I sat in the back of my family’s tan minivan as it slowly followed a train of cars through an affluent neighborhood of hanging Christmas lights. My dad drove cautiously as my mom moved up close against the cold window to better see the elaborate displays on homes. My nanny added her personal commentary on each house as my Papa nodded in faithful agreement. My sister, only a little girl then, silently observed it all with bright open eyes.
This was a special Christmas season because my aunt Lana was right there with us taking in all the pure Christmas wonder.
She was finally off drugs.
My nanny had her entire family together; I don’t remember her ever being happier.
As we drove in a wonderland of lights, we never thought it would be our last Christmas with Lana.
Being a nine-year-old little boy, I was fixated on what Santa would bring me that year. Okay, I didn’t believe in Santa, but I really wanted a specific gift. Not a Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot, ranger model air rifle but a Super Nintendo.
The Super Nintendo was the successor of the original eight-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. With twice as many bits than the old system’s eight, the Super Nintendo was the biggest hit of the gaming world in the early 90s. And at costing 200 dollars plus games, it was a lot to ask for.
There was also another dilemma: I wanted a new bike to ride to school and back. My current bike was still a small, single speed bike for younger kids. All my classmates had full-size bikes that were 10 speeds—Huffy being the most common brand at the time.
I battled between my thoughts of what I really wanted and what I felt I needed, but it honestly wasn’t much of a fight.
I confidently asked for the Super Nintendo.
My parents didn’t give me a definite answer on whether I could have it or not. They just said, “Maybe” and “We’ll see.”
As Christmas approached, I begged my parents for an answer. They wouldn’t give me one. They even asked me what else I might want instead of the Super Nintendo. I explained to them my bike situation but reaffirmed as clearly as possible that the Super Nintendo was my real wish.
Christmas Eve came—that’s when I would have dinner and open gifts with my immediate family. My mom made us a great feast, and we ate on the formal dining room table, which was reserved for special occasions back then. Classic Christmas carols played from the living room near the crackling fireplace. The glowing tree exhibited a combination of school made and Hallmark ornaments.
I don’t remember exactly what we ate, but I remember all of us being together. I can still picture the view from where I sat and can see my childhood family all around me, covered in smiles, not aged by time—one of the best dinners of my life.
After the filling dinner was finished, we began taking out the gifts from under the tree. I waited patiently as everyone took polite turns opening each gift. Eventually I found a box that looked like it could house a Super Nintendo.
I ravenously tore off the Frosty the Snowman wrapping paper from the box until it revealed the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
I also got a few games and other smaller gifts too. My Nanny said, “You made out like a bandit with gifts this year.”
Once all the gifts were opened, I asked my parents if they would hook up my Super Nintendo to our television, so I could play it. They told me they would in a bit.
I waited some more before I asked again, and then they said they would do it pretty soon.
I waited longer, and they told me to pick up all the wrapping paper in the living room first, and throw it away.
I waited even longer, and then they said to take out the trash.
I was done waiting. I just wanted to play my Super Nintendo. I wanted to see the stunning 16-bit graphics and try out the newly improved game play with the modern multi-button controller that I had been waiting months for.
But I had to take out the trash.
I apprehensively grabbed two plastic bags of trash and made my way through my loquacious family sitting in the living room, past the still glowing Christmas tree, and to the front door.
When I opened the front door, there was a bike parked right outside blocking me in. Greatly annoyed, I turned around to my family and said, “Some stupid neighbor left their bike right in front of our door.” I wanted to give some random neighbor kid a lecture about being more responsible and not leaving your nice bike in front of a random house.
I noticed my family was silent as they stood looking at me—smiling and eagerly waiting for me to understand.
“Wait …” I looked back at the bike and noticed it was a brand new, red, 10-speed Huffy. “No way!” I yelled.
I couldn’t believe my family gave me so much for Christmas that year. It was truly one of my favorite childhood Christmases. The next year, life would change so much.
Although my family made sacrifices to bless me tremendously with gifts, the greatest gift that year was the dinner. The bike eventually rusted in time, and the Super Nintendo became outdated, but the warmth from that memory of having my family together stays with me to this day. It’s somewhere deep inside that helps me remember who I am and where I’m from.
Christmas really isn’t about things but about Jesus, and Jesus is about people. If we can train ourselves to have more of a divine mindset, we will be about people too, and not just on Christmas but every day of the year.
Although most theologians and historians don’t believe Christ was actually born in December, I feel the cold winter season is the perfect time to celebrate his birth. The cold brings people together for warmth. The birth of Christ brought people together for a spiritual warmth. May Christmas be a time where we draw close to others as Christ came to draw close to us. Let us feel his warmth through the Holy Spirit as we sing carols, share meals, and give gifts.