Christmas, for me, hasn’t been the same since my family passed away.
I keep my Christmas tree up all year in memory of them because it was their favorite holiday.
Especially for my brother, Rocky.
I’ll never forget the “floor plans” he used to make a couple of days before Santa arrived.
He’d take a sheet of notebook paper and draw the inside of our house. There would be sections marked off for each room in big bold letters.
Arrows pointed from our bedroom toward the living room, and guided Rocky to one side of the tree and me to the other. We knew treasures of all sorts waited to be unwrapped.
“Now remember, on Christmas morning, you follow this arrow and I will follow that arrow,” he said.
Mom loved Christmas Eve.
She’d always make her famous red cherry cookies, caramel pecans and sea foam candy. We could hardly wait for the goodies to cool once she took them out of the oven. The cookies were gooey and tasted awfully good with a cold glass of milk.
Once our bellies were full, we’d head off to bed.
Rocky kept the floor plan by his bed.
We knew that sleep led to the best day of the year.
Always one to rise and shine before anyone else, Rocky liked to pull the pillow out from underneath my head.
“Wake up! It’s Christmas!” he’d whisper.
We’d tip-toe down the hallway so we wouldn’t wake up mom and dad.
After Rocky flipped the light on in the living room, we were usually startled by the number of gifts underneath the tree.
I remember one year Rocky got a shiny red bicycle — sans training wheels — that he asked about every Saturday when we went to Western Auto with dad. Each time he’d inspect the seat, rub the handle bars and test the pedals.
It was a cool bike.
But not for a little tyke like me.
Rocky hopped on the bike and I heard “you can’t ride that in here.”
Dad had been watching us from the hallway.
He stepped into the living room and mom came in seconds later with a bright red tricycle, a prize that I had secretly eyed at Western Auto.
Mom helped me get on and, like Rocky, I wanted to ride it around the living room.
“No, you can ride it outside,” mom said.
That one Christmas we rushed through opening the rest of our presents and begged our parents to go outside. We bundled up in our warmest clothes, mounted our bikes and started down the path.
Dad walked behind us.
“It’s cold out here boys,” he said. “Don’t go too far. Mom’s going to have breakfast ready in a minute.”
Rocky and I turned around, headed back up the driveway and parked our bikes at the back door.
A warm breakfast filled our bellies and we asked to go outside again.
We rode until we couldn’t ride any more.
That is one Christmas I’ll never forget.
Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. Email him at email@example.com.