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The Year I First Saw Santa

I must have been about six. I felt awkward and lanky for my age although photographs do not bear that out. My hair was short, cut into the ‘cute’ pixie haircut that I always detested. I could not wait to grow up and finally have long hair, but I was the youngest of four and growing up was a dreadfully long way off.

Watching my father at Christmas was like observing another child. He was filled with excitement and the anticipation of opening gifts was almost more than he could bear. While we were young, we opened Christmas presents on Christmas Day after Santa had delivered the presents.

On Christmas Eve, we all went to church for Christmas services. We piled into the station wagon, along with our grandparents and drove the short distance to church. It was always a beautiful and festive service full of Christmas hymns and the joyful Christmas story, not at all like the sometimes stodgy Sunday sermons.

After church we were all rushed off to bed with the promise that our grandmother would join us to sleep ‘crossways’ in the bed – a Christmas Eve tradition we had always enjoyed. Reflecting on this as a grandmother now, I can only imagine how uncomfortable she was.

Children and sleep are a complex formula – especially at Christmas. The buildup and anticipation often got the better of many children and we were no exception. On this particular evening, we were upstairs, all dressed in our flannel pajamas bouncing around like ping pong balls. It was difficult to sleep listening to the movement and conversation downstairs.

”You kids better settle down or Santa won’t stop here.” It was the warning we all feared – or perhaps I was the only one because my siblings simply snickered at the warning.

We all finally settled into the double bed – all four of us, but there was no sleep. Eyes would open and shut and giggles would spill out along  with the occasional “Scoot over” or “You’re hogging the bed”.

For a moment the room grew quiet when I heard my oldest sister urge my brother: “Go ask Dad if Santa has been here yet” to which he shook his head no. “He will never believe me.” Then my sister suggested I go to the top of the stairs and ask our father the same question to which she added “Because you still believe in Santa.”

Now what did she mean by that? Of course I believed in Santa. I listened, thinking it had grown terribly quiet downstairs, yet my grandmother had not come up to sleep with us yet. After much cajoling, I finally slipped out of the bed, opened the bedroom door and walked across the hall to the top of the stairs.

“Daddy, is Santa here yet?”

I heard my father’s deep bass voice “No, and you better get back in that bed or he won’t come at all!” It was enough to convince me to get my rear back in bed and get to sleep.

Early the next morning we were awakened by a loud “Ho, ho, ho” that reverberated with that rich bass sound just like my dad’s voice. We opened our eyes to find our grandmother lying in the midst of these four kids with elbows and knees sprawled everywhere. The sun was just rising as we ran downstairs with bare feet on the cold wood floor.

That was the year Santa brought me my pink and white table with the removable top and my Chatty Cathy doll. He left a note telling us how much he enjoyed the milk and cookies we left for him. Santa’s handwriting looked a lot like my father’s.

I felt like that was the year I really ‘saw’ Santa for the first time. He was indeed a jolly old elf and no matter what others may say, he is as real to me today as he was back then.

All you have to do is believe.

Merry Christmas Eve!

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Christmas Eve

Day 81

It’s Christmas Eve. I went to bed very late last night and as a result, lingered in bed too long this morning. I have enjoyed my morning coffee while having a relaxed conversation with my husband. It feels peaceful. The temperature is finally up to about 44 degrees F, but the wind is blowing the trees around quite a bit. I am guessing it is a little chilly outside.

I woke this morning with the desire to lighten my mood. I started by changing the format of my blog to be lighter and more cheerful. Being a photographer, I loved the black and white images, but it made the blog feel heavy to me.

Today we may go out for a bit — maybe to Barnes and Nobel to peruse the books and have a holiday coffee. We want to feel the air of Christmas and that is always a good non-shopping outing for us.

Later today we will return home, turn on the Christmas lights and enjoy the evening. We have plans to grill Cornish game hens and asparagus for dinner. It will be a quiet evening just as we wanted.

Of course, we miss our families and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. We will still have that experience, but it will just be after Christmas this year. That feels right.

IMG_8182From where I am sitting I see the Hummel Christmas ornament Mom bought for hubby back before we were married. It always goes on the tree, but this year it serves as a deeper reminder of Mom. She had so many adventures and travels and never stopped wanting to experience things she had yet to see.

I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. I do think about the coming year and what I hope to experience and accomplish. Right now, I am just aiming to make 2019 feel lighter. And today is the first step toward that goal.

Merry Christmas Eve to those who celebrate. For others, I wish you a day filled with the love of family and friends.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” 
Anne Frank