Image by paparutzi via Flickr Once I'd become old enough to have some semblance of intelligence, which is to say I could sort of read and follow directions, I became the official Christmas eve assembler for the toys that my younger brothers and sister would be greeted with the following morning. I was Santa stand-in after my Santa dreams were shaken into reality.
My dad was a good dad, but he was not good at mechanical and handyman sorts of projects. He was a bookkeeper by day and a professional juggler in his not particularly secret other life outside of work. Forget fixing broken things around the house or do-it-yourself car repairs or any of those types of jobs.
When I was little I just figured Santa's elves had assembled all of my toys and the big jolly guy just delivered them while I was sleeping. Actually come to think of it I don't know that I ever got many gifts that needed assembly. My mother must have had some sort of arrangement about that back then. But once she figured out that I could figure out stuff, I became the handy kid of the house.
My mother would go all out at Christmas when it came to buying toys for my younger siblings. I usually went on the shopping trips and egged her on as I looked for things that I could have fun playing with. Then Christmas Eve, my closest sister in age and I would help my mother wrap the presents as we listened to Christmas music or had some special holiday program turned on the television.
Each year, the gifts that required assembly became bigger and more elaborate. My father would retire early leaving me with the chore of putting together the crazy stuff my mother had bought. My mother, sister, and I would be up late wrapping, chatting, and laughing. At times I might let out a scream of frustration when my Christmas projects were not fitting together like the instructions showed, but I was committed to fulfilling my yuletide mission.
I suppose those Christmas mornings back then were worth the effort, all of us in pajamas watching the wonderment of the younger ones. My father watched with good-nature and perhaps a smug satisfaction that he hadn't had to put any of the toys together. And though I put on airs of reluctance on the eve of toy assembly, it always gave me a certain sense of pride in the part that I had played in those Christmases when I was younger.