This Advent my blog is about arriving. When you arrive, there is awareness, new knowledge and new experiences. Today I share a memory from my childhood that shows that knowledge doesn’t always make you happier …
Maybe it was 1972 or 1973. St. Nicholas fell on a weekday. I was 5 or 6 years old. The late afternoon and "after work" looked something like this: After playing with other children, I liked to sit in front of the TV from 5:00 pm for the "children's hour". Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. there was dinner, the German "Abendbrot" , and sometime shortly before the regional news on television, 15 minutes before the "Tagesschau", my father came home. Then it was time for me to go to bed. Back then, he used to commute about 60 km from our village to work in Bonn every day.
On St. Nicholas Day everything was different from the moment when I got up in the morning: my winter boots were filled with chocolate, first Christmas cookies, spekulatius, walnuts, hazelnuts and tangerines in front of my bedroom door. The breakfast table was decorated and in our village the bakers for Nikolaus were selling big sweet brezels. Every kid in kindergarden or in school received one of these sweet Brezels.
This was also the case on this special St. Nicholas' Day in the early 1970s. At that time I still believed in St. Nicholas and my siblings, who were a few years ahead of me, made a lovable contribution to cherishing and cultivating my faith. The tension increased when I was at home in the afternoon and everyone said I had to wear something else because when it gets dark, Santa Claus would come in our house!
I see myself sitting on my mother's lap in our living room. Then at some point the door actually opened and the real Santa Claus stood in front of me - no, not in a red and white suit. In the tradition of the Christian bishop's costume, he was wearing a miter and a crosier. He had a big sack with him that contained something small for all of us, for my siblings, for my mother and for me. The memories of these scenes are very fragmentary - it is said that with childhood memories you often cannot tell whether it was told to you later by others and you could have imagined it in your mind's eye rather than that it actually happened?
However, I remember one moment that evening very, very clearly: Nicholas had just left our living room and the house. Then came the familiar noises from the front door and in the stairwell, which my father made with the last energy of the day when he returned from work. I was still sitting on my mother's lap when the door to the living room opened, my father came in, and I called out to him, half regretfully, half reproachfully: "Dad, now you've missed Santa Claus!" It came from the bottom of my heart and somehow it has engraved itself deeply in my memory…. my siblings joined in the wail and cheering, we showed my father what Santa Claus had brought for us and my father was extremely interested, disappointed and amused at the same time. Then we all sat down at the dinner table.
It is good to know that the beautiful moments are more likely to survive in the memory than the moments of real knowledge and disappointment. It was this intensity of family, get-togethers, cozy winter evenings and amusement that made this beautiful moment immortal. Perhaps it was also the deep satisfaction of all those who had succeeded that afternoon in creating a beautiful illusion for me as the toddler of the family. Especially my father, who just smiled when I was so upset that he only missed Santa by a few seconds. Perhaps he stealthily wiped a loose whisker from his face that had left on his cheek from the artificial white beard ...