I’m sitting here while Christmas carols are streaming out of my computer speakers. This gets me to thinking. It’s true what they say—that Christmas is for children. It is magical and mystical in ways only children can think and feel. Adults have lost it. We abandon the holiday wonder much too soon and give in to its pressures and stress, and stammering expense. Yes, there’s still some fun in the exchange of gifts, but year after year even that begins to wear.
When I was a child my mother went out of her way to rekindle the Christmas spirit every year. She kept the story of Santa Claus alive and enforced the rule that gifts remained hidden away until they were revealed Christmas morning. These and other steadfast family traditions were all part of the magical day that now lives in my memory.
Speaking of Christmas morning, my brother and I were not allowed downstairs until my father arose. He delighted in making a game of it all. He made us wait at the top of the stairs for what seemed hours while he slowly got out of bed and bah-humbugged his way to the bathroom where he would sometimes even brush his teeth just to prolong our agony. Frustrated while waiting for him, my brother and I would take turns lying flat on our bellies and stretching as far as possible down the top few steps in an effort to peer through the railings to confirm that, indeed, Santa had been there. We would report back what we saw, especially speculating what was inside the oddly-shaped package.
Eventually the moment would come—usually after my mother nudged my father that enough was enough. Then, Father would lead the procession down the stairs and turn on the Christmas tree lights as we assumed our assigned seating corresponding with the pile of gifts whose tags bore our name. One by one, taking turns, we opened our presents. This prolonged the process and gave us pause with each gift. It was all such a wonderful moment that comes only in the span of childhood.
One year I got a fort. I assembled its plastic walls, snapping them together to form a square. It had watch towers atop each corner. A large gate swung open or locked shut. It protected all the molded plastic white people who lived inside from the plastic Indians who camped in their teepee just outside the great walls of the fort. The term politically incorrect didn’t exist back then, so I thought my fort was the most marvelous gift I received that Christmas.
Today, the make-believe days of cowboys and Indians have faded with each Christmas. For me, the magical atmosphere has dissipated and even the tree has lost some of its glow. I still sense a glimmer of the Christmas spirit despite all this. From generation to generation it morphs itself over and over again, each year getting more and more commercial and less and less the exchange of good wishes, fellowship and love.
Perhaps there’s some Grinch festering inside me as the aging process seems to shorten time and topples one Christmas upon another in a much quicker pace than when I was young. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy much of the holiday. It would just be so much better if my dad was at the top of the steps and there was a fort waiting for me at the bottom.