The Magical Memories of My Merry Christmases Past

Christmas_Decoration_in_Window_SillI grew up in a 950 sq. ft. house with a tiny kitchenette, one bath, seven younger siblings, and the occasional dog. Not to put too fine a point on it, we didn't have much money so my parents were forced to scrimp on just about everything.

But no matter how tough times were my parents went "all in" for Christmas. As kids we never went to the movies, but we got every toy in the world for Christmas!

Making a magical Christmas meant my father (who was usually already working two jobs) would work the night shift at the post office as a temp helping Uncle Sam with his Christmas rush. My mother would work like a galley slave meticulously cleaning and baking; an exercise she wearily referred to as "the big push." She would shop until her Irish feet ached - often with a couple exhausted toddlers in tow - while the loudspeaker overhead at the department store barked at her to hurry up because it was time to close.

Yet despite their best efforts Christmas Eve was always sleepless. I remember my mother at the last minute furiously ironing our choir boy surplices for Midnight Mass before heading for the kitchen to clean and wax her cherry kitchen cabinets long into the night. Meanwhile my father, fresh from polishing all our shoes for church, would gamely spend the wee hours trying to wrestle together toys aided only by instructions written by some Japanese engineer with only a notional knowledge of English.

Yet somehow it would all come together just in time for a spectacular Christmas for our family every year. I remember one year, I actually saw Santa…

Saint_Nicholas_in_Glory_SmallIt was late on Christmas Eve and I couldn't sleep. I was about 5, and my 3 year-old brother Jon was sleeping soundly beside me. Suddenly I heard footsteps coming down the hall. Convinced it was Santa heading my way to see if I was awake, I flipped over, clenched my eyes closed, and held my breath.

Sure enough Santa came into my room, walked right by me, hesitated, and then put something on the window sill over my bed. Soon I was asleep but sure enough the next morning there was a Christmas decoration on my window sill: Proof positive that Santa had come within inches of me on Christmas Eve!

I can't tell you how many thousands of times I've revisited that happy Christmas adventure. I felt as if an angel had brushed me with her wing, and the feeling is as real to today as it was then.

Merry Christmas!