Beanie’s Earliest Christmas Memory
Christmas traditions come in all kinds of families, and in all kinds of ways. The Herbert family was no different.
Any Christmas card found in the Herbert mailbox found itself taped to the woodwork along the ledge of the basement stairs. The Coca-Cola Santa Claus had to be hanging on the front door every year. Oh, what debates would occur if anyone suggested otherwise. Certain ornaments had to be in certain locations on the Christmas tree. The Christmas stockings had to be hanging in the same order every year; oldest to youngest from left to right.
This particular year, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg and their four kids arrived for a Christmas visit. Once they brought in their Christmas presents and their suitcases, they all attended the afternoon service at church. Upon their return, a Christmas dinner was in order. Beanie’s mom and Aunt Meg set the table with the good silverware and dishes, real cloth napkins, and even stemmed glassware, destined to be filled water, milk, or even wine for the adults. A platter of ham ruled the center of the table, accompanied by bowls of steaming hot mashed potatoes, cream corn, and all the olives and pickles Beanie could sneak on his plate without his mother swatting his fingers with the gravy ladle. All were called to the table, a table grace was said, everyone ate all they could and then a dessert of either pumpkin or apple pie was served with ice cream.
It was the traditional event after dinner, though, that held Beanie’s anticipation and excitement. It made Beanie feel that Christmas had arrived in full force. All other family traditions and practices as lavish and fine as the Christmas dinner dwindled in comparison. Just the thought of the after-dinner activity would make Beanie’s heart race with excitement.
Despite his enthusiasm, it seemed to Beanie that it took so very long just to get the dirty dishes cleared, even with everybody helping. The dishes had to be brought to the kitchen for a good washing, and the cloth napkins and tablecloth stashed in the bins down in the basement laundry room. Any leftovers had to be wrapped in foil or put in Tupperware and stored appropriately. All of this took no more than half an hour, but for Beanie, it was a good pile of time wasted.
Yet, there was more waiting. The entire event had to wait for the arrival of even more family members, who had been at their own homes with their own dinner and cleanup routines to attend to before they could come to the Herbert house. The waiting tore at Beanie’s patience and anticipation of the evening. His mother made him entertain his cousins in the living room where they sat on the floor playing card games like “Go Fish” or “Old Maid” as they waited. Christmas music played throughout the house. By the time the additional family members arrived, Beanie and his cousins had heard Bing Crosby, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ella Fitzgerald, and even a recording by the local high school choir.
And then, with little warning, it all began. Cars pulled up in front of the house, dispensing more people into the Herbert home. Beanie saw people at the front door, hearing voices of more relatives giving their greetings of “Merry Christmas” and such similar comments. The new arrivals removed their coats, hanging them in the front closet or giving them to Beanie’s dad who threw them on a bed in the front guest room. Simultaneously, a coffee pot and a plate of cookies appeared from the kitchen. Couches and chairs found themselves filled with people.
And then . . . oh, and then . . . Beanie heard a knock at the door as a very special voice came from the other side.
“Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Ho!!” This voice from behind the door resounded with great gusto and seasonal cheer. Beanie was too excited to notice who opened the door, but once that door was opened, in marched Santa, as real as the entire world could possibly be. Nobody could tell Beanie otherwise. The waiting was over; Santa was here in all his glory, dressed head to toe in his red hat, jacket and pants, all trimmed with white fur. His polished black boots reflected the colorful blue-green-red-white lights from the Christmas tree. His large beard and his bushy eyebrows were as white as the snow that had fallen that morning.
The Herbert home rang with cheers and whoops as Santa unshouldered a large sack that looked as if it was so full of goodies that it would rip apart at the slightest shake. The minutes flew by as Santa greeted each adult individually with hugs for the women and strong handshakes for the men. Camera flashes went off over and over again. His face was all smiles, his voice full of joy and merriment. His presence in the room amplified the fun of the season.
Next, he turned to the kids. Santa put his hands on his hips and leaned back to stretch out his legs and spine. “Oh, those reindeer aren’t giving me as smooth a ride as they used to. They must need new shoes. My sleigh ride was quite a bit bumpier that I remember. Maybe it’s my old age.”
The kids laughed at the thought, crowding around each other as more cameras flashed. Some greeted Santa with a shy hello, others just looked up and stared. The youngest cousin, little Paul, scampered and hid behind Uncle Dave’s knees. More cameras flashed at the activity.
Santa finished stretching and leaned forward to the children. “Who’s ready for a present or two?”
Great shouts of “ME! ME!” filled the room, along with jumps and waving hands as the kids reacted to his question.
“I need all of you to sit down here right in front of me. Young ones closest to me, old ones in the back.” With a wink, he added, “That’s because you old ones get your presents last.” More laughs, more giggles.
