“I have great childhood memories of Christmas with my Norwegian family. The baking, the decorating of the tree, Granny’s, and our family’s. Auntie June and I would decorate Granny’s tree and everything had to be perfect, the tinsel hung just so, not too many red lights and balls clustered in one place, that sort of thing. It would take us hours before Auntie June would stop fussing with it.
But my real favorite childhood Christmas memory isn’t from my childhood, but from my daughter’s. Every year since I was eight years old, my Uncle Sandy would dress as Santa and make the rounds of children’s homes in the greater Seattle area. The year that my daughter turned eight, she was aware that there were a lot of Santas out and about and I’d told her that a lot of nice people liked to dress up as Santa and bring happiness to children. On Christmas Eve I had to work and I asked my Uncle Sandy if he and Aunt Nancy could babysit her until I got off work at 3:00 pm. Since she would be at their house all day, it was likely that she’d guess who he was when he came to see us that evening, and the plan was that I’d have dinner warm in the oven for them so that after she guessed who Santa was, they could come in and get something to eat since they didn’t really have the time to stop for anything. Uncle Sandy’s rounds on Christmas Eve at that point took about seven or eight hours.
Chelsea kept asking who was coming to the house dressed as Santa that evening, but I wouldn’t budge; she had to figure it out herself. I picked her up from the uncle after work, we went home and I cooked the whole turkey dinner thing and after dinner, she got to open one present before cleaning up the kitchen. (We celebrate on Christmas Eve traditionally.) Pretty soon we heard the sound of the sleigh bells and I sent her to answer the door. She came back into the living room with Santa, who sat on the floor and started bringing stuff out of his bag for her. She was in total awe from the moment she heard the bells. He kept talking to her, hoping she’d figure out who he was, but to no avail. Finally, he pointed to our big picture window in the living room and told her to stand there and watch and she’d see his sleigh fly off into the night. She did as told and I walked him into the kitchen to the door, apologizing that he hadn’t gotten the chance to eat, then said goodbye and went into the living room and sat on the couch. My big 8-year-old daughter was still standing in the window, looking for the sleigh to fly by as I sat quietly watching her. Finally, after several minutes had gone by and no sleigh had appeared, I could actually see the spell lifting from her and she turned around, demanding to know who that Santa was. I, of course, told her she’d have to wait until next year to figure it out.
That also happened to be the Christmas of the Previously Loved Gifts. I had only enough money for the dinner that night with nothing left over for gifts for her. So I begged a used record player from a co-worker and wrapped up a bunch of things of mine that she’d always wanted and that’s what she got for presents. She loved them all. That has to be the best Christmas of my whole life, and I’ve had nothing but good Christmases.”