The excitement returns! They want to help you with your decorations, which triples the time it takes, and afterwards, they want to play with them. Hiding presents becomes necessary once more. Wondering what they might want and buying too much is a given.