For some reason I have always had a difficult time with Christmas. I don't harbor too many memories of Christmas from my childhood. Most of the Christmas' I do remember ended up disappointments. Looking back I can understand why things were the way they were. Usually my little brother and myself received either a joint toy together or each of us got the same things. It was an economic situation that required this to happen. It often led to a bit of a let down as I received toys that were more appropriate for my brothers age than mine. I am almost sure is was the same situation with my sisters although I didn't pay much attention to how their Christmas' were going.
Mom and dad did find a way every year to get each of us kids something just for us and that did help off set the other presents that were the same as my brothers. Then there were always the sweaters, socks, coats and hats that we would get. Nothing is worse for a kid at Christmas than to get socks and mittens. We knew they were coming though and so we were prepared every year to be happy with them.
I remember one year finally getting a new bike that I had been in need of for three years. It seemed that when little brother was ready for a new bike, that was when I got mine. Still I was thrilled with the bike and before lunch rode it over to Ronnie's house to show it to him. That was a good Christmas.
There were other moments of Christmas I recall. Mom and dad gave us a Johnny Lightning race track one year. It came with little plastic helmets that you were supposed to wear while racing the cars to make the experience more real. I remember that Christmas morning watching my brother in law Steve play with the race track while having this little red helmet sitting on top of his head. He looked absolutely silly but he was having a good time and let the rest of us have a good time at his expense.
One year I got a book. I never realized how much my mother and father knew about my likes and dislikes until the Christmas that I opened that book. Not only was it a book, indicating that they knew I loved to read, but it was a book about basketball. They had picked up on the fact that I was turning into a pretty good basketball player and played out in front of the house on my sister's goal almost everyday. It was a revelation to me that they paid attention to what I was doing.
The best Christmas from my childhood happened a few years later. I still smile when I think about it. I was in Junior High School and had taken drafting as part of the shop class in the seventh grade. It was there that I fell in love with drafting for the first time. I had always wanted to be an artist but had absolutely zero talent. When I began to learn how to do drafting I found that with these tools I could draw, and I could draw very well. It would later become the start of my career as I worked my way up the engineering ladder. Now I find the love I had for drawing is still with me but I don't draw anymore. All the drafting and design work I do is done on a computer. I haven't picked up a pencil to draw with for almost fifteen years now. Anyway, back to that special Christmas.
There was a package under the tree. It was pretty large being about two feet wide by three feet tall and a couple of inches thick. I do not know if my little brother was let in on this or not, but when I inquired about the big present my mother told me it was for Bob. That present sat under the tree for a whole month with me thinking it was not mine. I never told my little brother it was for him of course. If I had done that I would have to listen to him brag about it all the way to Christmas when I would finally find out what he was getting.
I accepted the fact that whatever I was getting it was not going to be that big package. I didn't let it get to me. I pretty much put it out of my mind since it had no significance to me whatsoever. It just sat next to the tree leaning against the staircase for a month.
Then came that Christmas morning. Bob was handing out the presents. There went one to Carol, one to Elaine, Another to Carol, one for Bob, another for Carol, a little one for me, another one for Carol, one for Elaine and then one for Bob. After a few more presents for Carol and one or two for Bob, Elaine and myself, Bob took hold of the big present. There wasn't a name on it. Bob asked who it was for and when he did I could see a glimmer of hope in his eye.
I wasn't paying attention and so I am not sure I heard mom tell Bob that the present was for me. Bob drug the box over to me and waiting until I took in the fact that mom had pulled a big one over on me for a whole month. I don't remember tearing into it or opening it up slowly as I usually did. I don't remember opening it at all to be honest. But I do remember what was in that box. There was a small drafting board, a t-square, a couple of plastic triangles, some pencils, a french curve and some paper. It took awhile for it to sink in. My very own drafting set. I am not sure but I think I was speechless for awhile before blurting out a huge thank you to mom and dad.
That night I thought about it a bit. How did they KNOW that I liked drafting so much? How did they KNOW that it would be the perfect gift? I don't remember ever talking to them about it. Sure, when I would go into work with dad on Saturdays, he could usually find me up in the drafting room of the office. I still don't remember ever talking to them about how much I enjoyed drafting and wanted to be good at it.
I do know this however. Mom and dad went out of their way to be sure I got something that I would never forget. They succeeded in that. I still have not forgotten that Christmas. I know that it must have been a financial sacrifice in order to get me that drafting kit, and that meant it a lot to me then as well as now. It probably meant a lot to Carol as well as she probably got one or two fewer presents than she normally got.
I still have a difficult time with Christmas. I struggle to make Christmas good for everyone around me by putting on a mask and acting like I am not having problems with it. But there was this one Christmas when five minutes made all the hassles and noise and traveling around worthwhile.
Thanks mom. Thanks dad. It was the best Christmas I can remember until the Christmas when Brett came to live with us and that, you will agree, is pretty hard to beat.