Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas is coming

One of the best Christmases I ever had as a child occurred when I was 8 years old.

When you think about it, 8 is probably the perfect childhood age. It's a time when you are becoming aware of the world around you. Memories are created and begin to stick; memories of friendship and family and customs take shape and never leave. You still believe in Santa Claus. It's a great time.

When I was 8, it was 1959 and we'd just moved from Fountain Hill, PA., to Portsmouth, NH, thus beginning my love affair with New England. Dad was working for the American Red Cross and was stationed at Pease Air Force base, which is another story in itself but we'll just keep that one on the shelf for now.

Anyway, we'd moved sometime in September or October. I got to experience my first autumn in New England and it made such an impact on me then that when I got married 21 years later, in October, to a girl from North Carolina, we took our honeymoon to New England.

That's another story, too. For later.

But in late 1959, Christmas was rapidly approaching. Yes, it was a Christmas without the amazingly decorated Hill-to-Hill Bridge (a first for us), but there was adventure in it, too, because we were in a different place.

I think this gave my parents some concern. My brother, David, and I were busy making new friends in a new place, so it could have been a traumatic holiday if we were not ushered through it just right.

But it was never traumatic.

When Christmas morning arrived, my folks had overcompensated for their fears with a cornucopia of Christmas gifts for us, and Dave and I tore into them with delight. Ribbons and wrapping paper were everywhere. Toys were everywhere. And just when I thought we were done, my Wehrle grandparents were on hand with even more gifts.

Dad: "No, son, open this one first. Let me help."
Dad puts our toys through a test drive. Yeah, right.
My memory now may skew this vision somewhat, but not by much, I think, because I have photographic evidence of this surplus. Here are a couple of pictures of my dad (who was closing in on 30) directing us to which gifts to open — so that HE can play with them. It occurs to me now that he may have been the one suffering from the trauma of moving. I don't know.

(Make sure to notice all of the gifts still to be opened, including the stocking stuffers. Yikes.)

What I do remember is that it was a pretty good day. We were surrounded by gifts, good food and extended family. It may even have snowed. I'm not sure about that, but I do remember snow that drifted as high as the second story of our three-story duplex. I just can't be certain if it was on Christmas or sometime else during the winter. It seems like we had snow all winter long.

We were in Portsmouth for less than a year, but it turned out to be some of the most memorable months of my life.

Because it's great to be 8 years old with all of your potential memories still in front of you. Because now, it's just as great to look back.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

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