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On the tracks of a Merry Christmas

The Christmas holiday has always been special for me. I grew up as one of five siblings, in a large, Irish, Roman Catholic family, during the more innocent decades of the '50s and '60s.

Admittedly, it probably wasn't as kind and gentle as my feeble memory allows; yet it was a time when manners still mattered. Children addressed adults with a, "Yes, ma'am" or "No, sir." Men held the door and boys pulled out chairs for the girls at the dinner table.

My father was a school principal, and mom was a housewife - a title most people considered an honorable occupation, prior to Women's Lib.

Through the focused vision of my youthful eyes, Christmas was a celebration of family mixed in with a few Holy Days, and the arrival of Santa. It was also an event comparable to celebrating a half-dozen birthdays, all rolled into one.

Maybe it's due to my miniature stature, but I'm certain the snow back in those days always piled up much higher, than it's ever piled up since. We never needed a hill to slide down; we simply climbed to the top of the snowbanks.

Our parents always devised a special Christmas surprise and dad always seemed to have something up his sleeve. I'm certain he was a magician, for somehow, he always managed to hide a huge assortment presents from the prying eyes of five, curious kids.

On Christmas Eve, we would lie awake in our beds and giggle with glee as we listened to Santa's sleigh bells ring directly outside our windows. Although we wanted to sneak a peek, to actually see the famous fat man, dressed in red, none of us ever dared.

On Christmas morning, after the whole troop had finished marauding through the house, mom would chase us outside to play.

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