Christmas in the Heartland
It was Christmas Eve in Lincoln, Nebraska in the middle of the last century, back when Santa was still alive. Three young boys were shuttled off to our sleeping quarters in the attic. We didn’t mind sleeping in the attic. After all, it was our special domain, complete with a bathroom, ample room to play and lots of places to squirrel away treasures. Even better, tucked into the attic’s recesses were a couple of trunks of memorabilia from my father’s adventures in the South Pacific during Word War II. The photo albums, jammed-packed with pictures of New Guinea natives, provided us with endless hours of entertainment. The thick leather-covered albums, along with a stack of National Geographic magazines provided the first clues into the mysterious realm of the opposite sex.
Ah yes, back to Christmas. A week or so prior to Christmas Eve, all three of us met Santa at Gold’s Department Store (I have a picture to prove it). In the photograph my younger brother Kim looks somewhat terror-stricken, my older brother Dave is positively gleaming and I look, well, resolute. I wanted a bicycle and was determined to make sure my request was heard and acknowledged. I wasn’t sure Santa had actually heard me so it was with some reluctance that I departed his ample lap. That same day my mother gave each of us a dollar to get gifts for our brothers and father. I wound up getting snow globes for Kim and Dave. Falling short on funds we pooled our money together and bought my father a container for his teeth, a gift he kept by his bedside for the rest of his life.
As the day of Christmas Eve dawned we were all filled with anticipation. Getting through the evening meal was a real struggle, since all we wanted to do was go up to the attic and sleep, thinking that going to bed early would somehow speed up the arrival of Christmas morning. However, before we were allowed to trundle off to the attic we had to help my mother put together a plate of cookies, a glass of milk and a special note to Santa. Then off we went to the attic as night fell on Nebraska’s frozen tundra. I tossed and turned for a couple hours before finally falling asleep. Then it happened.
Precisely at midnight (later research proved it to be around 8 pm.), there was an enormous crash. Santa’s sleigh had landed on the roof! After the crash, Santa said a word I wasn’t familiar with, followed with a bellow that, filtered through the floor of the attic, sounded like “ho, ho, ho”. The next few minutes were a flurry of commotion and rustling. Then it was silent. The night dragged on at a glacial pace. At one point I stole down the stairs to see what Santa had left, but a chair had been wedged under the doorknob thwarting my progress. I was able to pry the door open just a bit and could see that the cookies and half the glass of milk had been consumed. Santa had been there!
Early in the morning my mother finally opened the attic door and we crashed down the stairs. There it was, bathed in the golden glow of the Christmas tree lights, a bright red Huffy bicycle with my name on it. I hardly even noticed when my father emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later sporting a rather substantial bandage on his right hand. I later found out my father had injured himself when he helped Santa pull my bicycle out of his sleigh.