Grandma started shoppin' for Christmas right after the holidays. She planned for Christmas all year. She would buy wrappin' paper, bows an' Scotch tape right after Christmas when it was marked down 50% 'cause she had a lot of presents to wrap each year.
Christmas Eve was wonderful, full of family, good food and presents for everyone. Nothin' fancy, mind you, simple things, good things for all.
When we finally was back home it was quick to bed for it was always late an' Santa didn't want to wait on the roof for two little ol' boys who had the big eye an' couldn't go to sleep. Sleep always came an' so did early mornin'. Too early for a Daddy who was up at 4:00 a.m. an' off to work the mornin' before.
I don't remember who was awake first most of those early Christmas mornin's, Maybe me or maybe Brother Mike. The Hollen boys were early risers on Christmas mornin' EVERY year. We tried our best to be quiet, but we almost always woke Mama up. She would come into the livin' room with camera in hand. Back then it was one of them little ol' cameras with a square flash cube.
Me an' Brother Mike was like Christmas mornin' buzz saws. We could tear through tape an' wrappin' paper to get to the prize. What fun it was, how wonderful them Christmas mornin's were. Daddy was a little slower to get out of bed. We would hear the click of his Zippo lighter as he lit his first Winston of the day. Mama would have coffee on an' he would drag his sleep deprived body out of bed, head for the coffee pot to grab a cup before he sat down.
His two little boys were his world. He never said that. He weren't much of a talker, but everyone knew they was his world. He sat an' smiled, right quiet like as we dragged each an' every present over for him to inspect. Daddy loved toys an' he would look each one over carefully, tryin' out the cap guns, steerin' the remote control cars around the piles of wrappin' paper before he handed the control back.
I can still see him sittin' there. He liked to drink his coffee in a thin china cup WITH a saucer (later in life Mama would go to the thrift stores to find single china cups an saucer sets in case Daddy broke one). He'd have on his work pants, white socks, what folks call a "wife beater" sleeveless tee shirt an' house slippers. Now, many times his present from me an' Brother Mike was a new pair of house slippers, so we would haul the package over an' giggle the whole time he was unwrappin' it. Once open each of us would grab a new slipper an' ram it on his feet.We each would take one of the old slippers to the bedroom in a sort of retirement ceremony.
What I didn't tell no one, what Brother Mike never knew was this; I would always look to see if Santa ate all the cookies an' drank all the milk we left for him. I figure he had lots of cookies an' milk cause he always left part of the milk an' at least one cookie WITH a bite taken out of it!
Cousins, you don't know the joy of seein' Santa's cookie with a bite missin' an' some warm leftover milk. When no one was lookin' I would sneak over an' right quick eat that ol' cookie an' drink that little bit of warm milk. It was Santa's! Me an' him shared the same cookies an' milk. Sure, I ate the leftovers hours later, but we shared a snack together. That was one of the best parts of Christmas. Sort of like grabbin' half a peanut butter an' 'nanner sammich the King, Elvis Presley might leave. I savored ever' morsel, slowly sipped ever' last drop.
Mama an' Daddy didn't miss much. We both got caught at our orneriness an' paid the price too many times to remember. I'll bet Mama an' Daddy knew exactly what I did on Christmas mornin'. I suspect Daddy left a sip or two of milk an' took just a bite out of that last cookie on purpose. I suspect they watched their oldest little boy with smiles an' secret glances at each other as I smiled an' ate my secret prize.
Now that I wear the Red Suit, I always remember with great joy my folks an' family, Christmas Eve, Christmas mornin' an' secret treats. As I listen to boys an' girls share their wishes an' dreams, see their bashful smiles an' lean close to hear their whispers I pause often, thinkin', dreamin' of warm milk an' that cookie Santa left just for me.