He walked three steps on that festive Christmas.
Having just turned one, I was quite convinced that my son was talented beyond compare in his age bracket. Jay was a towhead, trim, and sported a contagious grin. On that day, he wore red corduroy overalls and a green turtleneck. I was over the moon in love with my little guy.
We were visiting one set of grandparents on Christmas Eve and the other on the big day itself. In keeping with the theme that Jay was without compare, both sets of grand-folks had overdone the gift giving. Large trees in both homes were piled with gifts beneath.
Of course, our Jack Russell Terrier, Devon, was part of our family, and she, too, seemed to sense the frivolity in the air. “Devon” had been Jay’s first word, and we chalked that up to his brilliant persona.
After greeting their grand-dog, my parents overwhelmed little Jay with kisses and cuddles and treats galore. As gift after gift was set before him, my parents puzzled over Jay’s lack of enthusiasm. What child isn’t enamored over the Christmas bounty?
“Mom, Dad, he is only just past infancy. He doesn’t yet ‘get’ this holiday fare. Please don’t be upset. Once home, I’m sure he’ll enjoy all the bobbles and bangles. I will say that a bicycle is rather premature.”
Jay seemed most excited about the sparkling tinsel on the 10-foot tree. He would crawl over and pluck handfuls off. Devon was soon covered in silver and ran about trying to rid her couture.
“This is not going like I anticipated,” whined my mother. “Jay isn’t enjoying his gifts, and Devon never misbehaves. I told your father that this Christmas would not be a Norman Rockwell painting. Would he listen? No. A bicycle, honestly!”
Mom poured herself a cocktail…one of the few she drank each year. I knew that after two Vodka Sours, my mom would be loopy yet care free. Her disappointment would likely pass.
My father was an outgoing, loving soul. “Alice,” he cooed.” This will be a fine day. We must all relax, enjoy each other’s company, and remember the meaning of Christmas.”
The tinsel-covered living room was quite the challenge for a mother chided for her OCD-ish tendencies. Devon, finally free of her burden, curled up on the tree skirt. We all tried our best to follow her calm demeanor. Jay, now covered in silver himself, became irritable, so I put him in his port-a-crib and soothed him to sleep.
Liqueurs were served. I had a moment of jealously as breast feeding kept me from joining the others. We served up a fine meal while Jay and Devon slept on, and the familial mood brightened. We told stories of Christmas pasts and got Mom’s goat with the retelling of the mouse and cat episode…
That year, my parent’s home had a mouse “issue.” Their beautiful home “could not” be infested according to Mom. One exterminator after another assured her that the “issue” had been resolved. Phoebe, their beloved cat, knew better and chased a loner up the heavily ornamented tree.
The tree tipped, and before anyone could right it, it shattered the glass of the picture window. I’m embarrassed to say that my uncontrollable laughter further crazed mom, but honestly, it was perfectly perfect.
Jay woke when Devon hopped into his crib to check on him. After a changed diaper and a feeding, Christmas eve carried on. We all settled in, having donned new sweaters and slippers. The snow fell, and the conversation was peaceful. Sweet Jay scooted around the myriad toys and came upon three overlooked gifts.
“Goodness,” stated Dad. “We forgot Devon’s gifts.”
Devon sidled up to Jay, who was well into tearing the wrapping off. She could smell her goodies: dog treats, a large rawhide bone, and a rubber porcupine that squeaked when squeezed.
Jay instantly fell in love with the squeaky porcupine. Amidst his mountain of gifts, Jay had found the one present he loved. We tolerated the irritating noise somehow, and Devon seemed not to care as she gnawed on her bone.
Then, using the couch for support, Jay pulled himself upright with one hand, clutching his treasure in the other. He turned to me, a huge smile on his rosy-cheeked face, and he took his first steps.
“Well,” concluded my father, “if this isn’t the best Christmas yet.”
Jay slept with the porcupine and brought it with him the next day as we journeyed on to another mound of gifts.
“Mr. Porcupine” still lives in Jay’s keepsake box of treasures – a fitting tribute for a wonderfully precocious child who took his first steps on Christmas Eve.