Christmas on the farm, with three young boys spaced two years apart, was a special time of year at the Regan household. Our family was of sufficient, but by no means wealthy income – Dad was a schoolteacher and Mom was a homemaker, though through determination she supplemented the family income in various ways, whether by selling Avon products or cleaning houses.
Yet, at Christmastime, you’d guess Mom and Dad might be of different professions by the volume of gifts showered upon us boys. We found out years later that our parents saved throughout the year, plus they may or may not have fallen into the all-too-typical model of racking up some credit card bills during the Christmas season.
Although our parents loved to spoil us with big Christmases, Midnight Mass at Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church was always at the forefront – and a reminder of why we celebrated the holiday. We dressed in our best, and then piled into the old Gran Torino on Christmas Eve, and headed to town about 20 miles away.
After Mass, we would sing a few Christmas carols in the car on the ride home, while looking to the sky for red lights – we knew it was Rudolph, and we were counting on Dad to beat Santa and his reindeer back home so we could get to bed. Looking back, I’m pretty sure Dad got a thrill out of it, both making sure we saw those red lights in the sky, and then putting the hammer down in that old ’Torino.
We awoke the next morning as early as we would awake the entire year – the crack of dawn or possibly even before – and whoever was the first to rise made sure to wake up his brothers. The sight of presents piled under the tree met us as we converged in the living room.
After having a night as late as it must have been, I now understand why there were three things that had to happen before we could open presents: Mom and Dad needed coffee, we had to get trash bags ready for the wrapping paper, and wood needed to go into the woodstove. When those things were in order, it was time to “rip, snort and tear.”
Part of the fun, too, was that a month or so prior, on our Christmas shopping outing, we all got gifts for every other member of the family. It was challenging and fun, buying and trying to keep my gifts for my brothers a secret – I remember when Josh caught wind of the grunt call, dang it – and trying to think of a good gift for Mom and Dad, whom I loved and continue to love so much.
I’m very thankful and fortunate to have had the parents I had. They were a great example as I reach an age when, God-willing, I look to start a family of my own.
Want more nostalgia from the Capper's Farmer family? Check out Capper's Farmer Christmas Traditions and share your own in the comments below!