Most parents of small children wake up earlier on Christmas morning than they do any other day of the year to the sounds of laughter, squeals of delight, and tiny tots bouncing on their beds long before the sun rises.

“It’s Christmas!” little boys and girls exclaim.

“What time is it? Start the coffee,” spouses mumble to each other as they’re tugged from the bed.

My brother was that child  — the one who busted in mom and dad’s room Christmas morning. 

I, on the other hand, was too timid to try that trick. I would creep into the living room, grab a blanket and sit on the couch staring at the tree for what felt like an eternity before one of them awoke.

Finally!

We’d read the Christmas story and open stockings before distributing packages arranged so carefully under the tree. Christmas morning is perhaps the hardest lesson in patience for children under the age of 13. Teenagers of course are “too mature” for such shenanigans.

My family was always blessed during the holidays. We had plenty to eat and, even on the barest years, a present or two to open. Some of those gifts stand out above the rest  — three in particular come to mind.

We’d opened all the other gifts that year when Dad told me to close my eyes. Sitting cross-legged on the living room rug in my Christmas nightgown, I opened them a few minutes later to see a little fuzzball with a red bow around her neck staring back at me. 

My very first dog. 

Bear was a fluffy, brown, Chow-mix puppy with a spot of white on her chest. Dad asked what I wanted to name her and I said the first thing that popped in my brain  — She looks like a bear. It stuck.

Another year I opened the best gift first. Try as I might, I can’t recall what else I received that year. The box was long. I excitedly tore the paper off. I saw the stamp on the lid and caught my breath. There sat my very own American Girl doll. 

Felicity was a constant companion for years to come. Every birthday and Christmas brought another outfit or accessory for my friend. She came with her own set of books, too, and I was often immersed in the world of colonial Williamsburg, VA on adventures with Felicity and her friends. The doll still sits in her chair at my parents’ house, an occasional reminder of the joys of childhood. Oh, the places your imagination can take you!

Everyone remembers getting a bicycle for Christmas  — and the skinned knees and scraped palms to go with it.

I don’t recall when I received the glittery pink bike with plastic tassels, training wheels and a white basket on the front. Perhaps it was a hand-me-down from another family. But, I do remember the year I got my first “grown up bike.” 

Dad and I had been stopping at shops for weeks, while I sat atop the big bikes, dreaming about my very own. He kept letting me do that even after purchasing one and stowing it away in the shed.  

A few days before Christmas I sat on a bright red one and made my final plea  — I want one just like this! He seemed worried and I couldn’t figure out why … until Christmas morning that is. 

A navy blue bike sat in front of the fireplace. 

“I’m sorry it isn’t red,” Dad said.

I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, and my favorite color is still, you guessed it, blue.

Parents, don’t stress about what’s under the tree Christmas morning. Years from now your children will tell you the magic of Christmas is about the memories they hold dear. Those matter more than the particulars of any gift wrapped in glittering paper underneath the twinkling lights of a tree decorated together with family and friends.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.