“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 27 “The Magic of Christmas”
By Bruce Williams
Christmas was always magical when I was a little kid. My older sister Lisa was always the first one up on Christmas morning—usually around a roostery 5:00 a.m. She’d head down and empty her stocking and the little open box of goodies “Santa” had left out before coming back up and waking me around 6:00. We’d go down and repeat the routine, gorging on some breakfast chocolates and playing one of the handheld games we’d received before we went and got oldest sister Linda up around 7:00. Our parents would get mad if we woke them before 8:00 or tried to open any presents from under the tree before they had their first cup of coffee.
Christmas Eve was always spent at Grandma and Grandpa Williams’ house. Some years, Grandma would get the FAO Schwarz catalogue and let us pick out a few items to be shipped. We always had to attend a Christmas Eve service at church, which was brutal to get through as a greedy little kid, so when Evergreen Christian Center switched to a drop-in communion format versus a full-on two hour service, I was ecstatic. Short, sweet, and with grape juice (good) and wafers (also good—would they mind if I took two?—better not). And it helped remind me that it was actually Jesus’ birthday we were celebrating, and not Santa’s after all.
Later, on Christmas Day, Grandma Cole would come to our house in Olympia from McCleary, toting homemade pillows, quilts, cinnamon twists and sugar cookies. Grandpa Cole had passed away when I was still pretty young, but Grandma Cole would make the 45 minute drive solo in her vintage sedan and come stay for dinner. She would set me on her knee and sing to me:
Brucie Johnny, Brucie Johnny where ya gonna go-e-o?
I’m goin’ down—down to McCleario…
Then she’d give a tickle, a hug, and a kiss. It was pure unmitigated nonsense but I loved it, fully.
I would be banished from the house during Christmas Eve Day as Mom did all the wrapping and prep work for the next day without my prying eyes and grubby fingers getting in the way. I’d usually choose to shoot hoops in the driveway, even in the frigid cold and rain. All the other neighborhood kids were always occupied that day, but I didn’t mind the solitude so much, and shooting baskets helped me from getting too amped up for what lay ahead. As a little kid I had tried once to stay up and catch Santa in the act, but as I groggily told my Mom the next day, “I didn’t hear a jingle or a ho ho ho.” He’d been there, though, as evidenced by the chewed cookie and half-drank glass of (now) warm milk we’d left out for his repast.
“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” was usually on tv one of those last two days of the season, so that was always a welcome diversion. Our bounty over the years graduated from Pong, to Mattel Football, to Atari, to Colecovision (hey, don’t knock it, it had a great version of Donkey Kong), to Nintendo NES. The Tonka trucks were replaced later by Dan Marino posters and packs of Topp’s football cards. My Mom always loaded me up with sweaters and corduroys, socks and underwear. A new pair of sneakers, maybe. We weren’t wealthy—my Dad worked as a structural engineer for the Department of Highways and my Mom was stay-at-home—but there were cookies on every sideboard and fancy nuts with a nutcracker and those little oranges you never seemed to see the rest of the year out in a festive bowl, and Mom’s “Joy” banner would make its appearance over the fireplace.
Now-a-days we try to create that same magic with our own kids. This is the first year we haven’t gone to see Santa, I guess because they think it’s no longer in their interest to at least pretend to believe. Jack wants video games and Lou wants a puppy, so we’ll do our best to make all that happen and more as we transition into our new house during this week’s move. We’ll finally get our tree up and some modest lights out front. I’ll miss seeing all my family like we usually do, but we’re adhering the voices of science and laying low this year. Mainly Christmas is about the kids, though, so if you have any children in your life, do what you can to make this coming week memorable because chances are, they’re going to remember it all when they’re old and grey like me.
Merry Christmas and have the three Happies:
Hanukkah, Holidays & New Year.
Go spread some love and good cheer.