"...It was always said of him (Scrooge) that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!" -- Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)
By my best available calculation these many years afterward, it was probably the Christmas of 1948. There are very clear memories stored in the recesses of time of having started Kindergarten before we moved to the new house and my grandparents having moved into our old. We moved so close to Christmas, according to my mother, that Santa hadn't gotten our change of address in time. Thus he must to return to our old house for Christmas.
The only gift I can recall was a real, genuine, put-it-in-your-back pocket wallet from my favorite uncle Milton (at least he was my favorite from then on). The wallet, just like my daddy's, even had a genuine $1 bill enclosed (this was, you may recall 1948, back when $1 was real money).
"Big" grandma and granddaddy were very old people, if you were five; uncles and aunts were there along with my only three cousins on mother's side of the family. Everyone had a good Christmas. My 2-year younger sister says she can't remember, to me it seems today to have been but yesterday when we kept Christmas so well.
Sixty-two years later it was this grandparent's home to which Santa must come.
For Christmas 2010, susanthelawyer was delegated "eldest-daughter-in-charge" (she was the natural choice, what with being the only daughter). She arranged for hotel reservations for her family, three of our sons and their families, and for my sister and husband plus two exchange students. On Christmas Eve there were a total of two infants, seven children, 19 alleged adults, and two visiting dogs in our two-bedroom, one bath home.
Grandmother Kay, who somehow doesn't seem as old as they were making grandmothers back in 1948, baked a turkey. There was, as always, more goodies than reasonable (long ago learned this was a day to only eat what you wanted, "good for you" to await another occasion).
The cousins spent most of the day playing together. One suspects that sixty-some years hence all they will remember is how much fun they had, and how much older were their grandparents than they will then see themselves.
Christmas Eve night everyone got presents to open. The moment had come and would quickly pass when all whom I love and cherish most were together, happy, healthy. Later they what had no sugarplums to snug in beds went with me to Christmas Eve candlelight service. My mother, grandmother to my kids, would have loved the evening.
Christmas morning daughter Susan and hers kept an early Christmas morning before rushing back to keep at least one more in St. Louis. As they were leaving, eldest and clan arrived for their family Christmas. As reigning great-granddaddy it might just as well have been 1948.
One wonders what the exchange students thought of it all, and how they will explain Christmas to their respective families in Haiti and Honduras. Hopefully they will recall how one American family knew how to keep Christmas well, if any alive possess the knowledge.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.