It didn’t work out for my husband and I to spend Christmas this year with our kids and their families. But one of the great things about being retired is that we can come and go as we please (and as our budget allows). So we spent a little pre-Christmas with our daughter in Arkansas and we’ll get to spend post-Christmas with all of our kids due to some fancy budget hunting in Italy.
Our family Christmases look very different from the ones my parents pulled together for me and my siblings when we were young. For us, the adventure began on Christmas Eve when our parents tried their best to get us in bed at a respectable hour. Needless to say we all pretended sleep for hours in hopes that we could hurry the dawn of the next day when Santa would have delivered the goods to our door.
I am amazed to this day how our parents managed to hide, wrap and deposit presents for all nine kids under the tree without any of us taking notice or hearing a sound. That had to take some skill to pull that off. In all the years I lived at home until I left for college I can tell you I never caught my parents in their Christmas morning prep. Never found even one hidden presents. They were that good!
As the oldest of my siblings they looked to me to give the word as to when we could descend to the living room and open presents. This was no easy task given the numbers and my parents unwritten rule that we could only leave our rooms on their signal. Imagine trying to keep that many kids at bay (including myself) when all we wanted to do was take off running! Finally, at what I considered a respectable hour I would gently knock on my parents door and ask if it was okay to get up. If I timed it right the answer would be yes and then it was on!
All you could see were arms and legs leaping out of bed and heading straight down the narrow hall to the living room. And then we stopped in our tracks. Before us was an array of beauty that took our breath away. We just stood there for a moment in sheer awe. And then just as quickly the spell broken we hightailed it for tree and the joy of opening each and every precious gift.
It was Dad’s job to read the name on each package and hand it to its chosen recipient. It was like awaiting your name at graduation to receive your diploma as he called us one by one to receive our gifts. That was our Dad. He made even the distribution of presents a noteworthy and special occasion for each of us.
Amidst the joyous flurry and fray we accumulated quite a list of acquisitions which reflect our parents reflections on our Christmas lists. First, there were always brand new clothing items for school which was no small accomplishment for such a large family. Second for games and activities like Scrabble and Croquet to help us think and learn to have fun playing together. And then came the bikes, hula hoops, wagons and skates that got our bodies moving and helped us grow strong while we played. We were always surprised by the bounty of gifts big and small that just seemed to keep coming. We revelled in the joy on each siblings face as we realized it was almost as much fun watching each other open gifts as it was opening our own.
After a massive cleanup from all the activity under the tree we would join hands and give prayers of thanksgiving for family and all the Lord had provided on this special day. Later that day we’d enjoy a special feast devouring too much turkey and ham around a table filled with laughter. The day passed all too quickly as we biked, skated and played our way through another great family Christmas. Finally, after all the relatives had departed, the kitchen cleaned and now sleepy kids tucked in bed the house grew quiet as nightfall drew our day to a close. In our dreams we replayed the scenes of wrapping paper and bows taking flight, peels of laughter from happy children beside themselves with joy, and tired but grateful parents holding hands and thanking their God for the magnificent gift of children.
This was Christmas at our house. I will never forget it and neither will my siblings. I am thankful that many of our children were blessed to spend several Christmases with their grandparents before their passing. We strive to pass the experience of our special brand of family love on to our children and grandchildren because we know it’s not so much the giving of gifts that make this day special. What matters most is the miraculous giving and receiving of love from the people you are blessed to call family and friends.
I hope my story gives you some inspiration for sharing this special season in a way that reflects the spirit of the gift we were given so long ago that keeps giving still.
Hope to see you all back for more next year!
Happy New Year,
Every Monday you can meet me right here and on TheWRITEaddiction where I contribute various tips and tricks for helping all you parents and early childhood educators succeed in preparing children to excel in lifelong learning. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube channel for plenty of free resources.