Every Christmas, I remember when:
My little sister Gail and I happily helped decorate the Christmas tree as far as we could reach, but it was the manger under the tree that was most meaningful, as we reverently arranged the angels, shepherds, animals and the Holy family.
Santa arrived and brought just three presents: something we wanted (a doll, perhaps), something we needed (our grandma's traditional handmade flannel pajamas) and something to put away for the future (a dollar perhaps toward a war bond). The three gifts were symbolic of those offered by the Magi to the babe in the manger.
Stockings were hung on our dad's handmade fireplace - and they were filled with healthy fruits, almonds and walnuts.
Our parents showed us that the beauty of Christmas Mass at St. Hyacinth's Church was truly what mattered. When the choir began to sing, our childlike minds thought that this is how the angels would sound in heaven. Little did we know that we would sing in church choirs most of our lives.
As teenagers, my sister Gail and I received an early Christmas present on Sept. 1, 1949 - our baby sister, Linda Marie. Now we could sing three-part harmony and, in time, we did. Linda was our life's most precious gift. She died on July 9, 1993.
At Christmastime last year, I asked a sweet, 7-year-old child, "Whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas Day?" Puzzled, the precious child didn't have an answer. There was no manger under the tree and there were no plans for Christmas Mass. No one saw my tears. It was only my old memory-filled heart that wept.