As the girls and I set off this Christmas to my parent's house, I am thinking about the early days, living on Sandusky just down the street from the ballpark. Christmases worked their magic on us. The night before Christmas we always went to bed early, hoping to make the day shorter. But going to bed early, while making the day speed up, made the night slow down, and I'd lie there staring at the bottom of my brother's bunk for hours and hours while ten minutes ticked fastidiously by. Finally, I'd fall into an uneasy sleep. No sugar plums in those dreams, just the healthy, fretful dreams of a 4-year-old who feared to wake to a stockingful of coal. Once, I waked in the middle of the night to the sound of sleigh bells. And in the morning there were bootprints in the fireplace.
Christmas lasts 24 hours, and my family tries to utilize every minute. We start around 8am. The oldest person present (now my dad) gets to pick first: whoever gets that present opens it by themselves and everyone oohs and ahhs and the present gets passed around. Then whoever got that present gets to pick the next present and it gets oohed and ahhed at and then another gets picked and so on ad infinitum until we get to the last present around 4 pm. Santa always gave great presents: a basketball hoop (no basketball though, we didn't get that for another year or so), a Multi-Pistol-09 (it could launch bright red grenades and had a derringer hidden in the butt of the pistol), and once, after all the presents had been opened, an AM transistor radio -- complete with ear plug -- appeared under the tree all by itself.
With my current mental capabilities in such a state of disrepair that I barely remember to put on my socks, it seems almost amazing that I still remember the particulars of a 30 year old memory. But I do. And not just with my mind, but with all my senses. Each sound, each smell, each hair standing up on my arm is a witness to how fully I embrace these childhood treasures. And now that I have children of my own, I try to help them create their own.
And we're coming up with some new ones. There's the story about the Snowman at the Bible College that told my girls that Jesus loved them. On the way home we sang, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Snowman tells me so." And there's the midnight services at Duke Chapel that we've tried to regularly attend. And there's the story of Peter Nobbins and the Christmas After that started off as a lark and has become a Christmas tradition. And probably a thousand other things I can't think of right now. I don't know which of these, if any, will make it into Amy and Jessi's box of Christmas treasures. But I hope that the Christmas magic flows through them as it has flowed -- and continues to flow -- through me. And maybe they will take their children to Granddad's house and look in the fireplace for bootprints.
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