It’s been a while since I woke up and ran into my parents’ room to jump in the bed and wake them up on Christmas morning.
You probably think it’s been much longer than it actually has. I was somewhere in my 20s the last time I jumped into bed with Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas morning.
Although that might not be funny at all for some people, my grandparents took such joy in my delight of things that I can still hear our shared laughter as they related the tale again and again. They were after all the people who really taught me what it meant to love and I have since learned what it is to love a child who wakes you when you just fell asleep.
Mind you it was closer to noon than it was sunrise, but by then I had learned to appreciate what it really meant to be Santa Claus.
Naturally the apex of Christmas for us began on Christmas Eve. Santa must be fortified for such an intense journey so we had a wonderful filling dinner every Dec. 24.
We would always have two kinds of meat, often a turkey plus a ham, and sometimes it was roast beef because Uncle Roger is not fond of ham. Many years Uncle Bob would pick up the Honey Baked Ham with a crisp sweet glaze that tasted like sunshine on a cold morning when it melted on the tongue.
Two kinds of potatoes were also a requirement. Carbs keep you warm you know.
Because we didn’t have much time for them throughout the year, real mashed potatoes, lumps included, were a requirement for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Whereas stuffing was on the menu at Thanksgiving, candied yams was favored for Christmas.
Both cream corn and gravy made it to the table as did green beans, a veggie tray and a relish tray with Grandma’s home-canned pickled beets.
Let us not forget the cranberries that no one ever ate and the candle salad that was cute but just plain weird.
Apparently many Americans from the 1920s to 1970s enjoyed putting a pineapple ring on a piece of lettuce with half a banana. Held together by mayonnaise, the maraschino cherry on top did indeed make it look like a candle.
For a long time our family had grown so large that we had to have dinner in the rec room in the basement and we had to carry all those tiny towers of edible art down those steps.
After a couple years of chasing cherries down the basement stairs we learned to scoop the end of the banana at the top and add the cherries after we got the concoction downstairs.
The food wasn’t the only entertainment available. The gift of my people is storytelling.
There have always been certain people who, when in a group, could not help but spend yarns of true tales and hilarious happenings. More often than not kids would receive one of the great gifts of Christmas: learning a tidbit about a parent that would be useful in their teenage years.
More challenging might have been when one of those children grew up to write about what they observed including watching the family expand and eventually grow apart as well as hanging from rooftops and falling off bicycles.
Although most of us who lived through it still claim the Brussels sprouts were laced with a little something to help kiddies go to sleep, those were the one thing Grandma and Grandpa insisted everyone must at least taste every single year as though they were going to magically change their flavor.
The Hubbabubba and I have occasionally been known to have nothing but Brussels sprouts for dinner.
My grandparents were right about a lot of things although sometimes it took a while understand.
I know a lot of people looked at what they did with all the money they spent on baubles and lights, on electricity and food, on gifts and clothes and even a toy or two and thought about how materialistic their version of Christmas appeared.
Those same people probably were not aware that we depended on our Christmas clothes to stay properly dressed every single winter.
I am certain they never heard about the box of food that we got one year as our special gift although they may have known about the beds that fit that bill another year.
I know they never got to see Santa’s face as the day went from what felt like millions of presents under the trees to nothing but lonely lights glistening off ornaments and magnificent grins.
You see, it is in the giving where the true joy of Christmas lies.
I was privileged to witness firsthand the generosity of Santa from creating the wonderland that delighted adults and children alike, to the whirlwind of wrapping that inevitably took place sometime between that moment when a car full of kids headed off to look at lights and the moment they arrived wide-eyed the next morning.
I got to hear how those memories, even if it was witnessed only for a short time, impacted lives and generations.
I was blessed to be the Santa.
None of us will ever be as good as that which inspired the Santa within each of us, but we can certainly try.
From participating in the Secret Santa giving on Christmas morning in Elkin, to making a donation to one of the Little Pantries or other charity, or even just sharing a smile with a stranger, we can all live the life Santa teaches every single day.
Beanie Taylor, now a staff reporter for The Tribune, is rumored to have spent her early childhood at the North Pole where she learned first hand from the Big Guy how to make Christmas for others.