This was to be a Christmas unlike any other for the Spradlin household. That’s because there were two of them.
Stephanie and I, though we remain close friends, have been separated for more than two years. Each of the past two Christmases, we have lived close enough to be together, for the kids’ sake, on Christmas morning. Not this year. Her work schedule and mine, and 400 miles between our two homes, prevented that from taking place in 2013.
In advance, we began exploring options. Could I go there? No. Difficult to get enough time off work. Could we meet in the middle? Sure, but how would a hotel room feel like home?
Stephanie chose to bring Noah, MacKenzie and Josiah to me this Christmas. There was only one catch — Christmas would come on Thursday, not Wednesday. That’s right, Dec. 26. Americans are a confident bunch, and I’m an average American, so why not?
Stephanie and the kids didn’t arrive until late Wednesday evening. We greeted each other with hugs and got down to business. Time to get to work: Put up the tree, — yeah, we waited to do it together — then decorate the tree, finish wrapping Christmas presents, put together little Josiah’s Big Wheel, make cocoa, go outside and see the stars on a clear night near Roberdel. Orion is easy to see this time of year.
We go back in. The kids put on a Christmas movie while the grown-ups prepared for bed. It had been a long day, but Thursday was going to be longer because everyone figured to be up bright and early. Santa might have visited everyone else Wednesday morning, but he was making a special trip back to Richmond County from the North Pole just for us.
On our Christmas morning, Santa didn’t disappoint. Noah, 14, seemed quite thankful for his new iPod. I think it’s his fifth — all the others somehow ended up broken. As the parent of any teenager can relate, Noah was last seen going off on his own, pushing buttons and, presumably, texting or using FaceTime to contact friends he hadn’t seen in “forever.”
Kenzie, 11, received the camera she wanted. She loves taking photos —of everything. Of nature. Of her 4-year-old brother. Of the neighbor’s giant chocolate lab, Mocha. Especially of Mocha. Kenzie’s desperate for a dog of her own. One day …
Joe’s big gift was a Kindle Fire. We’re hopeful it sparks an interest in reading, because traditional books simply haven’t caught his imagination just yet. We’re not yet worried; we’re a family of readers. Still, it’d be nice for him to get the bug sooner rather than later. It’ll make life that much more interesting and imaginative.
His next-best thing was a Big Wheel — which, I’ll admit, was only No. 2 on my list of nostalgia-generating gifts. I cruised the ‘hood back in the day. My parents let us ride all around our neighborhood. Joe has hills where he lives, but seemed thankful for the flat roads north of Rockingham on Thursday.
The No. 1 gift for nostalgia’s sake? An Atari 2600 for Noah. Of course it was secondhand. Thankfully it was cheap. But it was just like the one I played while growing up. My hope is that Noah learns to appreciate how images are displayed on screen today. Graphics have come a long way in the past 20 years.
By and large, Christmas was a success in 2013. Even if it did come on Dec. 26.