Attic Salt for Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012

Part of me wants December to be a magical month in which good cheer triumphs over all.

December is the best time of the year for me, but I have mostly good associations with the Christmas month.

For many people, December is the anniversary of divorces, deaths, business failures or some other gift-wrapped disaster.

When our children left home, I thought I might put Christmas away, like the wreath on the door, but I came to understand that the children’s leaving didn’t diminish my love of Christmas and December.

Enjoying Christmas through my children’s eyes had ended with the big presents of bicycles years before.

My wife and I entertained requests for toys from Santa Claus, but the children didn’t know what would be under the tree.

We used our own childhood Christmases as guides to what Santa Claus would bring. I don’t remember all the presents that led up to the bicycle Christmases, but those were the climactic Santa Claus deliveries.

It makes me smile when my daughter tells me that her big present was her Christmas bicycle. Her other standout present from Santa Claus was The Littles’ dollhouse.

The dollhouse was one of the big toys for Christmas in the early 1980s. My daughter and I played with the dollhouse, making up stories about the squat people who lived there, the Littles.

In a time before pre-schoolers got iPads, middle schoolers iPhones and teenagers cars, there was a small, natural progression whose climax was The Christmas Bicycle.

My wife and I thought hard before buying Christmas stereos for our children. It was the end of weekend quiet in our house for a few years.

My son calls his Christmas stereo “transformational.” It was his introduction to electronics and to the freedom of choosing the music he wanted to play.

We all dream of some Christmas present we know we won’t get — ever. I wanted a horse for Christmas every year until it sunk in that were I ever to own a horse I’d have to buy it.

“Where will you keep it? In the garage?” was my mother’s standard response in those horse-for-Christmas years.

My son dreamed he’d gotten a motor scooter for Christmas, something he knew we’d never give him.

“The thrill and disappointment were so tangible that ever owning it was irrelevant,” he said.

Sometimes, the anticipation of something is everything. Getting the thing we wanted more than anything else at the time becomes an anticlimax.

One Christmas, I turned a large box of jars of jelly into a shortwave radio because that’s what my pea brain had conjured. The jelly was a gift from one of my father’s customers but it was a marvelous radio, to me, until my father lifted out the first jar of jelly on Christmas morning.

Christmas is a time of hope. It comes and goes too fast to be anything but a down payment on what is good and meaningful in our lives.