It was finally Christmas when the lighted wreaths went up on the lampposts on Sunset Avenue in Asheboro, and the tree went up in our living room, and my mom hung my Snoopy ornaments and the Shiny Brite balls she and my dad bought back in 1969.
It was Christmas when my dad set up my Big Loader construction set under the tree, a gift from when I was 6 turned yearly tradition; it had eight feet of track and a yellow dump truck and plastic rocks, and he loved watching that thing run.
It was Christmas when the needlepoint stockings my grandmother made — one each for Phil, Susie, Elizabeth, and Muffin — went up on the mantel and plates of fudge started appearing on the kitchen table.
It was Christmas when I lay on the floor in the den and scrawled out my wish list.
I wanted so much.
A Lite-Brite. Etch A Sketch. Dressy Bessy. A bean bag chair.
It was Christmas for so long, but now I don’t know where that Big Loader construction set got to and there are just two stockings — Susie, Elizabeth — and the things that I want have changed so much.
Now, it’s Christmas when my 15-year-old dog, Wilma, wags her tail when she sees me walk into the room. It’s Christmas when my best friend from high school and I get together to talk and laugh, like 30 years haven’t gone by.
And it’s Christmas when the tabletop tree goes up in our conference room here at the magazine. Construction-paper tags hang from the branches; printed on each of those are a name and a toy.
It’s Christmas when we all pull tags from the tree.
Mine says: “Jason. Four years old.”
For the past 13 years, we’ve sponsored children from the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina through their Hope for the Holidays program. We purchase gifts from each child’s wish list.
A social worker sends some limited information. We know the child’s first name, age, gender, and race. We get information about their likes and favorite colors. She loves cooking and arts and crafts. He likes outside toys, robots, remote controls.
It’s Christmas when we read their lists.
They want so little.
Hair bows. Chapstick. Colored pencils. Bubble bath.
They ask for clothes; an adult helps with sizing. Pants 6x with adjustable waist. A dress. Shirt, size 4-T. Shoes, size 2.
We fill our conference room with toys — things the children asked for and things they didn’t: bikes, Hula-Hoops, basketballs, action figures.
We wrap presents, taping each gift with a name tag, imagining their faces on December 25, and hoping that, for them, on this day, it will finally be Christmas.