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  • Christmas time! Such wonderful memories! About two weeks before Christmas, the play room door on the 3rd floor would be locked. Then we knew Santa was busy in there fixing old toys to be like new. Maybe he was even making new toys for us. He certainly was building the mountains and the hills with goats climbing percariously on them, the barnyard with cows and geese, the mirror lake with ducks floating on it, the company of soldiers marching inside a gate. He was trimming the aritificial tree. He was setting up he stable with the large star of Bethlehem shining from behind the mountains guiding the three wise men to the stable and the baby Jesus.

    The whole set-up encompassed one end of the play room, side wall to side wall extending out at least 5 feet from the back wall. We knew Santa had his hands full getting all of this ready for us. When we found the door was locked, we would be thrilled! Whoever first discovered it would rush to tell everyone, including Mother and Aunt Marg. The time of excitement had arrived! Many times a day we would go up to listen at the door. We'd listen hard, scarcely breathing. We'd write notes to Santa telling him what we wanted for Christmas and maybe even telling him how good we had been. We'd slip them under the door. We'd be good as gold, for Santa would surely hear if we were not. He was right there! Sometimes, we could hear him working in there in the evening when we'd gone to bed.

    This was a time of great suspense. Time seemed to drag. It was forever from the first locking of the door until Christmas finally would come. Sometimes, one of us, feeling more intrepid than usual, would tiptoe up to the door to listen and then actually try to speak to Santa through the keyhole. The very thought of doing it would frighten us enough that we'd scurry away quickly and quietly. We could hardly wait for Christmas.

    Well, it was really Christmas Eve we waited for. That was the big occasion. After dinner on Christmas Eve, Hager relatives would start arriving, at least 8 of them, on top of our already large 3 generational family living there. Because of all the company and noise, Aunt Marg always got a headache and she'd have to go up to her bed on the 3rd floor to lie down and take a rest.

    As it drew nearer and nearer to the magic hour, we would keep sneaking over to the door to the 3rd floor to listen for the bell. Each year, when he was ready for us, the toys all in place, the Christmas scene finished, the tree lights lighted for the first time, Santa would ring some kind of little bell.
  • Finally, someone would hear the tinkle of a bell from the 3rd floor. At last it was time! Under Uncle George's guidance, we'd line up at the foot of the stairs, the youngest first, the oldest (Grandpa) last in the long, single file line. We just tingled with excitement. We’d have to try to be quiet so we could hear the 2nd bell. How could we be quiet at such an exciting time?

    Then the tinkle of the 2nd bell. We were all in place and we could hear it clearly. That sound caused a thrill of mounting excitement to pulse through the line. With Uncle George guiding the houngest, the head of the line, we’d start up the stairs, ever so slowly, but only to the landing. We could never turn the corner on the landing until the 3rd bell came.

    What a misery of excitement! So near, but not yet! You see, he’d ring that 3rd bell and then go through the play room and disappear out the window to visit other homes. If we were to come around that corner too soon, it might spoil everything. Who knew what he might do then?

    Finally, it sounded. The little bell rang for a 3rd time. We’d turn the corner and start up the final flight of stairs. That 3rd bell always seemed to awaken Aunt Margaret. She’d appear at the head of the stairs, sleepy eyed, asking, “Did I hear Santa ring the bell?”

    And then, we saw it! The door was slightly ajar. The light from the play room spilled out into the darkened hall at the head of the stairs. The only light in the playroom was a soft glow of the tree lights, the crib light and the large star that seemed to hang over mountains behind the crib.

    That was a memorable moment. Never has there been one since that could compare. As we filed in, we stood first in admiration of the tree and the scene. Then we would kneel in front of the crib, youngest in front, of course, as we paid our homage to the infant Jesus. Oh, how I remember the fervent prayes I silently offered. One last petition for the gift I most wanted, a Buddy L Dump Truck one year, a Buddy L Model T Coupe another, a fire engine – one year a memorable one, I asked for a violin – oh, a violin, my most fervent prayer for an almost unattainable gift.

    I can remember praying as I had been taught, “Lord, I want it, but only if it be your will that I have this wonderful instrument.” Then we would spread out to find our pile of gifts, repaired old toys and our precious new toy, the one we asked for. No gifts were wrapped or tagged. We just knew what was for us, each one!
    There was one unforgettable Christmas. The year two of the girls first came to know about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and all of the great childhood truths. They were ever so knowing in all their sophisticated, adult knowledge. They were big girls!

    That year, they had each asked for a sled, not just any sled, of course, a Flexible Flyer. Well, it so happened that the Christmas Eve came off well for everyone else, but…yes, a very big BUT. There was nothing there for those two big girls. All had received the gift they desired from that fine old Santa, except the two big girls. Their newfound sophistication wilted! There was disappointment and disillusionment instead! Oh, such a catastrophe!

    It is true that Mother did some whispering to them on the side, but it did not seem to cheer them up a bit. All cleared eventually when Santa made a late Christmas Eve delivery, via a Department Store truck – about 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., I think!
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