Christmas Morning

13 Dec

Jeff was a throwback in the sense that traditions, particularly family traditions, meant everything to him.  And in our household, there was no more memorable tradition than the ritual that started every Christmas morning from the time Brett was about 5 years old.   Not surprisingly, Brett, as the youngest, was always the first one up at the crack of dawn every year ready to bolt downstairs to open presents.  Jeff, 7 years Brett’s senior, would of course be content to sleep till noon or later if we let him.  So what to do ?

Five year old Brett had the common sense answer.  “I’m gonna jump on Jeffrey,” he said. Sounded like a reasonable plan.  But first, he had to wake Drew up, which was actually quite easy.  One gentle shake-of-the-shoulder and kiss on the head from Brett, and Drew (always the mellowest of the group) was up and ready.  And then the moment of truth- Brett started from the end of the hallway, began his sprint toward Jeff’s room, built up a head of steam, and upon the approach to his bed, he began his racing dive into the air.  With grace and style, he landed with a belly-flop on his brother.  Most brothers would probably have come up swinging.  But from the day Brett was born, nobody could light Jeff up like a Christmas tree more than his baby brother, and so once he was jolted from his slumber, he just laughed and hugged the little man.  And then they began the processional downstairs to see if Santa had come that year.

From that year on, the tradition held.  Every single Christmas morning, Brett woke Drew up gently, and then sprinted, dove, and jumped on Jeffrey (Brett never called him Jeff).  I would imagine that with each passing year, this ritual became increasingly painful for Jeff as Brett got bigger, stronger and heavier.  But even last year, with Brett at 15 yrs. and about 150 pounds, Jeff awakened with a smile on his face.  It helped that he always had a greater tolerance for physical pain than most mortals, but his acceptance of being pounced on derived more from his love of family traditions and his immense love for his brother.

I am more thankful than ever that my camcorder has always been affixed to my hand during all special family occasions.  Thus,  I have captured every single Christmas morning jump (and subsequent present opening) dating back to that first year.  I never truly realized back then just how precious that footage would become.

I candidly can’t imagine the torment that this Christmas morning will bring and how it will unfold.  But I think the answer is that we’ll take the advice of Warner Wolf, my favorite sportscaster from when I was in high school.  Before showing game highlights in his sportscasts, Warner would bark out, “Let’s go to the videotape.”  And that’s probably exactly what we will do. We’ll likely watch the video of prior years’ jumps and enjoy those precious bittersweet memories.  Because there is one thing of which I am certain- the last thing that Jeff would want us to do is to stray from our family tradition.  Even now.`

Rich Klein

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