A short personal account of a memorable Christmas Eve
It was Christmas Eve, many years ago, and my grandfather was lying on the couch while I hovered over him with my map of the United States. On the radio, the broadcaster was tracking the route of Santa Claus, and I wanted to be prepared for him when he arrived. All the places the radio named, my grandfather was helping me find on that map.
In the kitchen, my mother was getting the Christmas cookies ready to take with us the next day when we made our rounds to see all the different parts of our family. The wrapped presents were in boxes, each labeled with the name of the family we were to be taking it to.
My father was in his chair, reading the newspaper and trying to conceal his amusement at my excitement over the impending visit of that fat man in the red coat. Oh, how I hoped that he'd be bringing me plenty of Star Wars toys that year! I'd been a good enough kid, I thought. After all, how many sins could an eight-year-old commit to make it onto Santa's "naughty" list?
At approximately nine o'clock, my grandmother (who had been in the kitchen helping with the cookies) rushed into the room to say that she'd heard something on the roof. A clicking sound, she said, and she believed that Santa was there! Since children weren't allowed to see him come down the chimney (and I had forbidden my father to build a fire that night) I was to go to my room and wait. I ran up the stairs and into my bedroom, hugging my Spider-Man blanket around me, in rapt anticipation of what was to come! My grandfather joined me, looking just about as excited I was.
Finally, they called me downstairs, and there he was! White beard, red suit, and a huge sack that was practically bursting at the seams. He told me to sit down, and asked if I had been a good boy all year. I said I had, of course. Thankfully, my parents kept silent.
The family gathered around as Santa distributed the gifts. My mom and dad both got small trinkets and my grandparents did as well. My aunt, who had gotten there while I was in my room, sat next to Santa acting as his helper. I asked where my uncle was, and she said he was busy at home guarding the presents that would be handed out tomorrow on Christmas Day.
I got everything I wanted and more. Star Wars toys galore! Santa had been very generous that year and after the presents had been opened, and the milk and cookies consumed, he said it was time to go and my aunt graciously offered to walk him outside to his sleigh.
After he was gone, my grandfather called me over to him and handed me one more present. It was from him, he told me, and he wanted me to have it on Christmas Eve. I hastily opened it and what I found inside was the one toy I had been hoping for: an action figure of a certain shield-carrying star-spangled super hero. I hugged him and told him I loved him, and that he was the best grandpa in the world.
Now, over three decades later, as I write these words I look to my left and see him there- that red-white-and blue crusader who came into my life on that special Christmas Eve, the last one I was able to spend with my grandfather because within a year of that night he was gone. It's one gift that I've cherished since the day I unwrapped it and has been with me every day since, representing the memories of that special man who made every day- not only Christmas- wonderful during the few short years I got to spend with him.