For some reason, last night I was so tired i went to bed at 7:30. Woke up at midnight and realized it was Christmas Eve. I laid there in the dark and set my internal "movie projector" and began running fuzzy old memories in my head; foggy Christmas Eve mornings in Selma, tropical warm Christmases in Vietnam, plumeria rich scents on Christmas mornings in Hawaii, bitterly cold Christmas mornings in North Dakota, as well as pre-holiday mornings in San Diego and Arizona and amidst desert scapes in Saudi Arabia, as close as I would ever get to the place where Jesus walked the earth.
Then I stuck that old "mental projector" on re-wind, and remembered a Christmas Eve morning 62 years ago. My brother and sister and I woke up to much excitement about the prospects for our day. The local home town theater was holding a special Christmas show for Selma kids....a double feature of westerns, with cartoons sandwiched between them and, at movie's end, an appearance by Santa.
That Christmas morning our childhood hearts were so filled with love we needed an outlet for it. Shuttled out of the house so that our raucous joy would not awake our swing shift working dad, we gathered up stale crackers and abandoned soup bones and went out into the yard and threw a Christmas party for our dog, Muggsie...three little children sitting in a circle around that mutt, rejoicing in his pleasure for stale crackers and recycled bones.
By the time a milky sun began breaking tenuously through the fog we had already grown restless, hardly able to contain our excitement at the prospect of movie popcorn and Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Tom being eternally fooled by little Jerry. But, for today, Santa was the big draw; the fat man in the red suit was the big star for this day.
When, finally we were set loose to make the half mile trek to the theater, our excitement was at its peak. We hurried down to the theater and waited in a long line of kids, already waiting to get into the theater.
Once inside we were presented with a complimentary mini-bag of popcorn, went in, took our seats, and watched Roy and Dale beat the bad guys and Gene singing in triumph as he rode Champion out of town...black hats lying prone in his wake...and all was right with the world.
Then the screen went black and a spotlight came on and Santa took the stage, carrying a big red bag. Santa had us line up between the aisles as we filed up to him and received little red velvet bags full of candy canes and colorful hard Christmas candy.
We then wandered out of the theater, licking candy canes and marveling at the bright, grand gift displays in the store windows, wiling away the Christmas Eve afternoon with a sense of wondrous Christmas joy.
So, last night, those old memories still stirring in my head, I got up a little after midnight, walked out to the living room and threw open the front door. The wonderful scent of pine infused the night air and I walked out onto the front porch and gazed up into a spectacularly clear night sky, the stars ablaze in the heavens. A nearly full moon bathed everything in a honey glow and the early morning was unusually warm for this hour.
And once again, I was back again to those years when I was six years old, with the simple joys of White hats and candy canes sufficient to make my Christmas a happy one. And, as I stood there last night, sixty two years later, I was again joyously captivated by the most simple things; a warm night, a honeyed moon, pine perfume and stars dancing in the night skies. I could not have wished for more.
Merry Christmas Eve.