Christmas Present


Kindergarten Curt
A school picture from Kindergarten.

My memory of Christmas in 1968 is a mixture of fantastic sights and sounds reproduced from my five-year-old mind and old 8 mm film shot that year.  It is grainy and jumpy at best.  But I remember two things very clearly:  The toys and the love.

I remember lights twinkling in the tree as we rounded the corner to see all the loot. I remember a train track set up under the tree.  I remember football helmets and cowboy guns.   And I remember the bikes:  Two red bikes, one for me and one for my brother, with our names painted on the crossbars in perfect lettering.  Santa did a good job that year.

But all those presents have long since been outgrown, lost or broken and thrown away.  What remains is the memory and excitement of that morning, the love of our family, and the joy in spending time together.  It was our first Christmas after mom and dad married.  We were living in a little (and I cannot stress enough how LITTLE) house on the edge of Selma, Indiana.  This was the first Christmas in this home, living with one another and celebrating the season.  I believe it is one of my most cherished memories of our family.

Memories are like that.  To this day, I have only one childhood present that has survived the years and I guard it carefully.  But my childhood memories, both good and bad, will never be broken by time and rust.

Second Grade Curt
My second-grade school picture.

To this day, if I close my eyes, I can remember the table in Farmland when I was eight years old.  It was spread out with a dozen plates and platters full of food.  Around the table are my grandparents, Freda, Ray and Jo, and our adopted grandparents, Ralph and Frona.  Beside them are my brother and sisters, and mom and dad.  The smell of fresh grapefruit and salty bacon fills my nose.  The steaming scrambled eggs and the cinnamon rolls still make my mouth water.

To this day, the glow of the tree in my living room returns me to the farm, when I would spend countless nights on the floor by the bay window, all the lights in the room turned off.  I would lay under the branches to look up through the pine branches and the lights; blue, green, red and white.  My mind would marvel at the star-like beauty.

To this day, the laughter of friends and family sitting around the room places me back in my grandmother’s basement where we opened presents open on Christmas eve by the light of the fire burning brightly in the fireplace, each of us marveling at the newest gadget, art set of paper and pencils, or every piece of clothing.  It still warms my heart and soul.

The Austin "Children" opening last year's stockings on Christmas Eve.
The Austin “Children” opening last year’s stockings on Christmas Eve.

But these memories are from the past.  These images are from years gone by.  Though my heart grows fond at the thought of them, my true joy is in the present.  Knowing that I will soon be with my extended family again, excited that my own children will open their own presents on Christmas eve, anticipating the spread on Christmas morning:  These things bring me as much joy as the images of Christmas past.

The joy that comes from celebrating with family and friends is just around the corner and there is nothing that enlivens the season more than that!

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