I've had such trouble posting lately that I decided it was safest to focus my final Christmastime thoughts on the morning after.
Many locations have made for a special holiday in my life, but none can match the house way up New Jersey, northwest of New York City, where my father's parents lived during my first decade. There were decorations, cookies, stockings, relatives, carolers, and gifts under what in memory at least is a majestic tree. So much could be written about the annual anticipations of Christmas in Wyckoff — my sister and me standing by the curb to greet Santa, in the company of firefighters, handing out candy to the neighborhood children; trying hard to fall asleep, since we knew that the jolly old elf wouldn't return to leave presents until we did (but also hoping that his visit would awaken us so that we could finally catch him in the act); preparing for dinner, then waiting for Dad and Grandpa to finish their carbohydrate-&-tryptophan couch naps so that we could roughhouse or enlist their help in explaining, assembling, and playing with games and toys opened earlier that day.
For me, though, the afterglow of Dec. 26th was just as magical as the eve of the 24th and the daylong festivities of the 25th.
Kids seem to have an innate ability to wake up early on Saturdays, birthdays, and Christmas no matter their usual routine. And while on Christmas morning nothing can be done until the grownups are gathered, that morning after allows a quiet communion with the holiday's unwrapped bounty. Of course I can think of plenty of gifts that spurred activity — physical (building something with blocks and then knocking it down, flying my Mego action figures) or mental (trying to outsmart Dad at Othello). But the warmest recurring reverie has me settling into a plush chair next to the tree with one of the oversized comics of the era known as treasury editions and experiencing the classic saga of Batman's introduction to Ra's al Ghul while toasted by the sunlight streaming through the large windows behind me. Heaven isn't worth its name if we're not able to revisit such moments when we get there.
Whether you lit candles for Chanukah or Kwanzaa, observed Christmas as the birth of a messiah or simply a time to acknowledge life's blessings, commemorated the winter solstice, or just enjoyed others' enjoyment of the holiday hubbub, I hope that your yuletide has been merry and bright.
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