Christmas was always special when I was growing up. We were always up before dawn to see what Santa had brought us. I truly believed in him. Once, I even thought I heard the hooves of reindeer tapping on the roof of our house while Santa was making his delivery.
One year, one of the presents I received was a multiple level gas station/ parking garage in which you could drive and park and pretend to work on your matchbox cars. My sister was receiving something called the “Imagination Dollhouse”. Both had “some assembly required,” somewhere in excess of a gazillion pieces.
My sister and I were sound asleep in bed, which we knew was important, because Santa wouldn’t come if we were awake. Mom and Dad were getting out the hidden presents and the toys that needed assembly when the Grinch decided to pay a visit in the form of a house fire. The Plectron went off and so did my father, leaving Mom to finish putting the presents under the tree, and more importantly, begin the toy assembly.
Dad barely made it back before we woke up that Christmas morning. As usual, we were wide-eyed and thrilled with everything Santa had brought.
Years later, in the post-Santa period, Mom would regularly retell the story of that Christmas Eve, complete with uproarious laughter as she described the “millions of pieces necessary” to assemble the toys that year. She stayed up all night, the elf completing Santa’s work.
An excerpt from Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family