Christmas was always my father’s favorite time of year. When the time came he would break out his “I Believe In Santa” T-shirt and we would load up in the truck and head out to Janoski’s farm. This is where we would go to cut down our own Christmas tree. This started off our holiday season.
The trip was followed by a trek to the holiday store. The smells in the store were rich in ginger and cinnamon, the environment warm and welcoming and the sound of joyous Christmas music filled the store. We usually did not buy much there. It was mainly a trip to experience the ambiance.
After we got our tree we would have the usual family arguments over which part of the tree should face the front while mom continued to record the escapade on her camera. We would tell her to turn that thing off and be of some help. She would always decline and insisted that it was much more fun watching our stress from the sidelines. All the while Christmas music was playing in the background in an attempt to lift our spirits.
Once the tree position was finally agreed upon decorating would commence. This was always my favorite part. My mother had these wonderful old glass balls that were her dads. Unwrapping them from the boxes and seeing them again after being stored away for the year, was a Christmas within itself. There were also the assigned ornaments that represented each person and critter in the house and the usual homemade ones from years past. The final step was hanging the stockings. Our household had one for each person and one for each pet. Santa never forgot our pets.
After this grand undertaking was complete, we would all huddle together on the couch with homemade cookies. This began the Christmas movie marathon. We watched all the classics like Charlie Brown and The Grinch and many more like that. This was our family traditions.
This year was different. Money was tighter than normal, and for a middle class family we were bordering on poor. My parents were never one to disappoint and Santa never passed our house by. This year my parents had to tell me that Christmas would be delayed. Maybe for other kids this would have been a difficult pill to swallow, but not for me. I saw how hard my parents worked; I knew that everything we had came from dedicated, hands on, hard labor. We might not have kept up with the Jonese’s, but we saved for things that we wanted to experience as a family.
Instead of throwing a fit and feeling sorry for myself I assured them that it was OK. My dad explained that we would still have a Christmas; it just could not be on Christmas day. Instead we opted for January first. We were going to ring in our new year with our very own special holiday gift exchange.
I did not go without. We still had Christmas with my Grandparents. I still received gifts and we still enjoyed a tasty turkey dinner with the usual holiday pies. Family chatter rang in my ears, laughter filled my heart. Knowing that Santa passed my house by this year really did not seem to matter. I had my family and their love. At this point that was all that mattered.
Then New Years Eve came and went. I awoke the next morning to the smell of pancakes, bacon and eggs, the sound of Christmas music and my dad calling out “Ho Ho Ho…Merry Christmas.” The tree was up, and there were gifts under the tree. It was like Christmas day all over again. I still remember the gifts I received almost thirty years ago. I got a Velcro dart board, blue and white pom-poms, a basketball and the Michael Jackson Thriller album. After we finished breakfast, dad and I went down to Agway (a local feed depot) and played basketball for hours.
This was the best Christmas ever. No other Christmas meant more to me as a kid. It was special because we pulled together as a family, made it through a tough time and we all sacrificed things for the sake of the family. Recently I told my father that this was the most special Christmas memory for me. Out of all the Christmas years we had together, that year was always my favorite.