BOB EASTLEY: Christmas with Ross

Do you remember “A Boy Named Sue”? Well, his daddy left home when he was three, and etc., etc., and he grew up quick and he grew up mean, and his fists got hard and his wits got keen……… and it all sounds like a pretty bad scene. Well, my dad’s name was Ross, not Sue, but the rest was close enough for horseshoes.

Actually, his daddy left home when he was five, and my dad grew up in a house with a mom and some German aunts. As the “man” of the house, he worked pretty hard cutting firewood and doing other physical chores.

He also attended Catholic school, where the nuns in those days apparently felt that some nice, crisp corporal punishment was darn good for the soul.

As a result, he was tougher than a two-dollar steak, and found himself in the middle of the occasional schoolyard fracas (I really like that word).

At seventeen, he enlisted in the navy and found himself in some exotic vacation destinations like Kwajalein, dodging bullets and wondering on a daily basis if he’d see another daily basis. All of this contributed to the final product, the guy I first met in 1952, who had a big heart and a short fuse and was wrapped just a little bit tight(ly).

Lest you think that this essay is headed in the wrong direction, let me set you straight. I think his rather tumultuous upbringing contributed greatly to his attitude about Christmas, which was in total contrast to his first twenty years of life.

His childhood wasn’t very warm and fuzzy, so this tough hombre set out every year to make Christmas the best it could be for my brother and me and mom makes three (that’s poetic).

Every year, I remember a family walk from our house to downtown (a mile each way) just to marvel at the Christmas lights. Every evening, the television was off in the living room, and we were treated to a lot of classical music like The Nutcracker Suite.

Christmas dinner wasn’t just dinner…… it was an event. You got dressed up and showered for this one with pressed slacks and collared shirts, and maybe even one of those festive holiday tourniquets. I’ve hated neckties ever since. And, the meal was the real deal, with spiral ham or a standing rib roast served on the good china.

However, all this pomp and circumstance was just a formal precursor to the most exciting event, which was the opening of presents on Christmas morning.

Dad would prime the pump starting a week before by shaking a box or two, and then asking what we thought might be hidden beneath that fancy paper and ribbon. It was agonizing.

By Christmas morning, we were in a frenzy. Mark and I had likely been awake since about two o’clock in the morning, and under strict instructions to not wake up the adults until six o’clock at the earliest. We went with six-ish.

Opening presents was done with great ceremony. We weren’t allowed to tear into the boxes like a litter of pit bull puppies. Instead, he selected the gifts and handed them out to the lucky recipients. They were opened one at a time, electric trains, model airplanes, a new robe for mom, and each one admired. The whole process took about two hours.

They say “tis better to give than to receive”, and dad lived by those words. So, every year, after we had all opened our presents, and toys and paper and boxes littered the floor, there was still a stack of gifts remaining, and all were for Ross. It looked like one of those shows about hoarders.

So, rather anticlimactically, we finally got to see him open our gifts to him.

I miss those days, but now I have a Jack and an Alex who will, I’m sure, be awake at two o’clock Christmas morning and frantically waiting for Santa to arrive. Hey, you guys….. not before six, okay?

Contact Bob Eastley at eastleyr@ferris.edu

Leave a Reply