My favorite part about the holidays is spending time with family. Over the years our family gatherings have adopted many forms; but my favorites are always when the whole group gathers together and we eat a delicious home cooked meal; then spend hours chatting, sharing stories and playing games. Two years ago we had quite the ping pong tournament, two glorious nights of stiff competition. But we didn’t just play ping pong, we upped the ante and one non playing team was in charge of the sound machine for each match. Yes, one of those cheap plastic toys that makes different types of sounds, depending on which button you push. Sure it was childish and silly, but life doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Besides, the sound effects really made a difference in our competition. I had no idea how much more challenging ping pong could be when laughing so hard you are crying! Good times were had by all.
Over the recent holiday, my favorite Christmas story was retold. A story full of optimism, suspense and creative genius. It begins early in the holiday season in the early 1990’s with three young, eager individuals preparing their lists for Santa and Mom and Dad. In this family it was customary for the children to get their parental units a small gift as well. Every year the question “What would you like for Christmas Mom and Dad?” was asked, the answer was “Real Estate or a Caribbean Vacation.”
Being children they had a super-secret “kids club” held in the closet of the oldest child. There was no scheduled meeting times, no officers, no dues; just kids hanging out with kids and having very important kid-type discussions. At this particular meeting these children were discussing the extremely urgent topic of what to do for Mom and Dad this Christmas. Out of this discussion they hatched an epic plan that would forever be remembered in their family, as the best Christmas gift ever. These children were going to give Mom and Dad a Caribbean vacation. Not only that, these children were going to sneak downstairs on Christmas, after Santa had arrived, but before the Parental Units woke up and decorate the entire kitchen! An epic plan in the mind of your average 8 year old.
For the entire month of December these three children worked diligently creating a red and green chain out of construction paper that would wrap around the entire kitchen perimeter. They also designed snowflakes of various patterns and styles to cover the cabinets, as well as some trees, wreaths, Santas and snowmen. To make sure none of the decorations were discovered they were hidden in a super-secret hiding place: the couch in the formal living room. This was the couch children could not sit or play on. The decorations would never be discovered there, because as far as the children were concerned no one used that furniture, it was for decoration only.
As the big day approached, the children could barely contain their excitement. They made plans to wake up at 4AM to perform their surprise decorating. For perspective these particular children generally were up at 5AM on a normal Christmas. Despite the fact the Parental Units generally permitted a 6:30AM start to Christmas, this extra hour was necessary in case emergency adjustments were required.
On Christmas Eve they barely slept a wink and when the moment, 4:00AM, arrived the children sprang into action. They stealthy crept down the stairs into the formal living room where the decorations were safe in their hiding place. They carefully removed the snowflakes, snowmen, Santas, trees and wreaths; then worked together to bring the very long, red and green chain into the kitchen. The trio worked together, making sure to use enough tape that no decoration would move, and the chain was secure around the top of the cabinets. This was a time before cell phones and selfies but after the children taped up their homemade, construction paper decorations they stood around admiring their handiwork. Their plan was coming together perfectly. Most importantly a very special box was placed on the counter. Front and center.
With the decorating complete, the rest of Christmas morning proceeded as usual. The children were allowed to look into their stockings but could not open any items or gifts they contained, and no presents could be opened until the go ahead was given by the Parental Units. The next hour was spent watching COPS (because that was what was on television at 5AM in the early 1990s).
Finally, after a month of planning and secretly working, the moment of truth arrived. The Parental Units walked into the kitchen and were greeted with homemade, construction paper decorations from ceiling to floor, three very proud children grinning with excitement and one unassuming box on the counter with a tag that read To: Mom and Dad.
As far as these children were concerned, this was the most important present of the year, so it had to be opened first! On the lid of the box the children had drawn a beach with chase lounges, palm trees with Christmas lights and the Parental Units smiling. It read “Mom and Dad’s Caribbean Vacation”
Inside the children had created, plane tickets (to the Caribbean), hotel reservations and passes for various activities that would be fun to an elementary age child; such as swimming, snorkeling and going to the beach. As the Parental Units opened the box and pulled out each individual item, they spent the time to read all the writing, describe the pictures and compliment the children on their thoughtfulness and creativity.
Despite the passage of years, the Parental Units kept their Caribbean Vacation, and the family remembers this particular Christmas event because of the special and thoughtful way three children did all they could to give their Parental Units, exactly what they asked for, for Christmas.
Remember: Small, kind and thoughtful gestures are remembered, because they are imprinted on people’s souls.