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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 19
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Wednesday, Dec 24, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieThe children are going to be a little difficult to control today. “Can we open just one present tonight?”

We gave in to that ploy once. Both my wife and I were too tired even to notice that within about 20 minutes, every package under the tree had been opened … or so the boys thought.

It was the last year they both believed in Santa. What we did after they fell asleep was sly, sneaky and a boatload of fun.

You see, we didn’t have but half of the presents under the tree. The rest were in all of the great hiding places around the house and in the garage. I even had a couple in the trunk of my car. All wrapped up and ready for Santa to deliver.

Getting the boys to bed was no easy task. Even with the great presents, they finally drifted off to await Santa. Had to carry them to bed, but it was worth it. Since both of my sons are now nearly 6-foot-5, I shall not attempt to do it again. The grandkids are a little too heavy now.

Ever so quietly, we gathered the presents and placed them around the tree. We ate the cookies left for Santa and poured the milk we left for him down the drain. It had been sitting out for nearly two hours.

I remember leaving a note saying they should have picked up all of the wrapping paper and put it in the trash. It was signed, “Santa.” Only the oldest could read at the time, so he was sure Santa had left the note.

The gifts they opened on Christmas Eve were things that were practical. Socks, underwear, shirts and a couple of toys. Pretty tame stuff but enough to keep them going.

Try as she might, my wife could never sleep past 5 o’clock on Christmas morning. It just couldn’t happen. Even if we stayed up all night, she would appear to sleep, but in reality her eyes only shut to let us think she had slept. She was like that even after the boys had grown up and moved away. With just her and me in the house, she still got up early to see if Santa had come.

I missed that after the divorce, and now that she has passed on, I’ll miss it even more. It was one of the things we laughed about in the last few weeks of her life. It is funny what someone with brain cancer can remember. In May of last year, before she slipped into a coma, she remembered Christmas and getting up early – and I cannot fathom why that happened.

She told me she still carried on her little tradition of early rising on Christmas morning. Every other day of the year, she would and could sleep in if she wasn’t getting up to go to work. On Christmas Day it was up at the crack of dawn, or before. I swear that she considered the crack of dawn to be around 3 a.m.

Since she was awake, I had to be awake. About every 10 minutes she would ask, “Should we get them up now?” I’d say it was too early, but after another 10 minutes it was the same question. Usually as the first sunlight filtered through the windows, we would go wake the boys. I became adept at the “10 minute power nap.”

The year they had to open all of the presents on Christmas Eve was the year they knew Santa was real. They just knew it because they heard us going to bed and nothing else, until we awakened them. They walked out and all of this new stuff was spread around the tree, even some presents for us, Mom and Dad.

Sometimes when things seem grim and hopeless, it is the thoughts of Christmas that buoy up our spirits and let the joy of our lives soar. You’ve got to admit that the thought of an adult staying up most the night to see what Santa brought is pretty funny. I’ve got a huge smile just thinking about her wanting to go wake the boys.

I’m not sure who got more fun out of Christmas morning. I loved watching the boys’ excitement on that morning so special. The real excitement and joy was in watching Kathie delight in the gifts she gave and those she received, too. But she was a giver, and when one or both of the boys would run to her after opening a specific gift she hoped they would like and they would give her a big hug, that was when I saw her have the most joy.

Kathie and I talked about that as she was lying there on the hospital bed in her living room last May. Slowly she slipped from us but didn’t linger that long. One of the last conversations we had was about Christmas and her early rising.

This is the first year without her here in our world, for she is in a far better place. I like to think she is sitting there at a big birthday party, waiting to open gifts and watching us open ours from her place in Heaven. I’m thinking that may be the best way for me to get through the next couple of days.

She taught me to rise early on Christmas morning. This year it is just me and the basset hound, Mr. Renly. I hope he likes his gift. I sure like the one he gives me, and that is his unconditional love. Dogs are like that.

I can feel her telling me we can’t open our presents on Christmas Eve again. Once was enough, and remember, we get up early enough to open them all in plenty of time for church. I’m glad I still have that feeling.

And Kathie, if you can hear me and see me, just know: I’m going to make this year special and rise early again, if only to watch the sun come up over the mountains. I’ll see your smile and laughter as I watch the sun rise and maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel your hug in its warmth.

Merry Christmas.


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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  1. Jan Grovme Jan Grovme says:

    *wishing you all a very happy holidays* [personal note:article by wacko re:chiquita canyon landfill..check into it..why are the resident being sited because of the stench from the landfill? i came into this valley knowing me and my kids will be better off,we have been here over 20 years.though it may not be important to you or these people who suppose represent us..val verde is as important as any other city in this valley. is there corruption within our valley system? i am asking you check deeply into this..air quality is as important to all the cities within-out santa clarita valley ..thanks..i appreciate any kind help you can provide]

  2. Deborah Kjose church says:

    Beautiful story, Darryl. You have a lovely way of describing poignant memories.

  3. Steven Lee says:

    That was such a well written story, and the memories you share make me feel like I was there. May she look down and smile upon you and yours this season.

  4. Greg Kimura says:

    Thank you for all your help this last year. We appreciate you taking the time to listen to us and write about what you see and hear.

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a safe and happy New Year!

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