Publisher’s Corner: Holidays and Five-Year-Olds

When I was 5 years old back in 1956, my brother Bill was 8 and we loved Christmas. Now that my grandson Jackson is 5, I can certainly understand what the holidays mean to him. Santa, presents, family and fun. Of course we were all taught the religious meaning of Christmas and we knew very well that it was all about the birth of baby Jesus. But for 5-year-olds, the holidays mean toys, Santa and more toys. I remember not being able to sleep a wink on Christmas Eve. I had a big brother to keep me up and excited. We even snuck down the stairs to the living room in the middle of the night to witness for ourselves Santa’s handiwork. Piles of presents under the tree, stockings stuffed and hung by the chimney with care. And yes, cookies eaten and milk half drank by Jolly Ole St. Nick. We knew it was wrong to make our way downstairs in the middle of the night like a couple of cat burglars. And yet we did it every year of our childhood. Except that year we both accidentally fell asleep. Who does that on Christmas Eve? We were even so bold as to pick up a few gifts and give them a good shake to see what rattled or didn’t inside. We immediately knew what was a toy and what was some sort of clothes. Not that a new sweater from Nana wasn’t a great gift, but you can’t drive or fly a sweater around the room on Christmas morning. And yet, a picture will be taken with our Nana and us in our new sweaters all the same. Everyone smiling. We loved our Nana. Modern parents put gifts in gift bags and even leave them around the tree unwrapped. Who does that? Half the fun of a Christmas present is the unwrapping, shredding and ripping in anticipation of what adventure lies inside. Oh, a new pair of socks. On to the next gift. Oh, thanks again Nana. Matching socks. We slip them on what we are told are our freezing feet. I felt no cold, nothing about me or my brother was cold at this moment. We were going through gifts like an F-4 through tornado alley. Everything in the room was wrapped. Miles of wrapping paper and ribbon were gone through by Santa and his elves just to make this morning the most memorable for children everywhere. Sorry to say we didn’t recycle the paper back then. We’ve come a long way. Every scrap of paper gets put in the recycling bin these days. Ribbons reused. Gift bags regifted. Nothing goes in the trash. Mom brings out the caramel rolls and the room smells yummy. On to the next gift. A baseball glove. Thanks dad! Hugs all around. My brother got a football that we would be outside tossing that very afternoon. Even in the snow. This present says, “to Jimmy from Aunt Mary”. It had something that shook, not clothes I thought. A few rips and tears later I find myself holding a large book about precious stones gold and gems. Perhaps this was my first introduction into treasure hunting which has stuck with me all these years. Twenty or so packages later we finally sat down to eat a caramel roll. Nothing like my mom’s “sticky buns.” We finished up that batch in minutes and went on to our stockings. Just when you thought the fun was over, then comes the giant stockings stuffed with even more goodies for the kids. Somewhere during all this my mom and dad opened up their presents, too. I gave my dad a pair of slippers and my mom a pair of gloves. I made them both a papier-mache reindeer but it ended up looking more like our dog Ringo after the antlers fell off. Oh, Ringo got a new dog bowl. He really didn’t care much as he was curled up next to the fireplace after eating a few crumbs off the carpet from one of my cinnamon rolls. In just about 20 minutes the whole event is over. I was sweating through my pajamas. The PJs we got every Christmas Eve was the only present we get to open early. My PJs had Howdy Doody on them. My brother’s had Roy Rogers. At least they weren’t matching. Now that I was 5, I wanted my own identity. After playing with toys and games for hours we had supper. We said a prayer of thanks that we were all together. Little did we know that a year from now my sister Jill would join the family. And new stories to tell. But the same traditions. The gift of family, of love, of caramel rolls and yes sweaters. I miss my Nana. My grandson Jackson doesn’t have an older brother to enjoy Christmas morning with, but he has me (Hopete), his mom, dad, Poppie, aunt Pretty and uncle John and of course his grandmother Nini. The sweaters and socks are on the way!
Happy Holidays Everyone! JB Lester; Publisher