On Christmas Day of 1975, my family moved out of our home in Denver, Colorado.

My father, who was a Lutheran minister, had accepted a call to Ohio, and yes, we moved on Christmas Day when I was 5.

Apparently, my father led the Christmas Eve Service, and then we moved the next morning, partially so we could stop at my grandparents’ houses on the way to Ohio. It also worked well for both churches.

As I recall, we slept in the living room because our furniture was packed up on the moving truck already. It was fun to sleep in the living room, and it was even more interesting when I noticed my parents filling the Christmas stockings while we were supposed to be sleeping

“So, that’s how that works,” I thought to myself. I didn’t think too much about it, though, as I had more important things to focus on since we would be moving as soon as I awoke.

So, on Christmas Day, we drove from Denver to Omaha, where we spent Christmas with my grandparents in that city. The next day or soon after, we drove to Iowa and saw my grandmother there. And then the next day or soon after, we drove to Ohio. We didn’t make it in one day as we planned, though, as both of the vehicles my parents were driving slid off the road. Something happened to the van, too, so we spent the night in a hotel somewhere while it was being fixed. I should add that with the super tall 1970s van that my family had then, it’s a wonder that it didn’t slide off of the road every time we drove it.

I don’t recall ever spending the night in a hotel before that night, so I was quite excited. I still remember watching the Spider-Man cartoon on the television there and loving the whole experience. What type of magical place was this that had Spider-Man cartoons on the television?

The next day we finally made it to Ohio, somehow ahead of our furniture, so we slept in sleeping bags again until all of our items arrived and we got moved into the new home with new lives. I have no idea what I got for Christmas that year, and it was a pretty weird celebration, but I remember moments of the holiday vividly.

Another Christmas that sticks out in my mind is when I was sick and in bed pretty much the whole time. I had a high fever and I remember seeing things on the wall. I missed all of the Christmas activities, and I have no idea what any presents were, but I will always remember looking at those objects on the wall that holiday season. They were pretty weird. Oh, and I did get to read a lot of comic books while I was in bed, so that was pretty fun.

One final Christmas I wanted to mention is when I had the largest present under the tree. I had no clue what it could be, but I let my siblings know about it for several days before Christmas. It was sure to be something grand, much better than their stupid presents.

And when I opened the present on Christmas Day, I was extremely excited about the momentous occasion until I learned it was a really large trashcan. My brothers loved that.

While I was disappointed in that gift at the time, I grew to love that trashcan over the years, and it went with me to college and even when I moved out. It was great for trash, playing basketball and even getting sick into.

So what’s the point of all of this? It’s that while many of us spend way too much time worrying about perfect presents or celebrating the holidays the “right way,” we never really know how different gifts or moments will impact our lives.

If my father hadn’t followed his calling to move to a church in Ohio on Christmas Day of 1975, my life would have been completely different. That Christmas Day move was kind of odd and wasn’t very Christmassy, but it was a huge moment for me and a tremendous gift.

And while a trashcan was a rather disappointing present, it ended up being one of the few Christmas gifts that I actually remember, and it was a great gift that I treasured for decades.

Finally, while I didn’t like being sick on Christmas (except for reading comics and having imaginary friends on the walls), I do often think about that Christmas and how lucky I am to have the gift of good health, happiness and real friends.

So you when celebrate the holidays this year, remember to be thankful for the gift of Christmas, and for the gifts that we receive throughout our lives, even if we don’t fully appreciate them for many, many years.

Nick Claussen is a freelance writer with too much time on his hands. To see more of his work, please visit nickclaussen.com. Thanks.

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