Four elementary-aged children barely controlled their excitement as they sat around the festively-decorated tree on Christmas morning. Gaily-wrapped presents spilled out from under the evergreen branches. Mom sat in her rocking chair beside the tree, her serene demeanor controlling the children’s burning desire to ravage the pile of presents in search of those with their name.
On Christmas Eve, only the presents we had given each other were under the tree. Those gifts were handmade or purchased from the five and dime store with money saved from our meager allowances. Overnight, large wrapped gifts joined the smaller, more modest offerings.
Our excitement level grew from the time we woke and ran downstairs to look at the presents under the tree. Mom cooked our favorite breakfast, but we rushed through the meal. After clearing our dishes from the table, we sat by the tree to wait for the family to assemble. After a few minutes, Mom joined us, but Dad took the time to brush his teeth. Couldn’t he have delayed that as we had?
Suddenly, there was a knock on the living room door. Mom looked surprised, not expecting a visitor on Christmas morning. She opened the door to Santa Claus! He walked in carrying a large, misshapen bag over his shoulder and wore the widest smile I’d ever seen. Each child in turn received gifts as Santa pulled packages from his bag and called their name. Santa’s visit thrilled the children as much as receiving additional gifts.
At the wise age of nine, I knew the secret. As soon as he came through the door, I recognized my father. He wore red, thermal long johns; a red, long-sleeved shirt stuffed to make him look plump; a black dress belt; a red and white Santa hat; and a beard of cotton balls glued to a piece of cut-up bed sheet. His bag was a pillowcase.
The younger children may or may not have recognized him; I never asked. What I remember most from that childhood Christmas morning was Santa. He looked as excited giving gifts as his children were receiving them.