Tis the season, Clark


Crazy like Clark on Christmas? Not quite … but I do love it.


I’m not Clark Griswold. I don’t have the time, energy or insanity to dig up a 20-foot tree or staple 10,000 Christmas lights to our house. As an introvert who treasures privacy, I’d rather sleep in Cousin Eddie’s RV than invite the entire family to crash in our place for a week.

But, man, do I love Christmas. It’s why I’m sitting here, at age 39, watching (and DVRing) “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s why I’ll do the same thing when “Frosty the Snowman” is on.

My father instilled the Christmas spirit in his sons from a young age. I suspect he spoiled us and continues to spoil his grandchildren because he wants Christmas to be what it wasn’t for him as a kid.

Some of my fondest memories are Christmas as a boy. Our parents did not have a lot of money while we were growing up, but I suspect they spent most of what they saved on my brother and me for that special day.


From right, my brother, father and I on Christmas in 2014.

One or both of my parents worked at craft shows during the season. If both were working, we stayed with an aunt and uncle or neighbors. Sometimes, mom stayed at home while dad worked our booth at a mall.

That was a perfect setup for surprise on Christmas morning. My brother and I often would fall asleep before dad got home on Christmas Eve. We’d go to bed with a few presents under the tree and wake up to a living room full of gifts, wrapped in my dad’s trademark newspaper pages.

One of my earliest memories is going to bed with a couple of presents under the tree and waking up to a slew of Army-themed gifts (I wanted to be G.I. Joe), including a train set that wrapped around the room.

A few years later, it was a giant toy G.I. Joe fighter jet and classic Kansas City Royals jacket.

But my favorite Christmas as a boy was at age 12 in 1988. My brother and I had been begging for a Nintendo for months. It was a must-have for kids in those days, but we knew the price ($99.99) likely meant we weren’t going to find it under the tree.

On Christmas morning that year, neither of us expected a Nintendo. As always, we woke up to more gifts than expected. As always, we took turns opening the gifts, with my father playing the role of Santa. 

As we finished opening all the gifts, mom and dad asked, “Did you get everything you wanted?” Grateful for what we had, we said, “Yes.” My dad replied, “Well, there is one more thing.”

He walked into the bed room and came back with one last present, a rectangular object wrapped in, of course, newspaper. Dad set it between my brother and I, and we slowly peeled off a piece of newspaper, revealing the Nintendo logo. We jumped for joy, exchanging high-fives and hugs.

 As it turns out, our parents purchased the Nintendo before they bought any other gifts. As the kids would say today, our parents did a magnificent job trolling us for six weeks.

All these years later, I think about that Christmas and the others while we were growing up. It’s why, like my parents, I spend more than I budget every year. It’s why I take such great joy in making that day a big one for my wife.

My fondest memory of Christmas as an adult was the first I spent with my wife. A year before, just weeks before our first date, my wife posted a list of ideal presents, her 12 days of Christmas, on Facebook.


My lovely wife reading a Christmas card I designed for her in 2011.

I’d had a crush on her for a long time and wrote all of those items down, hoping one day to fulfill a rather reasonable list that included flowers, jewelry, dinner and tickets to a ballgame. Twelve months later, she held a card that I’d designed listing her 12 gifts, all with checkmarks.

I’ve never seen a person cry that much from pure joy, which rejuvenated my love for the season. Clark Griswold, and my dad, would approve.