The big day is drawing close! It is at about this same time, each year, that I begin to experience Christmas gift fear. I am apprehensive that I have not purchased enough gifts for my family and friends. My, late, mother-in-law, said each Christmas Season that, ‘Jay sure loves Christmas!’
One Christmas Eve…I chose to travel to the St. Clair Mall that is near St. Louis, and shop with abandon! With no one to temper my Christmas wishes…I had a good time. So, I visited, my favorite department store, Famous Barr. I not only enjoyed the store, but I had spent so much time there through the years…that I felt like I was at home when I was there.
There was a Dooney and Bourke leather key chain and matching leather wallet for MJ, and a racetrack for Aaron and Jonathon, and stuffed animals for all. I literally paid no attention to the price of the items, but instead was lost in the Christmas Spirit! And, so, I threw in some Waterford Crystal for MJ and electronic games for the boys. There was a Waterford Santa figurine for me and fine chocolates for the family. And, almost, a Partridge in a Pear Tree!’
When I arrived home and the gift opening commenced…all were happy and and their cheeks were red with delight, and their eyes glistened, and their hearts were merry,…and I learned that I must never be allowed to Christmas Eve shop, by myself, again!
When Aaron and Jonathon were small, we made an annual trek to the headquarters of Famous Barr, in St. Louis, to see the Christmas Bears. The store took their entire seventh floor to set up the most unique Christmas display of holiday bears assisting Santa with his Christmas gift making and the subsequent wrapping. The Bears were animated, and Disney World had nothing on there lifelike movements! The line for this, must see, display was long, and we stood in the queue patiently to be a part of this annual holiday event. Aaron and Jonathon loved the Christmas Bears!
I saw a picture of a Little Golden Book entitled, The Night Before Christmas, by W. Clement Moore. I had that very book! I so loved this poem that I memorized it and quoted it at each Christmas gathering, when I was a child.
Santa, for me, was Laughing Santa! He was a little stuffed creation with a plastic beard and a crank on his back, whereupon when turned he created the most unique and joyful laugh! Mom loved Laughing Santa and she enjoyed him as much, or perhaps more, than I did. I remember him from my first memories of Christmas.
Santa Claus was and is real to me! He visited my house when I was 9, at 116 West Street, in Eldorado, Illinois. The ‘Jolly Old Elf’ knocked on our front door and briskly strode in, with a wink and a grin, and a little pipe that he held in his mouth, ‘and I laughed when I saw him..in spite of myself!’ I was, literally floored in my revelation that there really was a Santa Claus!
When I heard, much later, that Santa was really Bob Winters, a friend of my step-father, Earl, I chose not to accept the news.
MJ and I enjoyed Irish Coffee during the Christmas Season, for several years, with our good friends, Jo Ann and Peter Argersinger. Jo Ann and Peter had a magnificent Christmas Tree! We exchanged Christmas gifts and they were Annual Waterford Santa Claus Figurines. Jo Ann seemed to believe in Santa Claus as much as I did. The Irish Coffee was strong and good and created a substantial Christmas Spirit!
When we first began attending First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois…among my initial observances was that the First Presbyterians do Christmas Right! There was a Christmas Tree in the Narthex and a Christmas Cantata and a Christmas Eve Service that transported me back to Charles Dickens England!
I saw a photo, of my friend Steve, sitting on Santa Claus lap. Steve is grown and as I saw the smiles on both his face and Kris Kringle…I knew that, ‘yes Virginia…there really is a Santa Claus!’