‘Presence’ Under the Tree

Every time we ask my mother what she wants for Christmas, it’s the same thing.

“Peace and quiet and for everybody to get along.”

Now I find myself wanting that, too. 

But when you’re a kid, Christmas is clearly about presents.

One of my earliest memories of Christmas is going through the Sears catalog and putting an ‘x’ on all the things I wanted.

Just like lots of things we enjoy, it’s the anticipation of opening gifts that’s almost always better than the gift itself.

In our family we waited until Christmas morning to get any presents – none of this “you can open one present on Christmas Eve” business – we had to wait ‘til the next morning.

But it got worse.

All of us kids had to wait until everyone in the house was awake and wanted to actually participate in opening presents. 

So we waited. 

While the adults got dressed.  And ate cinnamon rolls.  And drank coffee.

It took forever. 

Then we all had to line up in the hall before we could even look in the living room.

Here's the Christmas morning line-up in 1969, with my cousins, Joe and Andy, in front of me in the red shirt, checking out what Santa left us.

They said the purpose of this was to be able to capture the joy on our faces on film when we first discovered what Santa Claus had left us.

I think it was really a control thing. 

They lined us up according to age, youngest to oldest.  I was next to last. 

But we wanted our presents, so we complied. 

Until my oldest cousin was sixteen and refused to do it anymore.

He said it was stupid and I agreed. 

Now we just all get coffee and wait until somebody younger with more energy volunteers to pass out the presents.

My uncle used to stand and look at the tree after our two families had combined our presents and shake his head at the number.  And you know, it’s funny, because for as many presents as I’ve received over the years, I don’t remember very many.

Not that I didn’t appreciate them at the time.  And especially the thought. 

But the older I get, the less I care whether anybody buys me presents. 

I’d rather have presence.

Another year with people who have loved me all my life.

Looking across the table into brown eyes that look like my grandmother’s.

At a redhead who’s the spitting image of his dad.

Presence you can’t buy.

But I guess if they want to get me a gift card, that’ll be okay, too.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. dan gary says:

    Those were good old days!

    1. sallygary says:

      Yes, they were – and we’re about to make some more good ol’ days, aren’t we?! Anxious to see y’all this weekend!

  2. So sweet! And I know you miss him! Can’t wait for lunch today!

    1. sallygary says:

      Lunch was great – thank you! And yes, I do miss him. Always will. But so very blessed with other dear redheads in my life!

  3. Lisa says:

    I love this, Sally. The little red head there looks just like Joe Ryan…….so sweet. Thanks for sharing.

    1. sallygary says:

      Doesn’t he?! I’ve got to send you the picture that Ryan and I took together when we were there Thanksgiving – looks just like his dad – I love that picture! When are y’all going to Tulsa? We’ll be coming up on Christmas Eve, but I’m not sure when we’ll be going back. Would love to see you while we’re there!

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