When I was a boy, every Christmas Eve we’d load up our car with boxes filled with gifts we had for neighbors and friends, and we’d drive the streets of Waco, Texas, handing off loafs of mom’s Amish Friendship Bread or jars of Orange Spice Russian Tea (that’s what we called it, but as I recall it was some mixture we concocted whose secret sauce consisted of Red Hots and cheap orange koolaid powder). We loved showing up on doorsteps unannounced, singing a round of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and revealing the year’s holiday surprise. We Colliers were a gift-giving bunch.
Unfortunately, we were spreading our Christmas cheer in Central Texas which means that we were lucky if the temperature dipped low enough to make even long-sleeves possible. I think in all my boyhood years, I may have seen a single snowflake on December 25th. Maybe this is why, every Christmas Eve we’d end the night watching Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. We were going to get our white Christmas one way or the other.
So, after our dad-driven sleigh made its rounds, we’d return home to a buffet of sausage balls and peanut butter chocolate balls and cheeses and piles of Christmas cookies and egg nog. With our plates overflowing, we’d all settle in to watch Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sing and dance their way across the stage and in the dining car of the train and finally right up to the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont.
Every year (and I mean every year), my dad would sit in the blue recliner next to the front door. And every year (I mean every year), somewhere about halfway through the movie and right about the time the rest of us were awash in the Christmas glow, we’d hear dad’s heavy snores. He’s always insisted he loved White Christmas, but he just couldn’t keep his eyes open. We’d laugh and poke him till he’d jolt awake and say, “What? What? I was just resting.” Five minutes later, we’d hear the bellowing train over in the blue chair again. Mom would tell us to let our exhausted dad sleep. I now know that the weight of life, the responsibility, were a lot for dad to carry. I think his sleep signaled he was finally at rest, finally content.
I wouldn’t mind another evening of passing mom’s Amish Friendship Bread to the neighbors. I wouldn’t mind another night of dad’s snores while we watch snow fall outside that old Vermont barn.