FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Was a Good Christmas... after all
Issue#20- December-January 2001-01
pajama-clad kids climb up and down the sofas and up and off the
laps of sleepy parents and grand-parents, who try to sip their coffee
and answer questions about Santa at the same time. How did he know?
When was he here? Did you see him come? And did you hear him leave?
of the kids said that they saw him land on the roof across the street.
And they knew it was Santa who brought the gifts because the treats
that Mom and Dad left for him were gone, except for a few cake crumbs
on his Christmas plate. No one even questioned how the jolly man
went all over the world in one night. No one cared. After all, he
came here, didnt he?
the children revelled in their Christmas morning joy, the grown-ups
revisited their own memories of childhood mirthful Yuletides. Except
that not all were joyous. Especially the Christmas of 42.
9-year-old boy sat at the kitchen table writing out his list for
Santa Claus in this Christmas season of 1942. The worries of the
war did not affect him. After all, there were no doubts as to the
outcome. Didnt we have soldiers and bombers and dads to protect
was a time to ask for skates and hockey sticks and gloves and high-top
boots with the little pocket that held a scout knife. And surely
there would be plenty of room under the tree for military toys like
lead-cast soldiers and tanks. All of these presents would sit on
the new sled next to the Parcheesi game that seemed to show up each
year. There would be fruit-filled stockings and popcorn balls and
some coloring books for all.
year, the young boy wanted boxing gloves so that he could be more
like his uncle, who was a professional fighter. And maybe a model
war plane like the British Spitfire. Most of all, he wanted a bike.
Everyone in his gang had a bike except him. It was embarrassing
to always have to ride double with his friend Philip.
were so many things to be gleaned from the Sears and Eaton catalogues.
So many things.
the boy felt a hand on his shoulder. Usually, when his dad wanted
to talk, he just called or tapped you on the arm. This time, it
was different. His hand rested there, with a bit more pressure than
usual. As the boy looked up, his father nodded his head toward the
they went outside and started down the alley, the dads hand
still resting on the boys shoulder. They walked in silence,
the boy with hands in pockets, looking up occasionally at the face
of his obviously worried father, who had yet to release his hold
on the sons shoulder.
stopped at the park near the river and sat on a bench in an old
band pavilion and the father finally took his hand away. He stared
at the floor and nervously placed both hands in his lap, still silent,
awkwardly trying to put his troubled thoughts into words. The boy
did the same.
wrong, Dad?" the boy asked.
father didnt answer. He cleared his throat and unclasped and
clasped his fingers that now seemed to hang futilely between his
legs, never looking at his son.
What is it?"
the father thrust his hands into his pockets and turned to the boy.
is just between us. Just us. Not your mother. Not your brothers.
Just us. Understand?"
Dad," the boy answered.
are things you dont know about that have to do with our family
and this Christmas."
again averting his eyes, the father slowly started to tell him the
story. About the financial condition. About losing the house. He
told him that the family would be split up for a while, but things
would be better again soon. He also told him how difficult it was
for the boys mother. He tried not to say how difficult it
was for himself.
wanted the kids to have a nice Christmas, but this year he didnt
know how to do it.
need you to help this year," he said as he stared at his shoes.
Dad?" asked the boy.
mother and I want you all to have a good Christmas, but youre
old enough now and I guess you know that we buy your presents. But
your brothers dont, right? The smaller kids are too young
very hard for me to ask this, but could you help me with this year
and when I can do better, you can have something special? What I
mean is, we wont be buying anything for you this Christmas.
I guess thats what Im trying to say."
boy looked away in disappointment and tried to understand what his
father had just said. No presents? What about the sled? And the
boxing gloves? Most of all, he thought of the bike.
you can help us this year ... ."
father stopped in mid-sentence and finally looked straight at his
son. For the first time in the boys life, he saw a tear in
his dads eyes.
at once he understood how difficult it had been for the father to
talk about his supposed failures. All at once he realized that he,
the son, had been given a real Christmas gift from his dad. Suddenly,
he was a part of the whole inner workings of the family. He was
included in the decision making.
with his dad, he could make this a very nice Christmas for the other
three boys. Just him and his dad. He remembered what the father
had said about not saying anything to his mother. He surely wouldnt.
am not just a kid anymore," he thought. "I am going to be able to
help. Like Dad said, Ill just wait until next year. Im
sure that well have everything in good shape by then."
felt good on the way home. Not even a bit disappointed. And Dad
seemed different, too. He swung his arms like he usually did when
he walked and he didnt slouch and look at his feet. Every
once in a while, the father would reach over and touch the boys
shoulder. And the boy would glance up at his dad and just smile,
and then look straight ahead and swing his arms.
did that when they were feeling good about themselves and other
turned out to be good in 1942. The younger boys got some presents,
most of which were requested in their letters that the oldest boy
helped them write. He and his mom and dad put the presents under
the tree together.
some ways, the Christmas of 42 was sad, but in retrospect,
the sadness came from growth. A young boy grew up and left forever
the innocence of the season. But a remarkable thing happened to
his father that shall always be remembered in the boys lifetime.
In 1942, a troubled man shared his worries with his son and in doing
so, he made that Christmas the most memorable of that small boys
following year, August of 1943 to be exact, the father tapped his
son on the shoulder and motioned for him to come outside. They walked
to the corner bus stop and rode across town in silence. When they
reached the destination, not known to the son, the father led the
boy down the street to an unfamiliar house. His dad told him to
wait outside the gate while he went in.
the boy saw his father talking to a person at the door. The father
came back to the boy and stood smiling, watching the side entrance.
In a few minutes, a man came out pushing a beautiful blue reconditioned
bicycle. The father pulled out an old black change purse and gave
the man $12. The father and his son walked to the corner together
where they waited for the bus to take his dad home.
you can ride it?" asked the father.
I can, Dad!" the boy answered. "Should I tell Mom?"
knows," smiled the dad.
was a good Christmas, after all.