William J. Kelly
This is an exciting time of the year.
It is especially exciting to all children under 6 years of age. They sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what gift they want or maybe a whole bunch of gifts are recited. They get their picture taken with Santa in his red suit and long, white beard, learn Christmas songs, watch Christmas stories on TV and moms and dads read them stories about Christmas. They can’t wait for Jolly Old Santa to magically surprise them with gifts of toys and candy (clothes — ho, hum) on Christmas morning.
My wife, Bette, loved Christmas. It was her favorite time of the year. We raised six children and our living room was piled high with gifts around the Christmas tree.
Their Christmas list was never too big for Bette, plus she always added her own surprise gifts for them. My job was to put up the three Lionel train displays in the game room. That took up about one third of the game room and I had mountains almost to the ceiling. It was different every year.
Everything had to be a surprise, so we put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after the kids were in bed and wrapped most of the gifts at that time. Sometimes, we almost lost the Christmas spirit trying to put some of those easy to assemble toys (with missing parts) together. We usually got to bed about 5 a.m. Christmas morning, just before the six anxious boys and girls rushed down the stairs to see what Santa had brought them.
There is a sad story behind Bette going all out with gifts at Christmas time.
Bette was born in 1922 and was 8 years old when the Great Depression was in its first full year. Her father was in the business of planning and building country clubs. He went broke, had a nervous breakdown and was in the hospital. There was little money for Christmas gifts in their family in 1930.
Bette saw this beautiful doll in an advertisement. She fell in love with it and begged her parents to get it for her. She wanted nothing but that beautiful doll and dreamed of it constantly in the days before Christmas. Bette also had an older sister.
When Christmas morning arrived, the two sisters came down to see what they received and Bette saw her beautiful doll under the tree and rushed to get it. However, the doll she so wanted had her sister’s name on it and next to it was a small rag doll with her name on it. She was crushed!
Bette carried that disappointment with her all of her life. She never forgot it and, as a result, she over compensated with many gifts for her own children. Bette was always sure that each of her children got the gift they most wanted.
Just a wee bit of advice to all you Santas out there: Listen to your children and, if it is at all possible, get them, if nothing else, the gift they most want. They will then remember all Christmas mornings as happy ones. Most of all they will love you for giving them many happy memories of Christmases gone by.
Please don’t forget to keep Christ in Christmas. After all, it is his birthday.
Guest columnist William J. Kelly is a Parker County resident and served as 2nd Lt. in World War II in the Eighth Air Force of the US Army/Air Corp.