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Christmas: Childhood Memories
12/17/2014 4:29:16 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

As I pen this article, Christmas is only nine days away. As a child, nine days seemed like eternity as I waited for Santa. It was the only time I got new clothes and toys. Christmas was such an exciting time for me; it was an exciting time for my father too. He worked real hard to be sure that his kids got something new for Christmas. My dad could not afford new bikes for his four children but he would find used bicycles, repair and paint newness all over them. I can still see and smell the dark green and silver paint. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t new, it was new to me. And I knew my Santa Claus dad did his best.

Normally, I operate in fast forward mode. It’s not often that I have time to reflect on my journey. I am always running full speed ahead. Much like my dad at Christmas, this year I will be Santa sharing clothes and educational toys with my almost two year old grandson and watching the excitement in his eyes that my dad saw in mine.

Every Christmas, I can’t help but reflect on the aroma of mom’s ginger bread cake and the red striped candy canes she used as decorations. I thought about the little red wagon full of fruits that Santa left behind to be shared by three siblings and me. It was somewhere between the red wagon and skates that I found out who Santa really was. In my home, Santa Claus was really a black man. I couldn’t believe it. I had seen so many pictures of Santa with the curly white hair and beard I couldn’t believe they would send a Black Santa to drop my stuff off. I remember asking Santa how was it possible for him to travel the entire world in one night. My inquiring mind wanted to know. Santa looked a little dumbfounded. Not only did I catch Santa in the act of dropping off my little red wagon, I may have caught him in a fib. Oh, don’t y’all worry about me distorting the children’s image of Santa. If they can read this article, they already know who Santa is.

I don’t know about y’all but I had a tough time falling to sleep Christmas Eve. My parents would tuck me in and caution me to close my eyes really tight and go to sleep because Santa would not come as long as I was awake. I also remember them threatening to put salt in my eyes if I didn’t fall asleep early.

Curiosity wasn’t just bad for the cat, but my curiosity almost got the best of me. I remember trying to peep out of one eye for Santa. It was time he revealed himself. I had a few questions for him. Was I going to get what was on my list? Would he make it to my house? It was getting late. I could tell by the fog covered street lights. So, with one eye opened, I saw Santa come out of my parents’ room. I pretended that I was asleep. I am thinking what in the world is this guy doing in my parents’ room. How did he get in there? I sure did not see him go pass my room. I must have fallen asleep. There is just no way Santa could have gotten pass me, no way. I thought about waking my brothers up to let them know that Santa was in the house but I feared my parents would make good on their threat to put salt in my eyes. I also thought about not being able to ride in the little red wagon. I decided not to tell my brothers and my sister who Santa was. Perhaps they knew; but they weren’t going to hear it from me.

So, why am I thinking of yesteryear’s Christmas? I miss the house hopping on Christmas Eve to help my friends wrap their children’s presents, assemble toys and place them under the tree once they were tucked into bed. I miss the eggnog with a little toddy. The little child that once played peep-a-boo with Santa grew up and preserved the legend for her grandchild and future generations by not ratting out Santa’s identity.

The little child grew up and never forgot who the real Santa was. While Santa may have been a figment of her imagination, in a child’s mind he was synonymous with Christmas. Christmas was the anticipation and excitement of new toys and gifts that were few and far in between growing up poor in Charleston. Coming from a family of six and living below the poverty line, I knew poor was just a transitional condition in my home and not a permanent state of being. My parents never took a backseat when it came to their children. No sir! We never looked poor, dressed poor or even acted poor; no, we were John and Lucille’s “chern” and the sky was the limit for us. We grew up stepping high in Bo Dollar shoes with our heads held back in hand me down clothes because our parents always made us feel special.

I grew up to the reality of Christmas. Christmas is not about Santa Claus and greedy merchants, it’s about Christ. That’s right! Remember, the reason for the season. Let’s not leave Christ out of Christmas. It’s like leaving you out of your birthday. Christmas is Christ’s birthday. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts but do not sensationalize Santa and leave Christ out of Christmas. Don’t worry about what you don’t have, be thankful for what you do have. Joy to the world, it’s Christ Day! Merry Christ Day to all and to all y’all good night, sleep tight and be safe.


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