Yesterday's Magazette

5 – My Last Childhood Christmas

My Last Childhood Christmas

By E. P. Ned Burke

Another holiday season is upon us and with it comes memories of another time and another place.

I can still recall when I was ten years old and the very last kid in the neighborhood who still clung to the Santa Claus legend.

After all, my parents would not lie to me, would they? Didn’t my older brother swear he saw the jolly old guy with his very own eyes the year before?

Anyway, when Christmas Eve came that awakening year in my life I still believed in the magic. I steadfastly refused to betray Santa, even with the peer pressure from my wiser friends with their sarcastic snickers and derision. I refused to give up on the fat man … or my childhood.

After singing in the choir at Midnight Mass, I would always rush home and find that St. Nicholas had visited my home upon my absence. I never once questioned the magic of it all. It was how Santa operated.

In 1952, my older brother and I were both choir boys and we had to make sure to get to church earlier than our folks. It was a good ten block walk and the high heaps of snow made the trek longer.

Well, I soon realized upon entering the church that I had forgotten to take my cassock. I assumed my brother had it. He didn’t. I panicked and quickly did an about-face and rushed home through the snow to get it.

When I breathlessly pushed the front door open, I saw my mother and father in the parlor hastily decorating the tree and placing my toys underneath. (This was supposed to be Santa’s job!) In their busy state they didn’t notice me standing there in the adjoining hallway with my mouth agape. I scooped up my cassock and quietly left with tears in my eyes.

After the church service, I slowly dragged my sad disillusioned body home. My brother didn’t know what was with me as I always raced him home after Midnight Mass, not wanting to waste a minute before opening up our presents.

However this time I didn’t run. In fact, I could barely walk. The pain of my broken heart was too much.

Reluctantly, I finally entered the warmth of our home and after a while I swallowed my hurt feelings and began opening my presents. But it wasn’t the same. There was something missing … and it wasn’t a Christmas present.

I had lost something more important: the innocence of childhood.

That night, it had come to an abrupt end. I wanted to cry … not really knowing quite why. There was a heaviness in my chest I couldn’t explain.

From that night to this, I never again enjoyed Christmas with the same vigor.

Perhaps it was for the best. We all must grow up.

But wouldn’t it be exhilarating if we could return to those halcyon days of our youth–even for a few hours– and recapture that sweet feeling of awe and wonderment in believing something so unbelievable. However, at the time, it made perfect sense to us.


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