- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

I feel bad for kids these days. Every Christmas, they get way too much stuff when memories are all they want.

I’m 43 and barely remember most of the gifts I got for Christmas. But I do remember the extraordinary blessings my family continues to receive and the people who continue to enrich my life.

I remember an unusually warm December when I was 6. Kids were out playing, while their dads strung Christmas lights. I was looking out the window when my father the Big Guy pulled into the driveway, a tree strapped to the car roof.

He opened the garage door and walked inside. He walked out lugging a large Christmas tree platform he had strapped to the wall. The Big Guy liked his creations sturdy and he built the platform (which we still have) out of a sheet of 4 foot by 8 foot plywood and 2 inch by 6 inch studs. It was heavy as lead, but the big guy carried it like it was a featherweight.

He was 34 then, his hair black as coal. He was youthful and powerful and madly in love with my mother. They had four children then with two more to come. And as he toiled to get the tree onto the platform, he had no idea his work would illicit powerful memories in his son nearly 40 years later.

For years, we had the same Christmas Eve ritual. My mother built the suspense until we were ready to burst, then we were carted off to bed. Sleeping was nearly impossible, but we would nod off a spell before. Around 5:00 a.m., I’d run around waking my sisters. I got everyone to rush down to the living room to tear open our stuff.

Our dog Jingles always went wild with the excitement. This was the only day of the year she was allowed in the living room. She dove into the wrapping paper as we ripped everything open. We delighted when we gave her our gifts — six hunks of rawhide — and she would chew on them the rest of the day in total contentment.

The Big Guy always made a feast for breakfast — eggs and bacon and ham and jellied toast. We would sit around laughing and talking and everyone was in a good mood — until the Big Guy started prodding us to get ready for Mass so we wouldn’t have to “stand in the aisles like we do every year.”

All the stragglers went to church on Christmas, you see — even the atheists must have — because we regulars had to get there extra early to get our rightful seats. But when you have as many sisters as I did, all of them sporting the “Farrah Fawcett” big hair of that era, it took hours to get ready.

Their big hair prompted the Big Guy’s second major Christmas morning concern: “For God’s sakes don’t run the blow driers simultaneously or you’re going to blow a fuse,” he ran around the house shouting. Despite his best efforts, we blew several fuses every Christmas and never were on time for church.

My sisters and I are in our 30s and 40s now and we laugh about these memories. The memories, in fact, are all we really wanted for Christmas, but we were too young to know it then.

I know it now. Gifts don’t mean much, but people do and our health does and our love for each other does. For most of the Christmases of my life, my parents and sisters have been extraordinarily blessed in each regard.

Many new additions have come to us over the years, too (five brothers-in-law and 17 nieces, nephews and great nieces), and everybody is healthy and happy and doing well in life.

That’s all I want for Christmas now. More good memories. That’s what every kid really wants, too, and we ought to give it to them.

Instead of a bunch of stuff.

TOM PURCELL

His Web address is www.TomPurcell.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide