My Christmas Story

Like many kids, Christmas was for me the universal clock by which all time revolved; it was the zero hour. Other important markers on the calendar, primarily birthdays and summer vacations, came only once for each Christmas. This universal clock ticked not in minutes, not in hours, not days, weeks or even months, but in eternities; the countdown until Christmas morning.

The counting of eternities did not begin until Christmas vacation from school. As lists began to be prepared for Santa, the counting of Christmas Eve’s eves began. Each eve became its own eternity, the longest of which was Christmas Eve itself.

I confess that I believed in Santa Clause until a very late age. I remember the fierce pressure, threats of torture and worse, from those other, older kids who tried to force me to deny my beliefs.

Why would I deny the greatest giver of Christmas gifts and put my entire Christmas universe at risk? My belief in Santa had produced great dividends and the only downside was a reduced status among a few grammar school intellectuals. In the end, I could also surmise that it was my late belief in Santa Claus that helped create the neural pathways in my brain that now make it easier for me to believe in an even greater giver of gifts, the One whose birthday Christmas is celebrated to mark.

On Christmas Eve the Grandfather Clock in our living room that had overseen every Christmas that I can remember chimed the quarter hours with an increasing intensity. After going to bed, the clock would begin to slow, lengthening each quarter-hour into its own eternity.

As Christmas Eve deepened, and as the eternities between chimes spanned greater and greater, I was drawn into an uncontrollable curiosity.

My first predicament was to determine how many chimes from the ticking wood guardian I should count, to make sure my parents were asleep, before I risk what would be the first of many great, but brief, late-night adventures into the living room, to peak into the darkness at what Santa had done.

Now that I am a father, the eternities seem to have slipped away. The Christmas Eves’ eves pass so quickly.

The Grandfather Clock that had tormented me for so many Christmas Eves now ticks away the eternities in my living room, overseeing the next generations of Christmas. My hope is that my children, and maybe even grandchildren, will be tormented by the same chimes, marking the same eternities that embedded the memories of my childhood Christmas.

Merry Christmas