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Christmas Was Magical

Posted January 3, 2022 at 8:54 am

The original column appeared in the Tribune-Democrat, written by Dr. Steve Nunez. Click here to see original sourced column.

When I was a child growing up in southwest Virginia, I had access to very few external sources of entertainment.

Of course, there was no internet. We did watch TV, but the clarity of the two TV channels we did get was unpredictable and was based on the fine-tuning of the large antenna we had bolted to our deck and the direction of the wind on any given day.

Even VCRs were a thing of the future and my brother and I used a cassette player/recorder to capture the audio of our favorite TV shows, such as “Hogan’s Heroes.” What we watched on TV was equally dictated by what we could receive via antenna and whatever my dad wanted to watch – often something sports-related.

Radio was something we listened to regularly – mostly to the latest rock-n-roll hits, but also any college basketball games we could find.

Therefore, by default, my two siblings and I had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. We all became voracious readers.

I found myself reading a lot about U.S. history, most often focused on World War II or the Civil War. Eventually, I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien, and his books opened a universe where I could escape the confines of southwest Virginia and mingle with not only other humans, but elves, dwarves, and orcs.

My family also played a lot of games – most often various card games, but also a litany of board games. Monopoly was a family favorite.

At some point, my interests in science fiction/fantasy books coincided with my adoration for board games.

Friends introduced me to the world of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D to those in “the know”) – a role-playing game that required a hefty amount of imagination and peanut butter sandwiches and cups of Kool-Aid to provide the necessary fuel to persevere through dark dungeons, fight vicious dragons and laugh long and hard with friends (Can’t picture it? Watch “Stranger Things”).

Mom never complained (openly) about the hoard of kids (or wizards, fighters, and clerics) that would descend on the household on many Saturdays; she almost seemed to enjoy it.

When I was a child, Christmas was magical. I still remember opening presents – my mom, dad, sister, brother, and myself all surrounding the tree on Christmas morning.

Dad would hand out one present at a time to each person and we all had to take turns opening them.

It was grueling to watch everyone else open their presents while my eyes were firmly fixed on my next present tucked away in the corner of the room. “Come on, Dad – just give it to me already!”

As an adult, I appreciated Christmas, but the experience was different. I lived through my kids – their anxiousness and anticipation for Christmas Day and the annual visit from Santa. and I learned to appreciate giving gifts to others – how fun and satisfying it was (is) when you pick just the right present for your loved one.

But I will always remember the magic of going to bed as a child on Christmas Eve, barely able to sleep, and waking up the next day to a family room full of presents.

And I still smile broadly with the memories of opening five Christmas presents delivered by Santa – five D&D books – that provided me (and my friends) with years of entertainment exploring dungeons, fighting goblins, finding gold, and building lasting memories – all within the comfort of my home.

I hope you can play a game or two over the holidays with your family.

See you at Penn Highlands.

Written By Dr. Steve Nunez, College’s Fifth President. This monthly series appears in The Tribune-Democrat, and will allow Dr. Nunez to provide his perspective on the value of education and of a community college.