Now that I’m in high school, I am amazed and impressed by all the things my mom and dad did to try and create a memorable Christmas experience for me and my brother. I doubt it was easy for them. After all, there’s always that one kid in every family who repeatedly asks for a pet and won’t stop until they get one. In our family, that’s me.
We already had a dog and two cats, but the more the merrier, right? So, one year as Christmas approached, I begged for a white German Shepherd. I promised I would take care of it and even train it to be a service dog. My mom found Bambino on a white German Shepherd rescue website and arranged for us to foster and potentially adopt him. and so began our foster pet experience.
When he arrived in December, we were surprised because Bambino was actually the size of a small horse. In the end, however, we couldn’t keep him, because he and our dog Molly didn’t get along. I am sad that we couldn’t keep him but I was happy my parents were willing to spend the holidays with a gigantic, house-trained, counter-surfing animal to make me happy. (Bambino found a great home, so no need to worry about that.)
But looking back, I think it was all the Santa business that must have required some serious devotion, like remembering on Christmas Eve to always leave the cookies and milk by the fireplace for Santa. I think just seeing our happy faces the next morning as me and my big brother raced out to the living room to find there were just a few cookie crumbs and sips of milk left was worth it to them.
My brother is five years older than me. Once he figured out the truth, he still went along with the whole Santa-comes-down-the-chimney act so he didn’t ruin it for me. My mom would act all mad and say, “Oh, look at this. Santa Claus tracked soot across the whole room!” Sure enough, we’d find a trail of dusty ash leading to the Christmas tree, which always had lots of presents underneath.
After we opened all the gifts below the tree, my dad would say, “Let’s go see whether the reindeer ate the food we left on the roof.” So, we headed out to the backyard and watch him climb up a ladder and onto the top of our house. “The popcorn’s gone!” he’d yell down. Then, like every year, he’d exclaim, “Hey! It looks like some presents fell out of the sleigh!” After climbing down, he’d bring exactly one present for me and one for my brother.
There was one year we went away for Christmas and didn’t fly back home until after the New Year. By then, I was having some doubts about Santa. Sure enough, he had come while we were gone! I learned later that when we got to the airport, my dad said he would go get the car while the rest of us waited for our baggage. What he actually did was race home, put all the presents under the tree, and then come back to the airport to pick us up. I still don’t know when they wrapped and hid all the presents.
Oh, and what Christmas is complete without a train around the tree? My dad once pulled an old train set out of the shed and spent a whole weekend repairing the track. It was a miniature version of the Polar Express. It even whistled, and smoke came out of the smokestack. It was awesome. Too bad our animals destroyed the whole thing in less than a minute.
I know so many people who stress out about Christmas. They think they must find the perfect gifts and decorations. But there’s one thing I’ve learned. It doesn’t really matter what you do to celebrate, what presents you receive, or how festive the house looks. What people remember is that you show them you care (but the presents are still pretty nice).
About Maddie Kasten: Maddie is a Q Roll Model for Quantum Rehab. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and enjoys participating in adaptive sports, playing video games and watching anime. Click here to learn more about Maddie.