‘Twas the night before Christmas and my brother John and I simply could not calm down.
We were supposed to be sleeping in my Grandma Carter’s big double bed, but we were instead bouncing off the walls, trying unsuccessfully to contain our excitement about the next morning’s promised gifts.
My big brother and I were six and five years old, the age where we were beginning to wonder about the whole Santa Claus thing. But John was a whole year older, so he carefully instructed me in the mysteries of Christmas eve. We would whisper for a while and then quietly go peek around the corner to see if Santa had arrived while we weren’t looking.
Grandma Carter’s house was the place where magic was expected. Her Christmas tree wasn’t tall, but to our young eyes it was a sparkling aluminum wonder! We would sit for hours watching the magical color wheel light it up, slowly turning the entire room all shades of pink, blue, green and yellow and then back again.
Normally when we visited my grandparents in Kansas City, my parents slept in the double bed in the bedroom, and we kids would sleep on the couch in the living room. But Christmas eve was special. On that night we were put to bed early in the bedroom, so Santa could work in private.
This particular year I had been talking about a walking doll for months. The doll I so desired was almost as tall as I was, and if you stood behind her, you could make her walk by pushing her legs forward. Of course, there were other small things I wanted. There were always underwear and socks under the tree, but my heart burned for that tall walking doll. My brother wanted a Davy Crockett hat and a Daisy Red Rider BB gun more than anything in the world!
Somehow, and I don’t recall how it happened, John and I finally succumbed to the excitement of the long day before Christmas. No visions of sugar plums occurred, but there were definitely sweet dreams about the toys we wanted most.
John woke me up early the next day by yelling in my ear, “Get up, it’s time to open presents!” and with that the whole household began to stir. We ran out to the tree and there was my big tall walking doll! She was so big she couldn’t even be wrapped! She just stood there under the tree smiling at me. I ran to the tree, caressed her, named her Sally on the spot, and we began walking around the room together.
After my parents got up, John started ripping into his gifts and, sure enough, he had received his Davy Crocket hat and BB gun. He started running around in his coonskin cap, pretending to aim his gun at everything. Then we hugged each other with the purity of childhood delight, moving around the tree in a primitive dance of ecstasy.
The magic of this Christmas years ago still lives in my heart. So many recollections from childhood lost forever, but this special time of bonding between John and I remains my fondest memory of our early years together.
My brother John disappeared from our lives a few years ago. None of us fully understand the demons that haunt him. We just wish we could see him again, and know he’s well.
John: If you are still out there somewhere – we love you and miss you very much. Should you read this post by chance, please give us some sign of your presence in the world.