Uncle Paul’s Sleigh

When I was a kid Christmas was always the most magical time of the year. What was in that box under the tree that had my name on it? Could it be? But later on I knew that if the package was the size of a shoe box it probably contained shoes and that a thin flat package had a record album and a soft package had a robe from Aunt Ruthie. Those wonderfully wrapped gifts were still for me but the surprise part of the magic was gone. Oh sure, when Jeannie and I wrapped the kids’ gifts we would change the box sizes to fool them but the two of us didn’t have that complete Christmas surprise magic of long ago until we found out about Uncle Paul’s Sleigh.
Now a week or two before Christmas we get ready and prepare our exchange gifts (homemade cookies are best but we usually just put three or four Oreos in eight lunch sacks—two sacks for each member of our family) and then we jump in the van. I drive and find Christmas music on the radio, Jeannie watches for The Grinch and Hunter and Bethany are the runners as off we go on our Christmas gift exchange which is usually one or two towns over. We like to slowly drive up and down the streets looking at the Christmas displays just as the lights come on and compare the displays on the different streets until there it is parked in front of a big house, Uncle Paul’s big brown Sleigh.
After we see Uncle Paul come off the porch, jump back in his big brown sleigh and drive off we pull up in front of the house and the kids run up, leave a bag of cookies, bring a box back to the car and then off we go to catch up to Uncle Paul again. On and on into the evening until all of our cookie gift sacks are gone and the van is filled with boxes from our new friends.
A funny story. One time when the kids were getting out of the van to make an exchange another group following Uncle Paul’s Sleigh came running at us. I didn’t know who they were but they must have thought they knew me because one of them said something about my mom and was pulling something out of his coat until a police car happened to come by and they jumped in the bushes.
When we get back home we always stack the boxes in the garage until Christmas Eve when we randomly divide the packages between the four of us (I always like the Amazon boxes because sometimes they have two or three packages inside—one time I got a cordless drill and a driver’s side door handle for a 1953 Chevy Bel Air).
Just before midnight we start opening the boxes in front of the fire. Jeannie always cuts off each address sticker and throws it in the fire as we wish a very Merry Christmas to Mrs. Charles F. Summers of 1431 Meadowbrook Lane.
“What did Mrs. Summers get you this year, sweetheart?” Jeannie asked Bethany.
“Some kind of leakproof undergarment.”
A couple of books, a cord for a Sunbeam toaster, a porcelain angel from QVC, a gas tank for a Toro snowblower, a jigsaw puzzle, three embroidered teddy bears for grandchildren named Connie, Lonnie and Donnie, an engraved shoehorn (to Lester from Mona) and then it was my turn.
“I wonder what Ralph Hogan, of 1453 Appleseed Lane got me?”
As I opened the box there was another box inside with a big red bow. When I opened that box I found the loveliest sort of pink/purple double XL “naughty nightie” with a card which read “to R from R”.
“Thanks Ralph, Merry Christmas” and Jeannie tossed the card and the address sticker into the fire.
What a lovely way to spend Christmas Eve together with the family.
I hope all of our friends enjoy their cookies and I also hope that maybe next year Ralph springs for the matching slippers.

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