My strongest childhood Christmas memories date back to our time on 19th street. It was a small house by most current standards for a family of five but we managed. On Christmas Eve we kept busy with chores and games designed to distract us from what would happen latter that evening. Our evening meal marked the official beginning of our Christmas Eve ritual. Mom would make supper most often “Chef Boyardee’s” Ravioli.
By 7 Mom and Dad would send us, Don, Kathy and Charles to our rooms where we would wait. While waiting is hard for any child, waiting on Christmas Eve is so much like punishment, save for the outcome. Since Charles and I shared a bedroom we entertained each other as brothers often do with games, bickering and occasional fighting. Although it rarely got out of hand as we remembered to stay in our being good for Christmas behavior.
I remember looking out the window, watching for Rudolf and listening for the sleigh on our roof. And yet we waited. Finally the signal would come a small bell would sound through the house and we knew we were being summoned. What turned out to be every other year, we’d find Santa sitting in our living room waiting for us. I had all I could do to continuing waiting while Santa dispensed the gifts from under the tree. After sharing a few minutes Santa would take his leave and we continued to explore the treasures he left.
On the alternate year, responding to the bell Mom would tell us that Santa was unable to stay and Mom and Dad gave out the gifts one at a time. It was always hard to be happy for my siblings as I waited for my turn.
As the three of us continued to explore our gifts Mom would bring out the Christmas treats she’d made or collected and we’d graze as we continued to enjoy the gifts Santa left for us. About 10:30 we’d begin getting ready for midnight Mass, in those days, midnight Mass was celebrated at midnight. Coming back home from Mass we’d settle in following a brief review of the night’s gifts we’d call it a night more often than not being sent to bed.