A Child’s Christmas

By Melinda Grossman

Once upon a time there was a little girl who fell in love with Christmas.  She had so much fun helping Mom decorate the house – especially the tree.  And oh, wrapping the gifts was like solving a wondrous puzzle.

How can each package be made special?  What paper to choose for Dad, for Mom, and for everyone?  Which ribbon and how can it be done differently for each gift?  And what’s the best bow to set it all off?

Then all the packages need to be carefully carried into the living room and arranged “just so” under the tree.  A stunning array of colors distributed evenly – yet randomly so it looks haphazard – and set in place so the pretty bows and ribbons shine through.  And how fun it is at night to watch the tree lights sparkle on the foil paper and shiny bows!

Finally comes the day when Dad says it’s time to put up the train set.  It’s an HO model train her brother got for Christmas a few years ago.  

One of the little girl’s all time favorite tasks was creating tunnels out of the packages for the train.  This took great care and skill.  It couldn’t be rushed.

You see, the packages couldn’t be damaged while building the tunnels.  But also Dad had to be convinced the tunnels were stable and wouldn’t collapse on the train.  Whew!  This was a perfect job for a future engineer (yes, this little girl grew up to be an engineer).

Now came more fun – operating the train.  And as more presents arrived the tunnels had to be modified and the train route had to remain clear.  All this activity helped fill the time leading up to Christmas.

Soon the day arrived.

And who could possibly sleep on Christmas Eve?  Nonetheless, Mother Nature saw to it that we did fall asleep despite our curiosity and excitement.  Our brother often woke us up sometime during the night.  We would sneak out and look for the packages Santa had left – including the stockings.

We didn’t dare wake up Mom and Dad.  Stealth and absolute quiet were vital as we pulled things out of the stockings for a sneak preview.     Some surprises were wrapped so we would try to guess.  But Mom – err, Santa – was clever and the guesses never panned out.

Then we would carefully put everything back into the stocking in the opposite order we took it out.  This way Santa would never know.  The stockings were returned exactly where they were found leaving not a clue they had been disturbed.  And my brother and sister and I all tip-toed back to bed.

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Finally, finally, FINALLY it was officially an “okay” time to get up.  You see, before we went to bed we were told the earliest we were allowed to get up; until the appointed hour we had strict orders to stay in bed.  Of course we woke up early and watched the clock.  Then at the appointed hour the three of us kids would make enough noise to accidentally wake up Mom and Dad.

Fortunately we were allowed to dig into our stockings before breakfast.  So still in our PJs and slippers we dug in.

We ooohed and ahhed at all the wonderful surprises we had never seen before.  After this we begrudgingly took a time out to get dressed and eat breakfast.  You never saw three kids work together so efficiently at cleaning up the breakfast dishes.

Next we all piled into the car and went to pick up Grandma and Grandpa.  Seemed like Dad managed to hit every red light in town.  And once we got back home the grand festivities began: opening the presents!

But first, as everyone was getting settled someone would get out the Christmas albums (vinyl records) and stack them on the stereo record player.  Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Frank Sinatra, and other classics filled our home with Christmas carols and tunes.

Back to the all-important gift opening.  Each year one of us kids was put in charge of handing out presents.  “Everyone have one?  Great!  Here we go!”  We all opened our gift . . . admired it (sincerely) . . . showed it off . . . and thanked the Giver.  On to round two.

Now I know some households have more of a free-for-all with non-stop bedlam for gift opening.

But to this day I’m very fond of savoring the experience.  I like to make it last as long as possible.  For all too soon there’s nothing left under the tree but needles and the train.

It looks so bare without the gay packages.  It seems a bit sad, or at least anti-climactic.  All the exciting anticipation is over in what seems like a flash.  Sigh.

The rest of Christmas day was spent visiting other relatives in town.  Sometimes we went there but mostly they came to our house for dinner.  Of course Christmas dinner was another BIG event for the day.  The turkey and stuffing – boy, can Mom make stuffing! – cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, the famous green bean casserole, and then the cruel part of dinner . . . forced to choose between pumpkin or cherry pie.

I remember the year I had a brainstorm: Why choose? Just have a ½ slice of each kind of pie.

During the day we also played with any new games or toys; feigned excitement over our new clothes; and maybe managed to find a good Christmas movie on TV.  There was no cable TV (it didn’t exist), so selections were far more limited than today.  And finally this very special day of the year came to a close.  Time for bed and drifting off to sleep thinking of all the fun of the day that started with the sneak peak at our stockings.  Surely Mom and Dad never figured us out.

In a nutshell that was Christmas for the little girl.  Oh sure there were many other special moments and festivities throughout the season and on Christmas too . . . but from the child’s point of view these are the memories that bring the most warmth to her heart today as an adult.  The End.

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