Children love being enraptured in the magical stories that come with Christmas. I was one of those children who craved to BELIEVE for as long as I could. I liked the idea of a plump old man delivering gifts all across the country to the point of weary fatigue. I liked how he jumped down chimneys, scattered gifts and reunited with his crew of reindeer to head to the next house.
All this to say, my imagination was as ripe as a ripe could be.
My dad knew this. He knew each of us his four daughters lavished in the stories that surrounded Christmas.
And this is why for years on Christmas Eve, after we’d changed into our nightgowns and downed the last of the shrimp and eggnog (his spiked, ours not), he’d sneak outside. Unbeknownst to us he’d propped a ladder on the side of our house so he could hoist himself up on the roof.
Meanwhile, me and my sisters gathered with my mom by the fire and occasionally we’d look above the fireplace and make jokes about the deer head fastened to the stones there, decorated with a bulging red clown nose. Inevitably one of my older sisters would demand us all to hush. We’d grow still as the down of a thistle (what is the down of a thistle anyway?).
And then we heard it. We always heard it.
Stomping and clomping. Deer hooves. Of course!
My mom would hustle us to bed, insisting Santa must be preparing to visit. I never thought much about how the bearded man was going to make it beyond the raging fire in the fireplace. A child's imagination is a crazy thing. My imagination didn’t require me to problem solve—only dream that night.
On our way upstairs, my sisters and I would huddle and giggle. Rudolph made it. Those were his footfalls we heard on our roof. It made for a near impossible transition into dream world. Instead, I often stayed up chatting with one or more of my sisters (on the other end of the house, while Santa was hard at work and hopefully sporting flame resistant clothing).
Why does this Christmas memory stand out above so many others?
We lost my dad this year. He was a successful businessman. He had many friends and knew how to command attention from everyone in a room. But I don’t remember those things as much as the goofy things he did. He loved to be silly with us. He, like all people had his shortcomings, but once I understood his way of connecting with me, I grew to appreciate him all the more.
Rudolph on our roof is one of my favorite Christmas memories. So what if it wasn’t really Rudolph. My dad made me believe it was. He gave me that and as goofy as it might be, I’ll forever have it.
*photo from flickr