Christmas Morning


Some things about that special morning never change.

By Joe O’Donnell

Anna and Katie with the tree

The coolest gift I remember my brother ever getting for Christmas was a space station that sat on the floor and had intricate adjustable legs and blue plastic windows on the sides and top. I stepped on it. Accidently, of course. But the incident is indicative of the highs and lows of Christmas morning.

Honestly, I cannot remember that many lows. Christmas has always been a special time of year for me, full of memories and happiness. My wife and I even got married at Christmas, the church decorated and my relatives descending on her hometown like bewildered barbarians at a Roman festival. I remember thinking at the time that this experience would just make the Christmas season that much more special for the rest of my life, and it has.

Over the years we developed a pattern that guided our Christmas morning festivities. Christmas Eve always found us at church, followed by dinner at home. Now there was that time my wife caught her sweater on fire while reaching over the candles on the table, but after ripping the flaming garment over her head and stomping it out on the floor, it turned out to be really just a minor inconvenience.

Christmas Wedding

After bedtimes for children, the presents came out for construction or distribution. Santa always delivered on the couch, with presents in child-appropriate clusters so efficiently arrayed it would have made a UPS guy break into that logistics jingle.

When we first got video cameras back in the 1980s (I think we might even have rented a camera for one Christmas) we tracked the 5 a.m. wake-up of the children like a hot news story, shining the video light in their sleepy eyes and capturing the surprise and reaction at just what Santa had wrought. Now if we could just find those tapes . . .as if we could figure out how to play them once we found them.

The funny thing is Christmas morning is not much different. The children’s bedtimes are a lot, lot later and that wiry, logistics-savvy Santa is more like a grumpy old guy back in the shipping department, shuffling around and complaining about his back. But as Kurt Vonnegut so aptly put it, so it goes.

And that is how it goes. Time marches on. We still drive the 75 miles to my in-laws for breakfast. They made me feel so welcome all those years ago when the tradition started. And still do, so that sometimes when you throw the

Gabriel’s first visit with Santa at The Alabama Theatre three years ago.

carport door open on a Christmas morning, the warmth is all enveloping. The faces age, people pass from our midst but not our memories, and new children come to us like my three-year-old grandson Gabriel—eyes bright with a light shining from their faces that looks for all the world like hope come to earth.

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