Christmas Presence

Written by: Phil Mancuso


It’s Christmas Morning, and all of the preparation is finally over— hopefully, with all of
the wrapped presents either resting under the tree or sent off to their proper recipients.
In this busy time of the year, something strange happens to me— well, maybe no
stranger than usual, but hear me out.

Being one to ponder life and all its twists and turns, I can’t help, but sit and look at the
presents beneath the Christmas tree with thoughts of Christmases past. Memories of
my parents bustling around just days before Christmas, speaking in hushed tones, all
the while making the magic of Christmas just “happen.” My sisters and I were fortunate
to have a set of wonderful parents who, didn’t have much, yet gave a lot. I’m not just
referring to what was under the tree, but to all of the wonderful life lessons. Some, not
requested or appreciated at the time, for example, when my grandmother’s dog left his
own special “present” under our tree.

But I digress—

I remember all sorts of Christmas trees and ornaments, from cut trees whose needles
fell off before Christmas day, to those not so marvelous aluminum trees with
multicolored spotlights shining through the branches. I can even recall cutting down a
fresh tree, with a root ball and all; I think we only tried that one once. It had been in the
house sitting in a bucket of water for a week, eluding my mom to think there was
another “present” from the dog. Not exactly the Christmas tree smell we all know and
love, but a fond memory nonetheless. With Plenty of memories of Christmases past, I
can recall some of my most cherished moments, but also those in which heartbreak
tagged along.

The first Christmas after my dad died in 1983, my sisters and I tried to make it a very
special one for my mom, which was our gift to her, and to him, in some way. Even the
Christmas after my first wife’s death in 2000, I remember sitting alone in the living room
at two in the morning, looking at the tree with all the gifts, and crying my eyes out.
Feeling such a loss, on that occasion, and many times since, I finally came to accept
and realize that my “present” was spending 26 years of my life with my best friend.
My mind goes back to that and all the other Christmases where I’ve tried to make things
special for my one child who is now a wonderful 28-year-old adult. Remembering as if it
was yesterday, his first Christmas and all others since he had that same look on his
face as he opened his gifts.

It occurs to me now that parents do their best, sometimes in spite of themselves, to
create a loving atmosphere for their kids. Some are successful; some are not. There
were times when I would venture out with my dad a few days before Christmas with a

trunk full of frozen turkeys. He would invite me along to distribute them to patients and
friends, who were not as well off as they once might have been. This memory has stuck
with me for quite some time.

Which, in its most circuitous fashion, leads me to today. It’s Christmas, 2017, and while
my heart remembers all the sadness, wonders, and joys of the past, it is difficult to focus
on the times that have gone by and still be able to appreciate the present moment. Of
course, there’s the reason for the season; that amazing father-child relationship born on
Christmas day. I thank God for all of the “presents” He has bestowed upon me in this
lifetime, allowing me to enjoy the presence of Christmas, bringing me to where I am at
this very moment.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you who may come to read this. May you
have the Christmas “presence” you wish for!


Warmest regards,

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