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A Christmas Memory: Role reversal brings best Christmas ever

Those Christmas Eve family drives to see the lights of town always meant a special visitor would have worked his magic before the family returned. Until that age came when she, the youngest of her sibs, lost faith in the Santa Claus. Fast forward 40 years, when a role reversal brought back memories of those early years and the best Christmas ever for her dad, and memories the author will forever treasure.
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By Donna Rieder

My parents started a family Christmas tradition when my oldest sister was little, and continued it until I, the youngest of three kids, lost faith in the "Santa Claus."

Every Christmas Eve after dinner, we'd all pile into the car and drive around looking at the Christmas lights and decorations in the neighborhood. Dad always arranged for a neighbor to come over when we left, and put all our presents and toys under the tree, so that when we got home, Santa would have visited. We kids always ate dinner quickly and never fussed about getting the dishes done, because we knew as soon as we got home from our ride, we'd have a surprise awaiting us!

Fast-forward about 40 years; Mom passed away and Dad moved to the little town in Georgia where I was living, so we could "keep an eye on each other" in our older years. As Dad and I looked forward to that first Christmas together after so many years, I suggested we take up the old tradition of going out for a drive after dinner, to look at the lights, like old times. What Dad didn't know, was that I had arranged with his next-door neighbor to store all the presents in her garage, and then play Santa while Dad and I were out riding around.

Dad and I had agreed to just exchange one gift with each other, but he was getting old and unable to go out much, so I bought some games, checkers, Yatzee, Scrabble and such as we could play together, and I wrapped them up real pretty, along with some chocolate covered cherries and a bowl of fruit and nuts. I also left my CD player and a Christmas CD with the neighbor, and showed her how to put it on Repeat so it would be playing when we got back, no matter how long we were gone.

When Dad and I pulled into his driveway, he said "The porch light is on! I know I turned it off when we left! How can the porch light be on???"

Then as we walked up his back steps, he said "I hear music! I know I turned the radio off before we left! Do you hear music? I hear music!" It was all I could do to keep a straight face. \"No, Dad, I don't hear anything." Then he unlocked the door and stepped inside, and the look on his face is one I'll never, ever forget.

There was a little decorated tree on the table (a surprise from his wonderful neighbor!) surrounded by all the presents, and Christmas music playing.

Dad turned to me and said "Oh, Donnalynn, I can't believe you did this!" He had tears in his eyes as I said "Merry Christmas, Dad!" When we were done sharing our gifts and stuffing our faces with chocolates, and getting ready to play a game of checkers, he turned to me and said, "This is the best Christmas I've ever had!"

And it's a memory I will always treasure. - Donna Rieder

This story was posted on 2013-12-07 02:54:22
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