December 21, 2011 - As hectic as the weeks leading up to Christmas can be, it is still my favorite time of the year.
Once up, I love lighting up the yard with Christmas lights. Decorating our tree with plenty of keepsake ornaments has become a family tradition. It is nice to send Christmas cards with updated pictures of the girls to family and friends that we do not see often enough.
My family always buys for kids on the school and church "giving trees", plus other folks who are struggling. There's plenty of baking, including my wife's great chocolate chip and dipped cookies, plus my family's favorite "S" cookies.
After church, we spend Christmas Eve with my wife's family and Christmas Day with mine. Before you know it, the holiday is over.
But, as I and my family have grown older, I think it is the memories from Christmases past that will always be priceless.
(Warning: turn the page if you still believe in Santa, for the following may blow his cover.)
I miss waiting in line at the mall with the girls to visit Santa. The anticipation of meeting Ole' Saint Nick as we slowly inched closer to him was half the fun. My young ladies hammed it up for the camera back then, too.
I miss going toy shopping for my youngsters. I remember going to Toys R Us and loading a cart full of gifts for the kids. Over the years, this included Fisher Price toys, a Little Tykes kitchen, Barbies, Polly Pockets, baby dolls, Sweet Streets, American Girl (online). Yeah, very girly stuff, but a lot more fun than today's clothes, make up and iTunes cards.
I miss putting together stuff on Christmas Eve. There was the Barbie Airplane and Dream House that came with a zillion tiny stickers; the Karaoke machine that did not work, so Santa wrote a nice note asking dad to return it; and the full-size drum set that came in pieces with no instructions.
(My oldest walked in on me Christmas Eve assembling the Barbie airplane. She started hyper-ventilating and asking why I was putting together the gift she asked for from Santa. I panicked and told her it was for somebody else. Bad move – she started crying. So, we ended up giving it to her from mom and dad, with Santa bringing her something else.)
I miss watching Frosty, Rudolph and the original Grinch. Those were the classics when I was a kid and my girls enjoyed them, too, when they were younger. Now, it's the Glee Christmas episode. I will admit, however, that we do enjoy new Christmas movies like The Polar Express, Grinch (with Jim Carey) and Elf, among others.
I miss writing a note from Santa. My girls were dead-set on putting out cookies and milk for Santa, along with carrots for the reindeer, before going to bed. I was in charge of eating them, complete with crumbs on the carpet, soot footprints on the fireplace and a scribbled note. Santa always reminded them to listen to their parents.
I miss answering their questions about the holiday. Will Santa burn himself if the coals are still hot in fireplace? How does Santa fit down the chimney with all the toys? If Santa builds all of the toys, why is there a price tag on this one? How come there are Santas at all the malls and they all look a little different?
I miss getting up before the sun on Christmas morning. We are still up early, but not like the days when we were awake, opened gifts and done by 7:30 a.m. I will admit, though, the wide-eyed excitement of the girls was worth it.
This year, I hope we sleep until at least 8 a.m., which I do not think will be a problem with two teenagers. I'll probably be up before them. My wife and I still make sure there a presents for them to open, even if they have a strong idea of what they may be.
But I always tell them – you have to "believe" to receive. In their hearts, I think they do.
Merry Christmas everyone!