The needlepoint chair at the top landing of the stairwell was to be a reminder that we were not yet allowed downstairs. But we did not need a reminder. We had anticipated his arrival all night, and we knew by the buzz and excitement coming from downstairs that he had indeed stopped by. Mom put the coffee on while Dad made sure the video recorder was in working order. Fant had been in position to make his descent down the stairs for a while. Boyd, a little older, knew not to get out of bed till we had verbal confirmation from downstairs to remove our barrier. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” It was time. My brothers and I rushed the living room. Excitement. Wonder. Elation.

It took our eyes a bit to come into focus on the items Santa had left.  In the story I am telling, Santa prefers to leave his gifts unwrapped on the furniture.  This has a two-fold benefit.  #1. Less wrapping to clean up before the extended family arrives.  Mom thanks Santa for this.  #2. It is easier to survey the goods. This was especially helpful on American Girl doll Christmas. I was so overwhelmed that ‘Kirsten’ was mine, I might never have noticed that Santa had refurbished my mother’s original baby doll bed and delivered for me to use.   Each member of the family, including the stray cats who were unofficial adoptees of my father, had a reserved area in the living room.  Santa was so thoughtful.  

But, mother dear was special in Santa’s eyes.  She had been the one to bake the cookies we left out each year, of course.  I think he had a special adoration for her too, because she insisted we leave out a glass of sweet iced tea for Santa.  In a crystal glass of course.  Santa would be tired of all that milk.  She was right.  He always left the glass empty! 

Santa and Daddy must have worked very closely together.  As my brothers and I settled in on the floor, holding our newest prizes, we shifted our focus to what Santa had brought mother.  She was the best mother, always on his “nice list,” so there was no doubt it would be good.  There would always be a group of wrapped prizes for her.  Dad would pick them up one by one and deliver them with a unique explanation.  A box of chocolate covered cherries, her favorite, may be accompanied by a poem he wrote.  An Emra Bombeck book preceded a comedic monologue from Dad that always made my mom laugh out loud.  He loved to make her laugh.  And we loved when we observed the two of them practically snorting from laughter. Pure joy.  Santa never gave mom a vacuum, but it’s not like he just showered her with jewelry and clothes.  Each gift, whether a small surcy from Propp Drugs or a long awaited gorgeous leather purse, was purposeful and intentional.  And given from the heart of a giver who cherished the recipient.  Even still, the years that there were small boxes for mom to open, were pretty awesome. He placed the neatly wrapped gift box in her lap.  The thick silver wrapping paper and slick gold and silver ribbon said it all.  And if you were not quite certain, you could just read the imprinted sticker: Phil’s Jewelers.  Mom opened the package to reveal a beautiful gold watch.  It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen.  Dad put the dainty piece on her wrist.  She still wears it today, and it shines just as bright.  I could not even tell time on a watch, but I loved it.  In the story I am telling, Santa is always a step ahead.  Before I realized it, I was opening my own little box to reveal a pink strap watch with a heart shaped face.  And my very own “bling” around the face.  Unexpected and undeserved.  I mean Santa had already left my goods on the sofa.  I learned to tell time that morning.  

This morning, I peered in the living room, almost feeling like I was breaking the “no peeking” rule.  There may not have been physical evidence that Santa had stopped by last night, but I knew His presence was around.  It may feel like He has disappeared up the chimney like Santa, and you are all alone, but no!  Because, sweet friends, the gift the real Santa gave us on Christmas morning is not one that has to be replaced each year.  Santa may have to make yearly trips, but we are justified ONCE.  My behavior assures I would make the naughty list this(and every) year.  But God knows the ugliness of my heart, my selfish actions, and my sins against Him and others.  Yet, He lavishes me with the gift of grace upon grace.  My Heavenly Father sacrificed His only Son to GIVE ME LIFE.  Wonder. Elation.  You are so special to Him, yes you.  He is purposeful in His gift to you.  Intentional. Look around. He is GOD WITH US!!! EMMANUEL!! Oh may we receive it!!!  

Merry Christmas and much love

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Photo info: this past Christmas card from my Dad fell out of a stack of papers I was going through the other day.  Thanks, Santa! 


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