3 trees lighted in different colors

Like most families we had some Christmas morning rituals when I was a child. We arose early, full of excitement, but several steps preceded the first glimpse of the Christmas stockings and the gifts under the tree. We had to put on our clothes for the day, check to see if Santa had found the cookies and milk left on the kitchen table, and, of course, he had. Then we had to finish a full breakfast, which, for me, was probably my favorite—orange juice, and toast with mayonnaise—I wasn’t much of a breakfast eater in those days. If there were any chores that needed to be done before we gathered around the tree, they were done, like milking the cows or checking on the waterers, to make sure that they were open and not frozen. Finally, all together, my two brothers, Mom and Dad, and I got to go into the living room, and open the stockings first, the oldest going first, and then the wrapped presents under the tree, again starting with the oldest among us. We were naturally eager to get everything out of the way, and on with the business of opening the presents.

On one Christmas morning, when I was probably six or so, when my brothers and I were rushing down the narrow stairway that ran from the second floor bedrooms down to the kitchen, I tripped near the bottom step, fell, and ran my knee right into the metal grate at the base of the stairs. It was a nasty little gash that bled enough to need cleaning and bandaging, further delaying the goal of our hurried descent. I don’t know which hurt more, my knee or the delay.

I should have learned then not to hurry through the steps that approach the gifts of Christmas. I should have learned.