The first Christmas I remember I must have been about four years old. I remember being awestruck at our tree (which was probably not really that big or full) and then seeing my toys under the tree on Christmas Day.
I remember a metal white Ford red cross auto from the 1940s, (which it was), a metal car-carrying truck and a metal orange roadster. I’m sure all of those would bring nice prices at an antique toy store today, but I spent many hours playing with those sturdy little vehicles.
I also remember the year I got my long-awaited Lionel electric train. I had one steam engine and two train sets, one a passenger liner and one a freight train, including the little milk car from which a little man came out and deposited milk cans on a platform. Half the time he would get stuck and the milk cans would end up on the ground.
But Mother, bless her heart, created a great model train layout for me. She painted a huge plywood sheet green and brown, sprinkled artificial grass on the green areas and used grits to make “shell roads.” I had various little houses and businesses to represent my town.
That’s another gift that would be worth plenty today, but I sold it when I was a teenager to buy a dachshund puppy — one of the greatest little dogs I’ve ever had.
Christmas was even more fun when daughters Becky and Liz came along. I’ll never forget how one Christmas Eve, there was a helicopter flying over our neighborhood in Algiers, across the river from New Orleans. The aircraft had red and green running lights on it, but to my girls, it just had to be Santa’s helicopter, with those colors. (The girls never were too convinced about those flying reindeer.)
Anyway, when we went into the back yard and saw the chopper, the girls ran and got into bed as fast as they could. They could plainly see Santa was almost at our house and they knew they had to be asleep by the time he got to the house.
A year or so later, I had a close call with them. We’d bought them a huge Barbie Dream House, which had to be assembled. I couldn’t put it together before Christmas Eve because it would have been too big to hide.
So, after we got them to bed on the Night Before Christmas, I got out the box and started my house construction. Well, don’t you know, for some reason they woke up about midnight, came into the den and saw me at work. Their eyes got big as saucers, but I thought fast.
“Santa dropped this off for you a few minutes ago but he didn’t have time to put it together, so he asked me to help him. Now get back to bed because he still might be somewhere nearby and look into our windows.”
Well, they complied and returned to their rooms, allowing me time to complete Barbie’s mansion. They did get many, many hours of fun out of that house, I tell you. Even when they got a little older, they’d cook up elaborate soap opera-like plots for Barbie and Ken and the rest of the gang. From what I overheard of their play, I think they could have gotten jobs as writers for TV shows. Instead, they both became wonderful registered nurses and have helped many people with their compassion.
Those memories seem from so long ago, and they are, of course. Christmas doesn’t mean quite the same to me now that I’m a senior citizen and the girls are in their mid 40s. There are no grandchildren about, so in our family the magic of Christmas for children is confined to recollections. But that’s all right.
Also, I do have a better appreciation of the true reason for the season. My spiritual faith is infinitely stronger than it was years ago. So, take a moment to reflect on your own great Christmas memories and then remember why we celebrate it. Merry Christmas, my dear reader friends.
(Let me add one after thought here, that didn’t really fit in the above narrative. You just never know what kind of weather you’re going to get on Christmas in Louisiana. I remember one Christmas when I was in my 20s, I was riding around in my sports car with the top down. Then, another Christmas in Gretna not too many years ago, I saw a lovely blanket of snow that started falling about mid-day on Christmas Eve. Ah, Louisiana Christmases. May you all enjoy this one and many more.)