I remember when I was a child I'd go to bed on Christmas Eve filled with anticipation and excitement. Then I'd get up early the next morning and creep downstairs to find the tree surrounded by presents. I wasn't really the 'dive in and shred the wrapping paper' type of kid. I liked to savor unwrapping each new gift and setting it carefully aside. Each gift was special, and each would be loved.
Over the years, the Christmas holiday became less about presents and more about sharing and family togetherness. And over the years, family celebrations have dwindled as relatives have passed on. Traditional large family gatherings sadly are a thing of the past in my family. No more aunts, uncles and cousins stopping by. No more driveways lined with cars.
Now more than anything at Christmas I want to be surrounded by the love and warmth of family. I love watching my nephews open their presents. I love being the gift giver now; I had my time being the beneficiary of Santa's generosity.
Every Christmas day takes me back, just for a little while, to the days when I'd be opening presents one minute and then joyfully heading off to Grandma's house, or Aunt Jean's or Auntie 'Del's to see my relatives. I couldn't wait to see my cousins, enjoy Aunt Jean's delicious candy cane-shaped butter cookies and watch the grown-ups play cards after dinner. My Grandma and her sisters had the holidays down to a science, and their spreads were enviable. And I can't help but smile when I remember Uncle Dan giving me pennies to play the pinball machine in Aunt Jean's rec room, and how Auntie 'Del's swivel container of poker chips was always a favorite for us kids. (So much for the presents they always had for us under their trees.)
Looking back at those times now, I cherish the memories of the people who came together on those brisk winter days far more than any present. No gift ever would or could be as special as the family that used to be.