Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

For the first time since Clay was one, we will be waking up in our own house on Christmas morning. Clay doesn't remember that and Drew wasn't even thought of, so for all practical purposes, this is our first Christmas at home. When I was a kid, we went to my Baba and Gigi's (grandparent's) until I was about 6 or 7. That was only in Carnegie, so just a 20 minute trip from home. I remember when I was 6 sleeping on their couch, being awoken by a noise. I opened my eyes and I saw someone coming out of the basement door. It was Sviate' Nikolai (St. Nicholas; we Ukrainians were visited by Santa dressed in his golden bishop's robes, mitre and staff). I saw his beard, I saw his golden robes. I shut my eyes, because I was excited and terrified at the same time. If he knew I was awake, would he leave without leaving presents for me, my brother and cousin? I heard hushed whispers in Ukrainian. I think I heard my Uncle John. Did he help Sviate Nikolai?

Before i knew it it was morning and I was awake. I heard my mom, aunt and baba in the kitchen. I saw the presents under the small tree in the tiny dining room. He was there and he didn't know I was awake. That year, I can still remember some of my presents; my first Mickey Mouse wrist watch, which I think still runs; Major Matt Mason, Astronaut along with his lunar jet pack (which needed 20 feet of black thread which was tangled beyond repair in about 10 minutes); and my Scooby Doo movie projector, which only showed cartoon stills on the wall.

The presents weren't important. I will always remember that Christmas. I can picture all of us sitting around my grandparents' tiny table in that tiny dining room for Sviate' Vecher (Christmas Eve Holy Supper). I remember the yellow bowl full of pierogies, I remember those who were there who are gone; Baba, Gigi, Marisha, Marish-Mama. I remember listening to everyone sing Ukrainian carols; but most of all I will always remember that I did see St. Nicholas. Years later, I was told, it was probably my older brother, my dad or my uncle with a yellow coat on. But I know that he was there in the little house on Logan Street on Christmas Eve 1969.

Tonight 40 years later, Clay and Drew will have Sviate' Vecher with their Baba and Gigi, cousins and family. Tonight they will await Santa sleeping in their own beds. Maybe one of them will hear a noise in the night or wake up and see a figure walking through the house with presents. Maybe they'll tell us they saw or heard Santa. Maybe they'll keep it secret. But the best present I'll ever have is 30 or 40 years from now, them telling their children about that first Christmas at home in Pittsburgh; when Santa came and they believed.

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