Close your eyes for a moment and try to remember the first thing you recall of Christmas as a child. For me, it wasn’t how slowly December 24th proceeded. Nor was it waking up at 5am while I could still hear my dad sawing logs from the master bedroom.
I’ve heard it said more than once that the older one gets, the faster time flies. I believe it, 100%. When I was a young boy, Christmas Eve was at least 72 hours long. I’d go out, help clean up snow, or help around the house, look at the clock and… it’s only been 15 minutes.
Today, most days feel about 8 hours long. I’m absolutely hurtling through life, sun up to sun set. Here I am, December 24th… getting some work done, listening to It’s a Pokenberry Christmas, smoking a brisket, and every time I look at that clock… another hour has gone by.
For me, it was always the night before Christmas. My mom had this picture book, heaven only knows how old it was. I remember it because Santa’s outfit was actually overlaid with felt, so not only were the pictures nice but I could actually feel Santa’s suit!
But it wasn’t just the book. It was that every Christmas Eve until I was a teenager, my mom would sit next to me and read The Night Before Christmas. I can still hear her voice in my head retelling the story. It wasn’t just the story, it was mom reading it to me.
Nothing else mattered to me once the poem was read, the book closed, I was tucked in, and everything in the world was good. To be a child again, to know that peace again. Something to look forward to, a promise by God to be fulfilled?
The next day I’d wake up eager to shred every package under the tree, as my father drank his coffee and my mother drank her tea. Out would come the Johnny Mathis Merry Christmas album on vinyl. We did have the CD eventually… but the record sounded better.
I remember every year my dad would buy something big for my mom. Now for all the jokes I’ve heard about “never get your wife X for Christmas” I never saw her complain. To this day she still raves over the Pfaltzgraff dishes she received one year.
It wasn’t so much the big gift though, as we always knew that the real gift was hidden inside the seemingly un-tampered package… Usually some jewelry that would put a big smile on my mothers face. I always looked forward to seeing both of their reactions.
Of course, being a little kid… I wanted to play with my toys. If I was lucky – we’d have gone to Christmas mass the night before. However some years, be it rain, snow, or shine – we would go to the Christmas mass at St Stephens (despite my pre-teen protests).
As I got older and turned farther from the Lord, I always made sure to go to church for Christmas. Midnight mass. If I was lucky, a few of my buddies would come with, and afterwards we’d toss back a few ounces of bourbon and share some Xbox fellowship.
That’s the thing though – the special thing about Christmas to me, back before I truly believed in God. It was always family. My strongest memories of this holiday are spending it with my family. It was my mom, dad, brother and I together. God’s been good to us.
Merry Christmas everyone, I pray you have a blessed day and get to hug your family until the stuffing comes out… or they fart. Whichever comes first. Eat, drink, laugh, cry, live, and love every moment you get with them. God bless.