Sometimes a Christmas tradition can be as simple as a story that is dragged out from the memory closet but once a year. No matter who is sitting around the table — and usually we number from 10-12 — there is sure to be a pause, and in that pause I will say — especially if one or both of my sons are there — “Let me tell you about one Christmas Eve.”
This happened in 1992. My oldest son was seven, my younger son four. The tree sat all decorated in the living room, with a bit of camouflage — the camouflage being a handful of gifts that were “from mom and dad.” Throw them off the scent as it were. But there were sure to be more when Santa came calling, but only after the house was still and asleep in the wee hours. Off the boys headed upstairs to whatever happy place children dream about awaiting Santa. I had a writing office a mile away in the downtown, and that is where a closet was filled with all the gifts they had hoped Santa remembered. The most wished for, in a house, that as yet did not allow a puppy, was a stuffed puppy. And to be more specific — a Dalmation. That season I looked and looked but could not find one in the area toy store. What I did find however, was a wonderful woman in a nearby town who handmade stuffed animals. Yes, she would make a special Dalmation.
The final result was beautiful, with a handsome playful face. I knew this would be the best moment of all when the boys woke up. I drove to my office and in the dark of night, with my arms filled to the brim, loaded my car. I did not notice one special item fall silently to the curb until I came home, carried everything in and looked in vain for the puppy. In a dad panic I drove back. No sign of it.
Christmas morning the boys found a note from Santa. He said he knew they wanted a stuffed Dalmation and his elves were still working in it — to keep a lookout in the days ahead. The next day I came to see the talented animal maker. With a smile she set to work.
Two days later, there was a knock on the door. I hollered up to the boys who were busy playing with some gizmo or another from Santa. I told them to open the door. There with a ribbon around its neck, sat the most endearing stuffed puppy in the world, with one more note from Santa. “I told you I’d come back,” it read.
Now every Christmas Day I remind whoever is there that small moments can happen and endure from what seems at first like a mistake. If I had never dropped puppy number one, I am sure that gift would have been long forgotten. It is puppy two who lives on, always there when two boys open the door.