Santa asked for a chair. Beanie urged his dad to hurry up for Santa, please, hurry. Dad headed into the kitchen and returned with a chair and set it down behind Santa, who plopped down on it with a big vocal ‘humph”. Placing a pair of reading glasses on his nose, he reached for his bag and pulled out a present. “This one says it’s for Snoozie. Who’s Snoozie?” He looked across the children with a perplexed face.
“That’s me, Santa. But I’m Susie, not Snoozie!” Santa apologized, blaming his fogged-over glasses. He handed the gift to the young girl in her yellow dress. “Open it carefully and save the bow,” he instructed her. With great care, Susie opened the brightly wrapped package. It was a My Little Pony set, just what she had hoped it was. “Santa, how did you know?” I only told mom and dad that I wanted this!” She hurried over to show her parents. Oohs and aahs rose from the adults as Susie made her way around the room to show everyone her treasure.
After that, it was mostly a blur for Beanie. He heard more wrong names called and saw more packages opened, but most of the time he kept his eye on Santa’s big bag, wondering when his would come out next. He could hardly breathe because of his excitement.
Then Santa called out for someone named Barney. No one responded. Santa said, “Barney? Who’s Barney?” Aroused by his dad, Beanie perked up. “Do you mean me, Santa? I’m Beanie. It’s me!”
Santa took his glasses off, rubbed them against his jacket and placed them back on his nose, taking a closer look at the tag on the package. “Why, yes I do, young man. Here you go.”
Santa handed Beanie a long, tube-shaped package. A baseball bat? It seemed too long and too fat for that for that. A fishing rod? Same problem – too fat, too long. Whatever it was, it was heavy and wrapped quite tightly. For Beanie’s money, too, there was too much tape on it. He started opening it at one end, clearing just a very small piece paper off the top of one end of the tube. It was then that he saw what it was.
Beanie couldn’t believe it. It appeared to be a cloth-like material. There was no mistaking what it was. He tried to hide the disappointment in his voice. “A rug? A rolled up rug?” His heart fluttered in confusion. What would a six-year-old boy do with a rug for a Christmas present? Beanie kept up what he considered his Christmas face as best he could, but he kept thinking, “A stupid rug! It’s a stupid rug!”
Santa offered to help Beanie with the tape along the length of the rug. After what seemed like a half an hour, all the paper was off the rug. It lay on the floor, still rolled up tightly. Beanie could tell he was about ready to cry, but he knew he just couldn’t do that. He kept all that inside as best he could.
“A rug. A lousy, crummy rug.” That’s all Beanie could think.
Then Santa spoke up and suggested that the rug be unrolled. He pointed out the two plastic straps tied around the rug. Uncle Dave took out his pocket knife and cut through the straps, allowing the rug to loosen itself out of its coil.
Beanie now had no other choice. The other kids moved out-of-the-way, seeing that Beanie would need room to open the rug all the way. Beanie grabbed the exposed end of the rug and unrolled it.
He was stunned at the image on the rug. This rug, which he had thought at first was a huge failure as a Christmas present was the most amazing thing Beanie had ever seen in his whole life.
There, laying on the floor before him, was a four-foot by six-foot rug, containing full length drawings of each and every single Power Ranger on TV. The colors shimmered in the light, especially when someone took a picture with a flash on their camera. They were all there – Blue Ranger, Red, Ranger, Green Ranger, Yellow Ranger – and there, right smack in the middle, stood Beanie’s favorite, the Black Ranger. They were all standing with their right foot slightly forward, their left hand on their hip, right hand pointing out to Beanie as if to beckon him to join them in the rug. The words “Power Rangers” appeared above their heads in bright three-dimensional red and yellow lettering. It couldn’t be any better – Beanie’s favorite superheroes right here in front of him in bright, fresh colors – and it was for him, and only him.
His earlier mood of disappointment evaporated quickly. His face, which he had kept as blank as he could to hide his disappointment erupted into a huge smile as his eyes opened wide. He knelt down, ran his hand along the rug from left to right and back again, finally stopping on the Black Ranger. It was superb. It was a dynamite gift.
Beanie finally squeaked out a “Thanks, Santa!” with a voice that sounded just a little bit choked up. He stuck out his hand to shake with Santa, but his eyes never left the vision that was his new Power Rangers rug. It was going to be in his bedroom forever. This was the coolest. This was the greatest.
Eventually the evening’s excitement subsided. Santa left first, making an excuse that he had to feed his reindeer. The guests who had come in the cars received their coats, got dressed, and left. Beanie’s mom, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg went to a late evening church service. His dad stayed home to serve as the babysitter, putting all the kids to bed. Beanie took his Ranger rug up to his room with him, carefully placing it on his floor. He lined it up squarely with the side of the bed and put on his pajamas. After brushing his teeth, he returned to his room, took a good long look at the marvelous, wondrous rug. He wished each of the Rangers one by one a good night and a Merry Christmas. With a warm feeling in his heart, he slept.