I was an old man before I figured out, perhaps, why my annual appeal for an electric train went unheeded, even the years I’d been a good boy, overall. My father, who died when I was fourteen, had four brothers and two sisters; all of the brothers fell under the spell of, first Father Coughlin, then his successor, the John Birch Society, and all of them took to the drink like ducks out of water.
Only two of the six lived into old age, and, as you would imagine, my cousins were bound to lead extra-eventful lives, too. Once our generation began gathering at premature funerals of cousins, news leaked out of my father’s secret Santa activities.
My family lived roughly forty miles away from the bulk of his family. Cousins now tell me that my father would arrive at their house before Christmas, loaded with presents for everybody.
Listening to such stories all these decades later is the best Christmas present of my life. Besides, I got plenty of cool stuff, and became notorious in the neighborhood – “…put away the train set, David is coming over!”