By Bruce Stambaugh
My late father loved Christmas. In truth, he lived for Christmas. Dad got so excited about Christmas it was as if our poor mother had six children, not five. When it came to Christmas, Dad was a grown man who never grew up.
Dad’s exuberance for the holiday was prolific, to the point of over-spending an already limited income. No matter the economy, there were always plenty of presents for everyone under our Christmas tree. I really don’t know how my folks financially did it.
His joy for the season wasn’t limited to gift giving. Dad dragged us downtown in frigid weather to watch Santa arrive on a fire truck in the annual Christmas parade. He hauled us to his workplace where we stood in line with thousands of others to receive Christmas candy and small gifts.
Choosing the Christmas tree became a family event, too. Dad would stuff as many of us kids as he could catch into the car, and off we went, oftentimes tromping through the snow to select and cut the perfect tree.
Dad made the house a priority for being properly trimmed for Christmas. The tree was erected in front of the large plate glass window in the living room for all to see. Garland, tinsel, lights and heirloom ornaments nearly hid the needles. The plastic white star always crowned the glittery tree.
A little plastic church that lit up took center stage on the fireplace mantel between a pair of red candles in glinting glass holders. Of course, the stockings were all hung with care around the hearth.
Dad’s perennial priority project, however, was outside the house. His beloved light display seemed to grow each year. It started with the six-foot pine planted on the corner of our lot at 44th and Harrison in Canton, Ohio. It was a rather busy intersection in our post-World War II suburban neighborhood.
Dad loved to load up the tree with string after string of colored lights. The single lighting option then was using strands of large bulbs, which were individually screwed in. We got lots of compliments about the tree, which only encouraged Dad all the more.
As the tree grew, he added additional cords of lights. Later, the extension ladder came out until it was no longer practical for Dad to try to decorate a 20-foot tree. Instead, he loaded up the shrubbery with lights, and outlined the ridge of the house with those big bulb lights. By then, all of us kids were no longer kids. We had grown, married and had families of our own.
Dad kept his holiday lighting tradition going nevertheless. When the dainty icicle lights came out, Dad draped those from the multi-colored lights around the facing of the house. It was festive, but not exactly aesthetically award winning.
Dad capped off the holiday merriment with buying out the neighborhood candy store of its assortment of tasty chocolates. I think he alone kept the store in business for years.
On each Christmas Day, my brothers and sisters and I gathered with our families and extended families in the home where we grew up out of celebration for the day and respect for our Santa Claus parents. Those were magical days, made more so by a man who refused to grow up, and who bequeathed his fervor for sharing joy to the next generation and the next.
If anyone knew how to keep Christmas, our spirited father, artfully aided by our loving mother, surely did.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012