Family memories make Christmas special

Published 10:44 am Friday, December 26, 2008

Yesterday our adult children brought the grandchildren over for Christmas dinner. Ham and turkey and all the fixings.

We ate well, played hard, sang together, and watched ball games. It was loud in the best of ways and turbulent and fun. Our present opening ritual was one of the high points, with tearing of the carefully wrapped and bowed packages sending paper and tissue throughout the family room, only to be gathered and bagged after the last present was opened.

It was a great day, but not because of the presents, rather because of the family. We are all busy people and time together is rarer than we wish it to be.

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But we did have enough time for the grandfather to share some stories of Christmases past that pass on the family history and, hopefully, remind our adult children about the values of family at this time of the year.

When I was 10, one of the big events in the fall at our house was the arrival of the Sears-Robuck catalogue. My mom preferred the JC Penney catalogue for its clothing offerings, but for my brother and I, the Sears catalogue held everything.

Every toy and game we could imagine was in that book. Over Novem-ber and Decem-ber the color pages would become dog-eared, the colors worn off some pictures, and the hopes of Christmas raised daily.

At that time, as a farm family, we did not receive many presents at Christmas. Almost every year I found underwear and sweaters under the tree. But somewhere in the pile of practical clothes there would be the toy that I wanted so badly that year.

When I was 10 years old that toy was a missile launcher. Not the weapons kind of missile, but an authentic Atlas missile, the booster for our space program.

I knew if I had that, with its base station and moving crane, my Christmas would be perfect. It turned out that I was right and wrong at the same time.

Christmas that year was perfect, but for an altogether different reason.

My dad was the hardest working man I have ever known. As a farmer he counted on no one but himself. That fall Dad had a tractor accident.

The tractor rolled over on him and broke his hip. We had no insurance of course, so dad was placed in a full body cast, mom rented a hospital bed, and dad did his recovery in our living room.

It was a hard time for the family financially, though I did not know that at the time.

With dad in bed in the middle of my main play area an interesting thing happened. He played with me.

Dad liked card games, so we played cards for hours every day. I never grew tired of it because I was with my dad, and I would sit on tacks to have that experience.

When Christmas came that year there were far fewer presents under the tree, but a big package was wrapped there with my name on it.

For days I shook it, rattled it, weighted it and thought about it. Dad would reveal nothing to me.

On Christmas Day I opened my Atlas Missile launcher and was, at that moment, the happiest kid on the planet.

But a funny thing happened. The Atlas was kind of boring. But playing cards with Dad was wonderful.

I soon abandoned the Atlas and went back to the card games with dad.

The best Christmas I ever had as a child was the one with my dad that year.

Happy holidays.