As Christmas Day approaches and with the recent visit from my firstborn child, now a 26-year-old married woman, her husband and their precious baby boy (my grandson), I found myself thinking about years past when I was much, much younger — eager, exuberant and extremely excited about what I’d find under the tree on December 25th.
One Christmas in particular when I was probably about nine or 10, I was so anxious about the toys, games and specially-requested things that awaited me that I literally begged my parents to let me go downstairs way before sunrise to rip off the wrapping paper and put my curiosity to rest.
Finally, as I recall, my Mother agreed, albeit reluctantly, countering our family’s established tradition of opening presents together while still decked out in smoking jackets (Dad), pajamas, robes and hair rollers (that was Mom of course and my older sister, Pearl). But I had to agree to one thing: after opening my gifts I had to return to bed for a few more hours of rest.
I agreed, thinking nothing of how that decision would soon impact me.
After squealing with joy untold times and making a mess of the living room, I obeyed my mother’s demand, ascended the stairs and returned to bed.
Hours later, we all went down to officially begin the day — one that was always replete with gifts, guests and goo-gobs of delicious food. But I found myself sad and somewhat disappointed as I watched my parents and my sister open their gifts. I realized that there was nothing to excite me. All I felt was boredom — and regret.
I had spoiled my surprise moments hours earlier. I had taken away the excitement that comes from discovering the unknown, of solving the mystery and discovering treasures that I could have never imagined were awaiting my inquisitive little fingers.
Now, as a father, grandfather and the patriarch of our family, Christmas brings a different assortment of emotions for me — and a new world of joy. It’s not what’s under the tree that matters anymore. In fact, I rarely even ask my family for anything. Nowadays, I prefer to make others smile — those people who mean so much to me, who love me unconditionally and who encourage me when life seems a bit overwhelming or when sadness seeks to engulf me.
They are the only gifts that I need — on Christmas Day and on every day throughout the year. The only gift that matters now is the gift of love. And I’m blessed to have that gift in abundance.