It Ain’t Like Being A Kid

Ralphie and Santa from A Christmas Story

Source: MGM

I’ll admit it. I was spoiled as a kid. Even though my dad was the only one working, we still got spoiled at Christmas time. Oh, we never got the cool, trendy toy everyone wanted, but looking back, I’m sort of glad. Every time someone got this year’s new hot toy for Christmas, you’d find it in their backyard in pieces by the spring thaw. But my parents got us a lot of swag.

My memory is long enough to remember a time when I was an only child. I am the oldest of 14 grandchildren on my mom’s side. Up until about 1972, I was the surrogate kid for all my aunts and uncles on that side of the family. So come Christmas, guess who got all the swag. And then my cousin Jennifer was born. And my oldest brother. And my cousin Keith. And Jason. (In fact, my dad’s brother also had a Jason around that time. Hmm…)

Suddenly, the presents dried up when we went up the street to my grandma’s house. On my dad’s side, I’m near the back of the back, so nothing really changed there. Still, Christmas was somewhat magical up until I graduated high school. When all four grandparents were alive and living in the wilds of suburban Cleveland and Akron, Christmas had a set rhythm. I (and later my brothers) would get my parents up much earlier than they wanted. We would proceed to trash the living room with shreds of wrapping paper. Then it would be up the street to my maternal grandmother’s for lunch, hanging out with the cousins, and more presents. (‘Cuz that part is important, yanno.) I only had one cousin we never saw there. My uncle had become a Jehovah’s Witness, which nixed Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. (Strangely, my Uncle Mike still came over on my birthday a lot.) Afterwards, we’d go to my dad’s parents for Christmas dinner and, of course, more presents. It was a wonderful day.

Over time, though, things changed. My dad’s parents moved to Marietta, on the Ohio River near West Virginia. My maternal grandfather left. Adolescence kicked in, which meant I thought I was too cool for school. My mother became more religious, which meant some strange gift ideas. (For starters, she refused to buy rock albums for me, even though they had become my new Red Rider BB gun.) My maternal grandmother died.

When I became an adult, Christmas became depressing. It was a pricey burden and a reminder that I was alone at the time. When I first got married, it was absolute torture. My former in-laws wanted to monopolize the holidays, especially when they moved to Hilton Head. Sure, it was fun playing golf on Christmas Day, but I resented having to fight every year for time to see my parents and brothers. By the time that marriage ended, my attitude toward Christmas was that Scrooge sold out at the end of A Christmas Carol.

It changed for the better when I married Nita. Suddenly, I had a stepson. And let’s be honest, it’s fun spoiling him. My first Christmas as part of the family, I bought him a computer. He’s 18 now, and we’ve spent the last four years buying him things he’ll need when he decides to move out. Not to mention getting him a few goodies.

Christmas now is like a cocoon. We get up, put on our annual Christmas jammies, and open presents. In the morning, we watch A Christmas Story. In the afternoon, we watch Nita’s favorite movie, Beauty and the Beast. It’s just the three of us.

We’re looking forward to when AJ has children of his own. We’ll have grandchildren to spoil and rile up. And when they’re full of caffeine and sugar, we can send them back home for their parents to calm down. My parents did this to Ziggins. I’m pretty sure my grandparents did this to my parents, aunts, and uncles. Someday, it will be our turn.

I can’t wait.