By DEREK BECHER
There’s no denying the innocence, the wonder, and the magic of Christmas that’s seen through a child’s eyes. With all of the decorations, the gatherings of family and friends, the baking, the music, the aromas, the laughter, and the anticipation stuffed into just a few days, one of the greater rewards of Christmas is the genuine, spontaneous reactions of children as they reach their Christmas climax and tear into presents on Christmas morning.
I was at my parents’ home on Christmas morning in 2003, along with two of my brothers. The other five of our siblings and their families would not be arriving for another day or two, so we agreed to open gifts addressed to those of us who were there that morning.
As it turned out, my nephew Devon, who is also my only godchild, was there also, along with his brother and his mom and dad. This was the first Christmas morning I had ever shared with Devon and his brother, and certainly the first one in many years that I had shared with his father.
Knowing the anticipation that children feel on Christmas morning, the rest of us agreed to let Devon and his younger brother, Shea, open all of their gifts first, rather than take turns around the room like we usually did. With gifts to both of them from Santa, their parents, and their grandparents, the rest of us resigned to wait while the boys tore into their Christmas morning surprises. What we were about to experience, though, made the wait well worth it.
Shea was the younger of the two boys, at four years of age, so he went first. He tore the wrapping off a box and opened a big robotic dinosaur. It was an impressive gift, but he simply smiled and set it aside, reluctantly waiting for Devon to open his first gift.
With big, wide eyes and a face filled with anticipation, Devon picked a gift from his grandparents. As he ripped the wrapping off, barely revealing the remote control car depicted on the box inside, he instantly shouted, “Yes! I wanted that!” His response was a surprise to all of us, especially because it was in such sharp contrast to Shea’s rather subdued reaction, and it left the rest of us laughing uncontrollably.
The boys would open their gifts this way for the next half-hour. Shea would tear wrapping from a present, smile at what he received, and say a quiet thank you to Santa or to his parents or grandparents. The gifts that Shea received were all impressive, ranging from electronic toys and games to sporting equipment to new clothing.
But the bashful child could only ever reply with a smile and an occasional thank you, even once surprising us with a whispered, “This isn’t what I wanted,” not knowing that the rest of us had heard and were rolling in laughter.
Right after every one of Shea’s muffled responses, Devon opened a gift that was always exactly what he wanted. Shouts of “I wanted that,” “Yes,” or “This is just what I asked for” followed the opening of every one of Devon’s presents that Christmas morning. Whether it was a set of binoculars, a CD or a DVD, a board game, clothing, or even just a pair of socks, it was always the perfect gift for Devon, and the seven year old received and embraced each gift with the same simultaneous enthusiasm that he gave to the one before.
Devon’s reactions that morning were simple and honest, filled with the happiness and joy that one young boy expressed at receiving gifts on Christmas morning. Each time he opened a gift, his reaction was genuine and enthusiastic. What Devon couldn’t have known was that each one of his heartfelt, spirited reactions upon opening a gift was indeed a gift to the rest of us who were watching. We welcomed his every response that morning, and because of it, the birth of Jesus arrived that Christmas with more joy that we could have expected.
We wanted that!