My dad saw me running down the aisle toward him. He opened up his arms, and to his surprise, I ran right past him. I had my eyes on what was behind my father on that Christmas Eve. All the children who had come to church that night received their annual Christmas brown paper bag of goodies: peanuts in the shell, an orange, and maybe even a stick of gum and some candy.
Christmas Eve was such a magical night when I was a little girl. The large, old red brick church building was filled with light and children and singing. A large tree, brought in from a local farm, would fill the front of the sanctuary. We would tell the Christmas story as only children can. When I was in Kindergarten, I was a Christmas angel with large, white, glittery cardboard wings, a white robe, and a jealous little sister. (She still remembers how she felt that Christmas Eve!)
Then home we would go, carrying our paper bags which were missing a peanut or two, across the street to the red brick parsonage to eat Christmas cookies and open presents. Both of my parents had always opened presents on Christmas Eve when they were young and so we followed that tradition when I was young. Presents opened, cookies eaten, it was back to church for the midnight service. When I was very little, I remember wearing my pajamas to church and lying down on the pew in the balcony, listening to my mom sing as the organ played.
Ten years ago, my father was the preacher at a wedding. He told the story of that little girl who only had eyes for the brown paper bag, bursting with good things. And how on that day, I only had eyes for my husband-to-be as I walked down the aisle.
When Ed and I arrived at our wedding reception, one of our friends had placed two brown paper bags filled with peanuts and an orange at our table. Christmas had come early that year.