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Watching the kids' reaction to Santa's gifts was the best present


It's a Christmas memory we'll always cherish

The swing set that Santa Claus brought on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Gary Piña)

Christmas is all about the kids.

Watching their faces light up with excitement is always the best part as they open the neatly wrapped presents from under the Christmas tree. Some kids open them so fast the wrapping paper never had a chance.

Others start playing with their presents and ignore the fact that there are more gifts to open.

The warmth and spirit with family members is incredible. These days, especially with a pandemic, you really can't get everybody together.

Back when our kids were young, they would squeeze and shake the gifts that had their names on them. They were always trying to figure out what they were getting. They would guess what it was if they heard movement in the box. They could figure out which boxes were clothes and which ones weren't.

At our house, my wife Mary and I taught our three kids to believe in Santa Claus. As the saying goes, we told them they needed to be good or Santa wouldn't bring them anything.

But our biggest challenge was leaving the unwrapped toys out by the tree. Sometimes, we even left cookies and milk. In those days, we attended midnight mass at our local church. We got to church early to get a good seat. But somehow, I forgot something at home or I needed to step away for a few minutes. That was my time to go home, which was about 10 minutes away, and get out the unwrapped toys.

I'm lucky I wasn't stopped for speeding. There was one time when we parked in the back of the church when we arrived, but left out the front of the church after mass. It was the only parking space I could find.

So when we got home from church, the kids were so excited because Santa had come by and left them presents next to our beautiful Christmas tree. Santa even ate the cookies and drank the milk. The kids wanted to open more presents, but we waited until the next morning. Mission accomplished.

One year, Santa's gift was a swing set. Mary and I put it together on Christmas Eve and somehow kept it a secret from the kids.

When it was time for midnight mass, we left through the front door. When we came home, we parked in the back, where they could see the swing set in the back yard. The kids couldn't believe Santa brought them a swing set. Yeah, we couldn't believe we put it together in one afternoon. The kids went outside the next morning to play on the swing set. That swing set lasted a long time.

Eventually, the kids got older and wiser. They also learned from their friends that Santa is not real. But for our kids, getting them to believe in Santa Claus was fun. It's a memory we'll always cherish.

Merry Christmas!

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