“It’s that time, Christmas time is here! Everybody knows there’s not a better time of year!” Those are the opening lines to my favorite Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation. That’s right folks, the holidays are BACK!!! And as fast as they came, they’ll go!
Each year you can note their arrival by all of the lights, Christmas trees, Menorahs and other decorations that dress our yards, homes and storefronts. It’s almost as if we are all consumed by the spirit of the season and are unable to think about anything besides Santa Claus and the clay you made your dreidel out of.
I however, would like to tell you about another celebration around this time, that I was privileged to grow up with because it doesn’t get a lot of commercial advertising. That occasion is my Father’s birthday, which falls on December 25th. Can you believe it?? My Dad’s birthday is Christmas day! (I also have a sister who was born on the 22nd. You can just imagine what it’s like to buy presents for two separate birthdays and Christmas in a matter of 3 days, but that’s a topic for another post. ha)
The natural reaction is for people to say “Wow, you’re Dad is so lucky. He gets double the presents!” These people……they don’t really think before they speak (but please keep reading even if you were one of them). There is so much that happens during the holidays that the last thing anyone thinks about is someone’s birthday. Everyone is so busy thinking about holiday cards, gifts, lights, the tree, stockings, Chanukah candles, this year’s special edition Coca Cola can or how the Grinch’s heart grew so big, that it actually broke that weird scale. Therefore, it’s almost as if my Dad doesn’t get his own special day.
So, in this Mr. Blogger Boutique Holiday Spectacular, I would like to share with you a few presents that my Father (along with my Mother of course) has given me. These amazing gifts include the ability to recognize things that may otherwise be easily overlooked, the element of surprise to loved ones, the happiness of celebrating the holidays together and of course every single collector’s edition Hess truck since 1988.
Now, not all of these gifts were given on Christmas. When I was a young boy, perhaps 8 or 9, my Father took me camping at Allaire State Park in New Jersey (It’s a great state, so don’t listen to the MORONS who say otherwise). We did a lot of hiking, a lot of cooking, a lot of star gazing, and just a lot of overall hanging out.
There is one specific memory however that really sticks out. He and I were both sleeping in the tent when all of a sudden he woke up and nudged me. I looked at him, a little surprised, and said “What?” He replied “Listen… it’s raining. You hear the rain drops hitting the tent?” It was raining lightly but I didn’t think much of it. Laying there and listening for a while, I started to enjoy the sound of the light pitter patter against the roof of the tent. He said, “Doesn’t that sound nice?” After another minute or so I said “Yeah, it does.”
All of a sudden a lot of things made sense to me. The whole time my Dad was pointing out how pretty the trees were, why we should stop if we thought a deer may cross our trail and how cool the stars looked from an open field when the city lights weren’t obstructing God’s perfect universe. Yet, it was the raindrops that really made me recognize just how nice everything is.
To this day, I can’t remember how long it took us to drive to the campground; I can’t tell you whether or not we saw a deer or whether or not we saw a shooting star. But I can still hear those raindrops….and they sound nice. Now, whenever it rains, I think back to my first camping trip, and I smile.
Now, let me tell you about my favorite Christmas morning. My Father used to work for an Australian bank and for a few years we all moved away to the great “Down Under.” I was very little at the time but I do remember our time there. It was a very cool experience. I can recall going to the zoo to see wallabies, wombats and butterflies galore! There were Koalas, Kangaroos and many many more! We can discuss stories about how big the spiders were (talk to my Sisters), how gross the vegemite is (talk to my Mom) and how going to the Outback Steakhouse on Route 35 in Middletown, New Jersey is nothing like being in Australia.
Celebrating the holidays was very different for us. We had a fake tree for crying out loud! Christmas was also in the summer time AND a day early (don’t spend too much time on that one). It was absolute craziness. Yet, it was still a lot of fun. We may not have been back home in America for those few years, but it was perfect because we were all together.
Then came a year in which we were in the midst of a move back to Staten Island. Being very little, I don’t remember all of the logistics, but because of work, my Dad had to stay in Australia while my Sisters, my Mom and I moved back to New York. Soon Christmas was upon us and my Dad was still all the way on the other side of the world. We were going to have to celebrate without him. Alone on his birthday, “Down Under” he would be. So, we decorated the tree, we put up our lights, baked cookies… the whole nine yards. Pretty soon it was Christmas Eve and I went to bed thinking about all of the presents Santa was about to bring me. Assured by my Mom that Santa did in fact know that we moved back to Staten Island, I was excited to see what he was going to bring.
The next morning one of my sisters woke me up. It was Christmas morning and time to open gifts! Woooooooohoooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! The three of us ran down the hallway and into the living room. We saw that Santa had made it to our new apt, as there were gifts all around the tree. To my Mother’s room we ran! Boom! Boom! Boom! “Mom, wake up! Santa came! Wake up!” we yelled.
My Mom opened the door and said “Ok everybody. Merry Christmas! Just give me a few minutes and I’ll be right out. Go back to your room and I’ll call to you when I’m ready.” I remember thinking… are you kidding me???!!! Does my Mom have any idea how hard it is for a 5 year old to go to sleep on Christmas Eve??!!!! Now, I have to wait a few more minutes!!??? We walked back and gathered in one of the rooms. Each passing second felt like a minute and each minute an hour. Soon, we heard my Mom, “Ok, come on in!” Boom! The door flew open like we were hot out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby! Down the hallway, around the corner and into the living room we ran. Then….. suddenly….. we stopped. Stunned by what we saw, we were completely speechless. Right by the gifts and next to the tree was my Dad. It was nothing short of a miracle. After a pause and my Dad saying, “Helloooo???” we sprinted over to him and hugged him. Completely surprised, I asked “Dad, how did you get here? How were you not here last night but now you’re here this morning?!” He exuberantly claimed “Santa Claus brought me! I couldn’t catch a flight, so I called Santa!” At this point I was ready to faint. My Dad knew Santa!!!!! He then told me all about the sleigh and meeting all of the reindeer, even Rudolph. I was the happiest a kid could be. We celebrated together all day long. It was a very Merry Christmas.
These memories are priceless to me. There are many more, but for the sake of getting on with your holiday I’ll save them for another post.
This holiday season, think about someone who’s given everything they could possibly give to make you happy (even if it was THEIR birthday). This year, for me I think of my Dad. He’s someone who can show you beauty and peacefulness when it rains. And on Christmas he’s shown that his Love for my Mother, my Sisters and I, is so important that it’s worth giving Santa a call and asking for a ride on Santa’s busiest day of the year, just so he can be with his family. He has also taught me to Love others. I only wish he could see my face as my Fiancee teaches me the Hebrew prayers as we light our Menorah, together.
My Father is loved by many. To my Fiancee and other female friends he’s known as “Papa John,” because he cares for them as if they’re his own. To my drinking buddies he’s known as “T-bone,” because they’ve seen him gawk over a grill full of meat while drinking enough Jack Daniels to walk through a screen door. To my Sisters and I, he’s still referred to at times, plainly as “Daddy.” I don’t know why, but maybe because no matter how old we get, he still gives us that “Daddy” feeling.
No matter who he is to a number of people, to me he’ll always be my Dad and he’ll always be my Hero.
To my loyal readers out there I would like to say Merry Christmas to all!!!! Happy Chanukah to you!!!!!! Have a wonderful New Year!!!! I’ll see you in 2010!!!!!!!!
To my Dad,
- Owen Patrick