The Christmas Gift

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Christmas is all about the gifts. For those seven magical years my three brothers, The Sister and I spent growing up on Flamingo, we all knew it. Sure, we listened to the stories our parents told us, and we heard about it all in church, but we knew the most important thing was the gifts. And it was not just us; back then you could ask any kid who lived on Flamingo, and they’d tell you the same.

But around our house, before we could tear into the multi-colored packages under the tree on Christmas morning, a few things usually happened first. Things that caused us to get into a whole bunch of trouble.

Welcome to Tinsel Town. What happened was really Dad’s fault, and we told him that. That’s when he really got mad. To be honest — he should’ve known better. After handing us each a box of tinsel, he said, “Put the tinsel on the tree,” and then left for work. But what he didn’t tell us (and this is why what happened was his fault) was what to do with the remaining tinsel. In our defense, some did eventually get on the tree, but most of it was draped all over The Sister. My brothers and I loved the way she looked.

She did not.

As The Sister ran around screaming, the tinsel started to fly off her and onto everything else. We decorated not only the tree, but the entire house! We knew when Dad got home, he’d be happy we did such a good job.

He wasn’t.

Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. For us kids, getting all dressed up and going to church just delayed opening gifts. Mom and Dad thought otherwise, so we had to go. So, before we could dig into the piles of gifts under the tree, we first had to pile into the avocado green station wagon with the faux wood panels. Each year we were dragged to church, only to hear Preacher Jim tell the same sermon as the last year.

Us being kids, we really didn’t listen. We were either too busy trying not to nod off or trying to poke each other without Dad seeing us. Nod off or poke your brother or The Sister one too many times while in church and we earned a pop on the head from Dad’s college ring and a stern promise whispered through clenched teeth, “Just wait ‘till you get home, young man.”

For those seven years, Christmas wasn’t about going to church, listening to the same old story from Preacher Jim, or getting popped on the head — it was about all those gifts. As a kid, I knew getting gifts was the most important thing about Christmas.

But then I got older.

As an adult, I understand the true meaning of Christmas, much better than when I was a kid growing up back on Flamingo. At our house we’ve watched all the classic Christmas movies, and last weekend at the Snow Inn, the granddaughters had an Elf tuck-in and Breakfast with Santa. And when he asked, they told him which gift they wanted him to bring.

Sadly, at ages eight and nine, this may be the last year they believe in the magic of the Jolly Old Elf. That is, until they have children of their own.

This year our family will still get dressed up in our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, and we’ll drive to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. And yes, our granddaughters will say it’s the same sermon that they heard last year — the very same sermon my brothers and The Sister heard back on Flamingo. It never changes. And why should it?

After all, the real meaning of Christmas is all about a gift…The Gift. That’s why it’s called Christ’s Mass.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from The Wife and me.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]