The Christmas Eve that I recall the most clearly growing up was the year that I was seven. My two younger brothers and I were in the TV room watching cartoons early in the morning when our dad came into the room and said he had something to tell us.
"Mom went to the hospital last night," he said.
"No, I just saw her go into the bathroom," I answered.
"No, she's at the hospital," Dad said. We went back and forth for a little before he convinced me that Mom was really not in the bathroom - in fact, not in the house at all.
"And," Dad said, once I finally agreed, "She had the baby."
The baby wasn't due for a couple of weeks yet. This was before regular ultrasounds told you if the baby was a boy or a girl before it was born. But I knew it had to be a girl. After all, I already had two brothers. In seven-year-old logic, that made perfect sense. And besides, my parents had promised me I could have a bunk bed like my brothers if I had a sister.
I'd been referring to the baby as "Virgina" for weeks now. I was ready for my sister. And now the baby had been born.
"You have a new baby brother," Dad continued.
My mouth fell open to a shocked 'Oh.' How was that even possible? Three brothers? And no sisters? Where was the fairness in that?
It only took a moment though before I was excited about my new baby brother named Leo.
Then the realization dawned on us that Mom was not going to be home for Christmas. How was that going to work? Who was going to cook the turkey and do everything else? It turned out that Dad was up to the task - making a wonderful Christmas for us all.
Though apparently he had a few rough moments during the evening. He tells of the phone call to the hospital after we had all gone to bed and the nurse telling him that it was after visiting hours so she couldn't put the call through unless it was an emergency.
"Listen," Dad told her, "I've got three kids seven and under and a room full of unwrapped, unlabeled toys."
She quickly agreed it was an emergency and put him right through.
The next morning Dad got his 8mm movie camera ready and called the hospital before we were even allowed downstairs. The phone, off the hook, was left on the floor, where we could run over and tell Mom about the presents we got - and in the meantime she could hear the background noise. And Dad filmed us all, so Mom could watch it later, when she got home.
Mom says that was her best Christmas ever, as she relaxed with her newborn son.
And I must say, that the brother I got for Christmas 35 years ago makes that my best Christmas ever too!
Happy Birthday, Leo!
Edited to add: If you want to see the baby picture of this little brother - head on over to my mom's blog, Morning Glory Alley, where she posted a page from Leo's baby book!