Someday you will tell your grandchildren about your first Christmas, in 2013 … which you won’t remember, but which you will hear about from your three big sisters and your Mama and Daddy.
They’ll tell you about the presents from Santa, for them and for you. They’ll tell you about their school parties and their shopping trips to buy gifts for you and each other. They’ll show you photos of all of us, each snapshot telling a story.
They will laugh when they tell you how PawPaw held you for one-and-a-half hours as the nighttime Christmas Parade made its way up Main Street, and how your eyes got so big when the huge wreckers and buses and fire trucks went past with thousands and thousands of lights.
And somebody will show you Nanny and PawPaw’s Christmas card that year, a photograph (taken by Nana Linda) of a manger scene with you posed as the Baby Jesus, and big sister Regan holding you just like Mary, the mother of Jesus, cuddled Him on that night so long ago.
Big sister Taylor stands tall as a shepherd, and angels, big sister Millie and cousins Mary Grace and Kendall, complete the picture, though perhaps not type-cast.
By the time you can read this, you will have heard the Christmas story countless times. It’s a timeless story, it never changes. Its message is the same on this day as it was each Christmas Day in all of your ancestry.
I heard it as a child, and we read it and told it to our daughters, one of whom was your grandmother. And your mother and daddy will tell it to you this year and every year until you are all grownup and telling it to your own children.
You will manage to comprehend the connections between the Santa of Christmas, and the Savior of Christmas. To a child, Christmas is big enough to include all of it, the Christ Child, the Santa, the gifts, the toys, the music, the food, the parties, the lights, the laughter, even the tears.
I hope your world will still hold the sights and sounds that say Merry Christmas — the Salvation Army bell-ringer, the Christmas trees in fully lighted bloom, the Nativity figures in neighborhood yards, the pageants and music at church, and especially that Santa who looks amazingly like your other PawPaw.
Before next Christmas, your sisters will have introduced you to the Elf on the Shelf in your home. Her name is Snowflake. She was very busy on this, your first Christmas. She made ornaments for the girls, delivered new movies to watch in the van, made hot chocolate, made school snacks, and worshiped the baby Jesus in the nativity.
She has been spotted in the Christmas tree and on the front door wreath. And there she was, in the pantry sucking syrup from a straw, and riding a toy reindeer that pooped candy. She might have been spotted doing a fashion show of skirts she made for herself from felt, or holding the dollar brought by the tooth fairy one night, or taking a “bubble bath” of marshmallows in the bathroom sink, or reading a book to you.
She was probably hiding from all of you as your mother and daddy and sisters packed the bag of slightly used toys to be picked up from Santa on Christmas Eve. And as you slept that night, Santa left surprises under the tree.
For you, Gerit, there were bath toys and teething toys and blocks and balls and plastic rings. You had not yet learned to talk and make a list. You were so happy with your new toys and with the entertainment as your sisters welcomed Christmas morning with squeals and laughter. Their girlie gifts … fingernail polish and fake fingernails, earrings, lip gloss … won’t ever be in your stocking.
But the new-fangled stuffed animals, a delight for girls and baby brothers, do everything but breathe.
Some have flashlights inside them, and/or hidden compartments for other toys. Big sisters are reading and writing and keeping secrets now, so the fancy new diaries that only open by specific voice commands will be around until next Christmas. (Perhaps they will tell this new “friend” what a wonderful Christmas this has been!)
And Santa brought new occupants to your home, life-size dolls. (Wonder where they will find room to sleep.)
Merry Christmas, Gerit. Be sure your children and grandchildren know that Nanny loved them, unknown and unseen. And that their great, and great-great-grandmother, Mary would have loved to know you and them.
Juanita Hughes is the retired head of the Woodstock Library System.