I am impatient. I have a short attention span. I have abundant energy and enthusiasm. For those who follow personality types, I am an Enneagram 7 and a Myers-Briggs ESFJ. I have always been a light sleeper, so I was the first down the stairs as a child on Christmas morning. It took a little while longer for my parents to emerge; they stayed up late the night before because, in our household we adhered to the Episcopal tradition of putting up the tree and stockings on Christmas Eve. It was quite an elaborate process: My father would painstakingly – and s-l-o-w-l-y, carefully and meticulously – place each individual strand of tinsel on each branch of the tree. I was told in later years he used the same approach in doling out Christmas candy in stockings, driving my mother – who was left with all the other, many duties – to distraction.
Only one Christmas morning, my father, a pediatric surgeon, wasn’t there. My mother explained that he had been on-call at OU Children’s Hospital, and had been summoned for extraordinary and first-of-its-kind surgery late in the night: Twins that had only partially separated in their mother’s womb, conjoined at the pelvis. Only one child survived the separation surgery. Our Christmas celebration would have to wait until the afternoon so that my father could catch up on sleep.
I pitched a fit worthy of a 13-year-old, whining about having to wait. That came swiftly to an end with the strict and fierce admonition of my mother. “This—this is what Christmas is all about. Don’t you see? About birth and life and joy.” She was right, of course. It is a lesson that I have never forgotten.
I do not remember the presents under the tree that year. But I do remember this, all these many years later: That surviving child, who went on to work in the medical field, sent a Christmas card to my parents every year without fail.
Merry Christmas, friends.