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Ghosts of Christmas Past

In Dickens' famous A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. With the loss of my Dad this past June 1st, I suppose it is only natural that the Ghost of Christmas Past has been lingering at my home these past couple of weeks.  

Growing up, my parents didn't buy us much throughout the year. Of course we got school clothes and basic necessities, but my folks just didn't have the extra cash to buy toys or other superfluous items. My Dad was always fiscally frugal, however, that seemed to go out the window at Christmastime. 

I don't remember Christmases without my Dad. The first one I can recollect is the Christmas of 1972 - the year before  he and my mom married. We spent it at my Gram and Grandpa's house in Sunbury where the Boyer clan introduced me to what my Christmases would now be like.
Me, getting a first look at what Santa had left (1972)
We gathered early in the morning in my grandparent's living room. Other photos show my Gram dressed in her nurse's uniform. She had to work at 7 AM, so this must have been at the crack of dawn. Grandpa, who never got up before noon, was even up and watching. It had been a long time since they had a child around on Christmas, and I would like to think this Christmas was equally as memorable to them as it was for me!
Me with Mom checking out my new kaleidoscope 
The picture below shows me opening my first M&M's in a tube shaped like a candy cane. This, and Life Saver Storybooks were stocking staples into adulthood.
M&M's in a tube shaped like a candy cane
Watching my Dad open a gift
I still vividly remember the crow hand puppet from the photo below. It had a hard plastic face and a fuzzy pink body. I also remember getting Tinker Toys and Pick Up Sticks, and this awesome vinyl tent thing that fit over a card table to create a fort. I spent lots of time under that table-fort.
My new puppet
My parents always went out of their way to make sure that we got most of what was on our Christmas lists. When I was in about the fifth grade, I confessed to my Dad that I no longer believed in Santa Claus. Somehow, somewhere, he found the text to the letter, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (this was LONG before the Internet, so I am sure it was no small feat!) It completely changed my mind, and to this day I believe in Santa Claus, thanks to my Dad. In fact, when each of my children came to me with the same confession, I gave to them the same letter to read.
The year of the "Great Tree Debacle"
When my Dad was younger, he worked his summers at a local Christmas tree farm - Simington's. Every year that we lived in Sunbury, we went to Simington's to get our tree (in fact, when I was in college and they moved to Frederick, he still traveled nearly 3 hours one way to Simington's every year to bring back a tree!) Each year, my Dad made it his mission to purchase the largest tree he could find. It was often as wide as it was tall.

The year shown in the above photo was the year my Dad bought one that was so huge, it simply did not fit in our living room. He cut down the trunk and trimmed the lower branches, but the tree was still too heavy for our tree stand. No matter what he did, he could not get it to stand up. After hours of tweaking (and probably swearing under his breath), he finally got it! We eagerly decorated it as we listened to Christmas music. That evening, I was sitting on the floor by the tree, cutting out paper snowflakes, when all of a sudden, Whoosh, BAM! All my family saw was my flailing legs and heard my muffled cries for help beneath that monstrosity of a tree. My Dad had to actually get wire, wrap it around the tree, then anchor it to the wall by nail. As you can imagine, this story comes up every Christmas!
Christmas in Frederick 2001
One of my favorite memories of Christmas, whether it was in Monroeville, Sunbury, or Frederick, was after opening the gifts. With Christmas music softly playing, I would curl up and fall asleep in front of the fireplace, surrounded by warmth and love. Dad always played certain Christmas music (especially Johnny Mathis and Gene Autry) that sends a wave of nostalgia through me whenever I hear it. This year, that nostalgia is bittersweet.
Christmas with the Boyer clan 2003
My heart aches now more than ever for what was lost this year. But I am filled with gratitude that I hold in my possession so many beautiful memories of Christmas with my Dad. I hope that in some small way, I can give to my children that same gift. In twenty years from now, when the countless toys and candies are forgotten, memories of love and time shared, will remain. 
Dad, Madison & Will - 2012
Dad spent last Christmas - his last on this earth - with our family. Of course hindsight makes me wish that I had paid more attention to him, taken more photos of him, sat next to him longer. I don't remember what he got me last year, but I do know that the thing for which I am most thankful is simply that he was here with us. After all, when we are gone, the beautiful memories of Christmases past are truly, the greatest gifts given. 
Our last Christmas with Dad - 2013

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