The first Christmas Jeanie and I spent together as an engaged couple was one of the most memorable of my life.
I'm sure it doesn't exactly come as a shocking surprise to those of you who know me that I'm a big ol' kid at Christmas. I'm a big ol' kid for most of the rest of the year, too, but that's completely beside the point. When I was growing up, Christmas was absolutely magical.
Yes, I sneaked to see what presents were coming into the house. My brother, Doug, did, too. As soon as we saw the tail lights of my mom and dad's car leaving the driveway, we both raced to their closet to start the holiday scavenger hunt. It was fun, the kind of fun that only a child could have at Christmas.
Very strategically undoing the tape on the end of a wrapped package took work, but by gosh, I was up to the challenge. Was I spoiling the surprise? That was the surprise, the joy of it all. There were things we all wanted, and everybody else in the family would move mountains to make sure everything showed up on Christmas Day.
The remote-control R2-D2 I got for Christmas in the late 1970s is on a shelf no more than a few feet away as I write this. It couldn't have cost more than $20, but it remains one of the most special Christmas presents I've ever received. Why? Because I wanted it so desperately at the time, and my mom made it happen.
What time did we get up on Christmas morning? Well before sunrise. I can remember times as early as 4:30, maybe 5 a.m. What was the point? That was the point. Christmas was exciting, and who could possibly contain themselves and wait until daylight?
Oh, yeah. I was about to find out.
Fast forward to Christmas, 1995. Jeanie collected Barbie dolls, and she needed a certain one to complete a certain line. It was pretty expensive ... I could well see paying that much for a set of baseball cards, but a doll? I wasn't so sure. Whatever. She wanted it, and I was determined I was going to surprise her. I couldn't wait to give her that stupi ... that doll.
Now, remember. We were already dating the year before, but I wasn't exactly a part of the family yet. I didn't know their way of doing things at Christmas, and they didn't know mine. I just thought everybody got up in the wee early morning hours of Christmas to begin the celebration, and to make the day last as long as possible.
Not so. Not so at all. I was living in a trailer we'd bought right next door to her mom and dad, and since I had a key, the plan was to place the doll under the tree in secret ... just like Santa Claus.
I made my way over and quietly let myself in early on Christmas morning to make the drop. Very early. Like, say, maybe 6 a.m. Yet that was long past the time I had been used to getting up on a Christmas morning. I was pumped, and looking forward to seeing the look on Jeanie's face when she got her Barbie doll. It was 6 a.m., and surely everybody would be up in a few minutes.
Then 6:30 a.m.rolled around.
And 7 a.m.
Was there something wrong? I slipped back across the yard and peeked in the window. Every light in the place was still off, no signs of life whatsoever.
8:11 a.m. and a few seconds.
8:11 a.m. and a few seconds more. The clock started to look like it was actually moving back in time.
By about 9 a.m., I absolutely could not stand it any longer. I called, and when Jeanie answered, it was obvious she'd been sound asleep ... and it wasn't some sort of mistake. It was by design. She and her parents both were sleeping in.
On Christmas morning.
Go back to sleep, she told me. I'll call you when we get up.
It was right about then that the ringing started in my ears.
Finally, at a little past 10 a.m., Jeanie called. Everybody was out of bed. I almost literally ran out of the house, across the yard and into her house. At last ... at last ... at last ... Jeanie was going to see her doll. Or not.
Breakfast was being prepared, and we're not talking about a quick bowl of Cap'N Crunch, either. This was eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes with all the fixings and then some. This was going to take ... some time.
C'mon, Jeanie, I told her. I think Santa Claus has been here.
Her response wasn't exactly what I was looking for.
What kind of heathen family had I gotten myself into? The fact is, I hadn't seen anything yet about the Reavis way of doing business on Christmas.
I gulped my food down, and stared in disbelief as everybody else -- Jeanie and her mom and dad -- took their sweet, ever-lovin' time. When they were done at long last, the table had to be cleared and the dishes washed. After that was time for presents, right?
But ... but ... breakfast is over, isn't it? C'mon. I think there might be something special for you under the tree.
Jeanie's nephew, Denver, was just short of his second birthday at the time ... and let's just say he was the star of the show. Angie, my future sister-in-law, would be along directly with Denver. We'd wait until they got there at 2 p.m.
At 2:30 p.m., they weren't there.
They hadn't shown up by 3 p.m., either.
I was past the point of spun out and half turned over. I sat on the sofa, as forlorn as I could've possibly been. What was wrong with these people? By the time Denver showed up at long last around 4 p.m., I was ... I was ... well ... just take the dang doll and let's be done with it.
To this day, the Barbie sits in her doll case. I couldn't pick out which one it might be. I think it might be the one with the green dress or something like that, but it doesn't really matter.
I see a Barbie, any Barbie, and it's Christmas of 1995 all over again.