By Terry Boers-
(CBS) When I was the typical wide-eyed kid on Christmas morning in the 1950s, I remember my mom, and I’m not sure which year it was exactly, said to me, “Never worry about what someone else has, be thankful for what you’ve got.”
I didn’t pay much attention at the time. After all, this was the same woman who told me on more than one occasion she’d like to hit our crabby next-door neighbor Wayne in the head with a shovel. I thought of that every time I’d go into our tiny garage and espy the shovel. Truth is, given the grief Wayne would end up giving me over the years, I wish she‘d done it.
Hell, I wish I’d have done it. The guy was a lawn nut before the craze apparently swept the nation and he was always under the belief that he could yell at me if I so much as set a foot on his crummy-looking driveway.
My mom was right about the first thing here, too.
Thing is, I never felt like I was left wanting at Christmas.
I can only remember a handful of gifts I ever got, including a chemistry set, a slot-car racing track and one of those silly electric football games where my guys were always going the wrong way, apparently against a Chip Kelly offense. But there’s just nothing that sticks out.
I don’t recall if my first two-wheel bike was a Christmas gift. I suppose it could have been. There might have been a few other things that held some import, but you get the drift.
And the few family members we saw on a regular basis weren’t going to overspend, not that I really noticed it at the time.
But the Christmas Eve parties were special. I just didn’t know until a few years after the fact just how special they were.
We always spent them at my grandmother’s house, a handy two blocks from where we lived.
Now I don’t know if a sweeter soul ever existed than my grandma Marian, who happened to be the only grandparent I ever really knew. I met my Dad’s dad once, but I don’t remember much about him except that he was very sickly and in a wheelchair during our one and only visit.
A lot of things made my grandmother’s house a delight. It always smelled good because she just happened to be one of the best cooks who ever lived, her specialty being pies of any kind. My kingdom for a slice of her pineapple pie.
She was also on her second husband.
Only later would I realize that this saint of a woman was married to the town drunk. Now you might not remember Otis Campbell on the old Andy Griffith show, but that’s who this guy was.
By the time we’d get to her house around 6:30, old Emil was already in the bag he apparently carried around with him.
He’d talk to me, but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Authentic frontier gibberish. I suppose he felt it his duty to try and make nice with me. But he needn’t haven’t bothered. Even as an only child I wasn’t the kind of kid who had to have attention. Especially from him.
My two uncles, Joe and Ed would complete the gathering.
This was another case of finding out later what was going on here.
While the ever-gruff Joe, his wife Ethel and my cousin Joy were fairly prompt, Ed and wife Helen took their sweet time.
While this wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, it actually was. You see, Ed was the guy who doled out the presents that were nestled under the Christmas tree. Nothing was going to happen until he got there. That was the unchangeable family tradition.
How Ed got the job I’ll never know. It wasn’t unusual for him to be anywhere from one to three hours late.
And you can probably figure out why. I later discovered Ed and Helen loved to sit at their small kitchen table and have a little glass of wine. And then a little more. And more after that. That next sound might be a head hitting the table.
When Ed and Helen finally showed, he always walked in the door and told the giraffe joke, which you might be familiar with if you listen to The Boers & Bernstein show.
Truthfully, Ed, who was mom’s brother, wasn’t a bad guy. He just enjoyed his spirits, and he didn’t need any holiday excuses. Neither did Helen.
My Christmases have come miles and miles from back then.
Our four sons put Christmas in a brand new perspective over the years and the five grandchildren have enhanced it even further, hitting a level of pure joy that has made the entire life’s journey worth every minute.
This morning our house will be filled with the sounds of happy kids tearing at gift wrapping and then turning the rest of the day into a track meet thanks to a sweet mixture of new stuff and a daylong sugar buzz.
That’s exactly what we want. We love it. We look forward to it.
And please let the record show that to this very day I never, ever worry about what someone else has. No reason to. I know life just doesn’t get any better than it is today.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all.
A longtime sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Terry Boers now co-hosts The Boers and Bernstein Show, heard Monday-Friday from 1pm-6pm on 670 The Score.