The service department manager had his cellphone up to his ear, but kept cracking jokes under his breadth to the worker standing next to him about the computer system being down again.
The worker just smiled and kept looking at his own screen. Unlike the two of them, I wasn’t smiling. I had my car in for a service recall and an oil change. The recall was pretty run-of-the-mill and cost me nothing, but I still had to give up two hours of my time.
While I waited, I tried to focus on reading the book I brought with me, but an annoying car salesmen kept strolling by whistling some tune. He’d whistle a few beats, stop, whistle some more, and then stop again. Each time I’d lose my train of thought and have to start again and had the strong impression that he wanted to strike up a conversation “to get me into a newer model car.”
To top off my grumpy mood, I looked out the window to see that it was raining again. I was tired of the cloudy skies and the endless, soggy rain. When I looked up, though, I noticed for the first time the white lights and red garland that had been strung throughout the building.
When I looked closer at the decorations, it reminded me of the bright colored garland that my mother used to hang up on our Christmas tree and around our house when I was a young boy. When I listened closely too, I could hear the faint Christmas carols playing on a speaker above my head. My mood slowly started to turn and I thought back on some of my favorite Christmas memories.
Learning about the majesty of Christmas.
When I was very young, maybe five- or six-years-old, I swore that I heard Santa walking on our roof. After tossing and turning for hours on Christmas Eve, I finally had fallen asleep. In the middle of the night, though, I woke up. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to arrive. I stared at the ceiling until I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t dare leave the room I shared with my brothers, but I got up out of bed and looked out to the living room. It was pitch black.
I sighed and turned to go back to my bed and I heard a loud thud coming from the roof. The noise sounded almost like something pawing at the roof. I froze in place for a minute or two, too scared to move. I was just about ready to blame the noise on my very active imagination, when I heard another thud and a “ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas” as clear as day. My mom and dad had warned me that Santa wouldn’t leave me anything if he found me awake, so I dived into my bed, pulled the covers up over my head, and shut my eyes so tight you would have needed a crowbar to open them. I eventually fell asleep and woke to the craziness of Christmas morning. I almost forgot about the pawing. It completely left my mind, but, later in the day, I mentioned to everyone at the dinner table that I had heard Santa on the roof. My brothers laughed at me, “Yea, right Brian.” My parents too seemed surprised when I mentioned it. No one else had heard Santa. It didn’t change my mind though. I had heard Santa and that was enough for me.
Being thankful at Christmas.
The Christmas season has always been special, but some have been more enlightening than others. As I got older and became a teenager, I started to better understand our financial picture and that we didn’t have a ton of money. Several years after my father had a debilitating heart attack, I caught my mother counting the money that she had withdrawn from the bank.
She had one of those little envelopes that the bank used to hand back to you when you got a check cashed or took money out of the bank. She kept counting the money and doing some type of Christmas arithmetic in her head. It must not have come out right, because she had a worried look on her face.
For the first time, it hit me that my long list of wants might not be helping matters. I asked my mom if she needed anything and told her to take the fancy sneakers that we had just placed in the cart for me and put them back on the shelf. I told her that I didn’t need them and that I could hold off getting them to another time. My mom, of course, said no, but you would have thought I had offered her a life vest.
I learned that day, that sometimes, it’s the thought that counts.
Finding love at Christmas.
My girlfriend looked at me strangely and asked why I was laughing. I tried to keep my laugh inside, but a whimsical smile still broke through my exterior veneer. (In retrospect, I’ve never been one to keep a secret from her.)
Before I had gone to visit her in Washington, D.C., I had stopped to pay one of the final installment payments on an engagement ring. I looked the ring over a final time and considered how my life in a few weeks would change. There would be no going back.
While I was at the jewelry shop, I considered paying the ring off in full and moving my plan up a few weeks, proposing instead at Christmas. In the end, I decided to keep things as they were and wait to propose until after we celebrated her birthday in January.
In all honesty, I figured that I needed more time. I wanted to make sure that I was ready for the commitment. However, when I looked at her, the lights of the Christmas tree shining in her eyes and Christmas carols playing quietly in the background, I regretted my decision. I regretted waiting.
I knew in my heart that she was the one. Twenty-seven years later, she’s still the one.
Giving at Christmas.
Every year at this time, I try to keep the true meaning of Christmas fresh. I think of God coming to Earth in the form of a baby. Inevitably, a few mundane images come to mind. In fact, I think of “insert notch A into column B.”
In short, I think of the weirdly worded instructions that toy companies use in their instructions and the hours upon hours of wasted time I have spend over the years trying to make sure that my kids have a Christmas that they’ll never forget.
The list of toys that I’ve had to put together has been endless: everything from a Little Tikes Playhouse, a Step2 wagon, a Fisher Price Rescue Heroes Aquatic Aircraft Carrier Command Center, and too many bicycles to count.
My eyes grow weary just thinking of those long nights, but I can’t help but look back fondly on my kid’s squeals of laughter and the joy on their faces. There’s nothing like seeing Christmas through a kid’s eyes.
Together at Christmas. Finally, this Christmas brings change. Our entire family will not be able to be together in person, but we’ll be together in spirit. There’s no question that the experience will be different, but I’ll be thinking of everyone and grateful for our many memories.
I’ll be grateful too for the power of communications and the power to video chat! Thank God.