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It will be Christmas soon. Readers with good memories will recognize what follows. I enjoy running this column this time of year, mainly for the memories:

• • •

The first Christmas I remember began more than 50 years ago. My parents woke me up to peek through a barely opened bedroom door at Santa Claus.

He wasn't as fat as expected, making his red attire rather slack. He wore glasses, too, the flat, black, plastic-rimmed ones that dominated the early 1960s. He put treats in our stockings, including glass bottles of Coca-Cola. They were treats then, not my daily substitute for coffee and tea.

As an already aspiring wise guy and cynic, I turned to my parents and said, "That's Gregg." My brother was only three years older than me. In hindsight, the generous man in our living room clearly was not Gregg. This became more obvious when Gregg walked in on Dad, Mom and me and asked what was going on. I'm convinced he participated in the plot. He entered on cue.

To this day, I've never asked who that visitor was. To this day, I don't want to know.

Most Christmases after that blend. This is not a bad thing. We moved from Pine Bluff to North Little Rock not long after the Santa visit, into the house where my parents lived from 1965 on. The blending comes from the consistency. It's wonderful. More children should have that.

No, I didn't have that many unique, memorable Christmases until I'd moved out. My next remarkable one was when my first daughter was a toddler. I stuck a Christmas bow on her head while she rushed through the undiluted joy of ripping open everybody's packages. On one big one, she leaped up the box, seized paper with each hand and slid down the side tearing a trail behind her, looking all the world like a diapered Douglas Fairbanks Sr. slitting the sail in "The Black Pirate."

Several Christmases later, after her mother and I had split, I spent Christmas with my former in-laws. Technically, it was my "turn" to keep my daughter for the holidays. I went anyway.

You know, having the right to do something and doing the right thing are often different.

On another Christmas, I had two daughters. I built each of them a doll house, which were labors of love. Making them was a joy. I had help, too, for which I'm still very grateful.

Then I had three daughters. The newest was a red-headed daredevil who loves the Beatles and wanted to play like Ringo Starr. She did. I provided the toy drums.

Then we had a boy, which was a startling development. He received a radio-controlled car. Who says they don't make durable toys any more? The marks on my furniture prove otherwise.

Then there was a Christmas just after we moved to Fayetteville. We all had Christmas morning together, but Lisa had to work that day. I agreed to take the kids to the grandparents in North Little Rock, which I did. Then I drove back to Fayetteville and surprised her, because no one loved by that many people should be alone on Christmas.

The best Christmas , though, was anything but lonely. One side of the family that had scattered across the country made a concerted effort to get together. Our house was the designated rendezvous point for people traveling from as far as Maine. It took a lot of sacrifice and planning, but they all made it. The group picture still hangs in a place of honor at our house.

It's what you do, not what gifts you get or give, that makes a Christmas worth remembering.

Merry Christmas.

Commentary on 12/23/2017

Print Headline: What you do, not what you get

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