|Going back in time as a young child, Christmas in our family was always a greatly anticipated celebration. It wasn't about money spent or the gifts received. It was about Midnight Mass and the decorating of the tree. It was about putting up the lights on the house and being in the presence of family and the ones that we loved. My parents were the focal point and organizers of this great event year in and year out. Even when my father was in Vietnam his presence was felt. The boxes received and the tapes we listened to that carried his voice over 6000 miles. My father loved everything about Christmas. Whether it was hanging the Styrofoam Santa on the wall, stapling lights around the house, the plastic reindeer that proudly stood on our roof or the Yule Log that always adorned our coffee table, my Dad loved it all. However, his favorite thing was probably the setting up of the manger beneath the tree. It was always a big event. While his electrical wiring skills were probably suspect the Manger was always the focal point of the tree. Through the years these traditions and the celebration were passed on and are now carried on with care by my brothers and sister. When my father passed on many years ago now, I was fortunate enough to inherit the manager and all the great responsibilities that came along with it. Just how important the manger was to my father has come to light a few times in the last 8 years. The first when my son was two years old. My wife and daughters were out Christmas shopping and my son and I were home decorating and wrapping. I heard him talking to someone in the living room and I discovered him on the floor in front of the manger cradling one of the kings in his arms. He was sitting there saying "Papa John" over and over again. This might not seem like such a big deal but, you see, my son had never met my father,much less knew that all the other grand children called him Papa John. The hairs on the back of my neck raised and I knew that this was a special moment. Moving seven years ahead, I believe the spirit of my father returned once more. Again, my son and I were alone getting decorations down and setting things up. However, the manger still had not been placed beneath the tree. I kept meaning to get it down off the shelf but I was a few days behind in getting this accomplished. I walked out into the garage and the lights inside the truck flashed on and off a couple of times. First I thought nothing of it and tried closing all the doors again. After my third trip into the garage the lights still flashed in the truck. Then I noticed the manger setting upon the shelf waiting to be placed under the tree. My son and I carefully set up the manger and after that my trips to the garage were uneventful. To this day the manger is stored in the same worn box that my father used. His interesting electrical system is there as well and while every year I take it out and examine it, I use updated extension cords. In the end between E-Bay, On-Line shopping and Black Friday, I believe my father still comes around to see if the family traditions that began so long ago are still being practiced and passed on to his grand children. Merry Christmas!
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