Gifts from the heart
The holiday season of Christmas has a history of many meanings. Celebrations in the home have morphed from the family gathering on Christmas Eve, the tree not yet displayed, and dinner so special as the house lights were off and the candles were aglow.
Mom hands out Christmas music as we all sang a capella our favorite songs, including “Oh Christmas Tree” sung in German “Oh Tannenbaum.” It was 1950, in a new home, one block to our school and our best friends were Mom and Dad. The songs were the same songs mom had sung years ago in Lincoln, Nebraska with her five sisters and one brother. Grandma and Grandpa were new to our country, but coming from Germany they knew all songs were beautiful and the best gifts were the love of their children one for the other.
As we sang the last song, “Silent Night,” one by one, we left the room to lay our heads on our pillows. Santa was coming and if we were not asleep he would not stop at our new house. Mom assured us Santa knew where we lived. At 8 p.m. teeth were brushed, pajamas were on, lights were out, and doors closed. We waited for what we knew would be next. Within two hours we heard reindeer hoofs landing on the roof. They clipped and clopped as if they were prancing before we heard “Whoa!” and a sliding noise that came to a stop. My sister, age 3, was already a sleep while I, age 10, was wide awake. Suddenly I heard “Ho-Ho-Ho!” – it was Santa lifting the bag of presents. It was suddenly quiet – so quiet that my eyes began to close as I waited for more. There were soft noises in the living room where we left the cookies. No matter how hard I tried I could not stay awake as the house became quiet. I never heard Santa leave our rooftop, but I knew he found our new home.
Three years later I knew Dad was Santa. He was a man afraid of heights, but always loved to keep the spirit of Santa alive for his children. He made all the noises we heard as he walked on the roof with wooden shoes, shook the Christmas bells on Rudolph, Dancer, and Prancer calling their names. As years passed and Dad no longer walked the roof or rang the bells, Christmas always began with singing songs, house lights out, but the tree was up already providing colors we sang to on Christmas Eve.
One Christmas, my father admitted he was always afraid he would buy the wrong present. It was hard for him to choose what gift to buy for us. I laughed asking, “Do you think you are easy to buy for?” He smiled, recognizing choosing gifts is difficult for everyone and the best gifts are chosen by the heart.