Christmas can be a magical time for kids and their parents—a time when possibilities and dreams come together. It was always a big deal in my family, and with all of my relatives. We relished family time together—playing with the cousins and eating all of those magnificent dishes that appeared at the table—some just on December twenty-fifth. But plans don’t always turn out like you think.
I was a young parent, and when my first two daughters were born, like many of you, I began to imagine what Christmas should look like for them. I’d remember how great it was for me, and every year try to create in my mind the most beautiful setting I could imagine with the all-important visual: Christmas morning with the lights on the tree, as perfect as I could decorate it.
Since we had a small Christmas tree farm, I’d even scrutinize the rows and pick out my favorite, early in the season. Then there were the gifts that would make little girls’ eyes widen. They had to be choreographed under the tree and tucked in the right places. Because the girls were just a year apart, gifts had to be similar in content and mostly the same so they would not make comparisons.
The big wish from the girls that year was new baby dolls. That would be easy to choose for a three- and four-year-old. I went beyond by believing a doll carriage would be the perfect addition. Young parents didn’t have much money, so gifts were chosen carefully and sparingly.
On Christmas Eve I could hardly wait for the girls to go to bed. The fact that Santa would be visiting did not do a lot to help two excited little girls into settling down and falling asleep. But finally it happened. It was always so much fun to “play Santa.” I spent time arranging the various gifts from Santa among the other gifts. Finally I brought out the doll carriages and dolls and put one on either side of our tree. Visions of the perfect Christmas morning kept interjecting themselves into my plans. The lights were turned out, and we went to bed.
Fairly early the next morning the girls awoke and called to us, “Can we go see what Santa brought?” A bit groggy, I wanted to stay in bed, but knew it would not happen on this morning of all mornings. I went into their room and hugged them and said, “Just a minute, let me go see if Santa was here.”
I scurried down the steps and turned the Christmas tree lights on, took one last look at my perfect setting, and hurried back upstairs. Putting on our housecoats, I told the girls to go wake their father up so he could join us.
Finally the four of us ventured down the steps slowly, giving us all another look at the unruffled scene as we went. Exclamations of wonder and excitement went before us. Finally, we reached the bottom of the stairs. Then the two girls made a mad dash towards the tree—and the same doll carriage (they had sighted the same one.) They both made the carriage and the handle at the same time, grabbing it for dear life.
The buggy did what it was supposed to when pushed. It rolled forward as the two girls fell into it. The girls and the buggy shot into the Christmas tree— which fell forward on top of the girls, covering them, the doll buggy, and all of the presents. Glass ornaments splattered onto the floor and broke into pieces. Icicles whipped this way and that and later had to be taken off and totally rearranged, as did all of the remaining ornaments. One minute into Christmas and both girls were bawling up a storm.
Thus began Christmas Day that year. A proof of the statement, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!”