Every year Christmas Day was one of wonder for me when I was growing up. When my brother, sister and I went to bed, our house was under-decorated. The perfect tree we had all chosen together was in the backyard (in later years the tree was moved into the garage on Christmas Eve). The only real Christmas evidence was our thanks and help to Santa: a plate of homemade cookies and tall glass of cold white milk on the coffee table.
When we awoke, hours earlier than usual of course, we pounded our bedroom floors to wake my parents from deep slumber in their room below. It took a good 15 minutes – hours to us – of pounding and jumping before we noticed lights flicker into the stairwell and heard a groggy voice call, “Not yet. Pretty soon.” We danced with anticipation . My heart pounded. We smelled coffee percolating just before Christmas music floated to us. And then the words we had waited for impatiently, “Okay. Come on down.”
We ran to the top of the steps. Mommy and Daddy called out together, “Merry Christmas!” We didn’t mind pausing in the middle of our tumble downstairs for Daddy to take pictures. Why? Because we were stunned to stillness as we gazed at the marvel before us: a tree sparkling with ornaments, hundreds of colored lights and silver tinsel sitting on a ‘snow’ covered platform where HO trains choo-chooed around the carefully painted colorful village. The spread of gaily wrapped and ribboned gifts around the tree left little walking space in the living room. And the giant mirror on the wall was painted like a Christmas card.
After many years of similar Christmas morning joy, I learned the reality of the spirit of Santa Claus. Suddenly I understood why Mom always looked half alive every Christmas morning wrapped in her fuzzy robe as though it comforted as well as kept her warm. Her eyes struggled to stay open even while they reflected our joy, and she drank thankfully of the coffee cup that was refilled all morning. Every year, my parents had gotten to bed just an hour or two before we bounced out of bed, alerting them to Christmas morning! They had prepared all night an event of love for their children whose Christmas memories would be stamped with that love in their hearts forever. Added to my joyful wonder on Christmas morning was tremendous gratitude.
Christmas morning reality was my first encounter with the sacrifice that parents make for their children. All for love.
(A few years later, even before my siblings had reached the same understanding, my parents said we would help Santa by setting up the tree in it’s stand for him; the next helping effort was to decorate it on Christmas Eve Day. And that mirror got painted early in Advent long before I knew what was going on and before we ‘helped’ with the tree. I guess as they got older, though the great love was still there, those nights became exponentially longer. I can relate!)
Ed and I will be married 37 years in July. We immediately, and willingly, entered into the life of parental sacrifice because we had a two year old. That sacrificial love has never ended. Some sacrifices seemed greater than others. But it never mattered. It’s what parents do because we love our children; we love our family.
Now there is a chance for us to sacrifice in an extended way for our family. Our children are concerned about how hard this sacrifice will be. To us it is no different than the last 37 years. In fact, though what we are committing to would have been more difficult in our early married years, it’s nothing compared to the long deployments by Ed as a Naval officer in the era of no internet for speedy communication, no video calls, and when international phone calls cost several dollars per minute.
We are willing to make this commitment because we love each other and because we love our children. We are family.
A Peek at Christmas Morning Wonder 65 years ago.
Christmas morning wonder in the Foster household started when I was two months old. Though as an infant, the wonder belonged solely to loving parents.
Here are some pictures of the morning when I was two years old.