The farm chores were started early on Christmas Eve so our family of four could celebrate in our own little way. After supper, Mom would leave the dishes until later to wash. Instead, we went directly from the supper table to the living room where our humble tree glistened with strings of old colored lights of red, blue, white, yellow, and green, and ornaments that still to this day are precious to me. The cutest ornament on our tree, in my opinion, every year was the little fish.
There was ritual to our Christmas Eves, and Mom made sure we followed it just like we followed the ritual at Catholic Mass. The three of them would comfy down, while I hopped up on the piano bench of our old upright piano and began playing Christmas carols. It was my job to choose which songs we'd sing and announce the song before our chorus of four started sending our untuned voices up to heaven. When I figured that the angels and archangels had heard enough singing, I'd close my song book, slide off the bench, and sit down in a chair.
Mom handed out the presents, one at a time. She was wise in doing this, because there weren't a whole lot of presents to open like there are today. Being the youngest, I got to open a present first, of course.
When each of us had finished opening the wrapped gifts, Daddy would stand up and reach under the tree for the three envelopes that were held together with a rubber band. According to the ritual, he handed each of us an envelope with our name on it and wished us a "Merry Christmas."
There was, and still is, humor in his gifts. As our family grew with time, his granddaughters each received the same as his wife and children, and he made no bones about it. If you were part of his clan, you got $5 and nothing more and nothing less.
Daddy was a great guy and was liked by most everyone, so far as I know. His humorous personality walked ahead of him wherever he went, and he liked everyone. But, one thing I remember most about Daddy. He was firm as a rock. Even I, his little Chiquita, couldn't budge him if his word was "no." Now that a good share of my life is behind me, I respect him for holding to his word. Life has said "no" to me more than once, and maybe because of his firmness, I've been able to deal with and survive those times.
Like all of us, our memories become sweeter the older we get. Just like food grows mold with age, our memories grow sugar-coatings for us to munch on.
Just to show how much I loved my Daddy, I still have that Christmas envelope and crisp $5 bill he handed to me the last Christmas Eve he was with us, back in 1980.
Oh, and I also have the poem he wrote in my autograph book when I was in grade school. Here's what he wrote to me:
When you think of me,
Think of me as Dad.
Of course, that will make me
Love, Your Dad