When I was a kid, Christmas was full of hope and wonder. It involved making of lists and waking up at 7 am on the dot. Any earlier was met with groans of “go back to bed, it’s too early.” I was always in awe of how Santa could get me and all the other kids so many presents. Obviously, I eventually figured it out and was less in awe, but still excited to see what I was going to get. There would be no school until after the new and I got to play with all my new toys for at least a week.

Like any kid though, I always wanted more; another video game, another toy, a faster junior dragster motor. It never occurred to me until much later how hard my parents had to work to make sure there were presents under the tree. They hid that part from me not out of malice, but because they wanted to preserve the hope and wonder of children. Now that my son is four, I understand a little better. This was the first year he really understood what was going on and the longer I can keep that spirit in him the better. It was fun to see his eyes light up when he saw that Santa had delivered.

Like my parents before me though, there is always that underlying nagging anxiousness; will my son like his presents, am I spoiling him, will this frigid weather freeze the pipes in the house? The biggest concern I have is trying to give him all the opportunities I felt I didn’t have growing up. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), that is going to be a very tall task for me as my parents did all they could to make sure I was given every opportunity to succeed. It was difficult for me to comprehend why they would give up on some of their pursuits before I had a child of my own, but I get it now. No matter how many times they said “you’ll understand someday,” I never really believed them. However, that feeling of wanting more for my child is the same and I really can’t explain it to my friends without children.

This year though, Christmas was markedly different without my dad. And while it was wonderful to see my son’s eyes light up, I still couldn’t help but wish my dad was here to see it as well. I know he would have been on the floor with him building with magnetic block set just as he was with me and my erector set many years ago.

While I am not sure if the hole my dad left will ever be filled, it has been heartening to talk to his friends and see the memorials throughout the drag racing community. My family appreciates all of them and it has helped get us through these last few months. I still struggle to grasp the fact that I can’t just call him anymore. Whether it was good news, bad news or just to waste time on a car trip, he always picked up his phone at any hour of the day. I know my dad is just one among many of the great people we lost this year though. So, while I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas, please remember to enjoy the time off from work, call the ones you haven’t spoken to in a while and hug your family members a little tighter this year. And please have a safe and wonderful new year. -Franklin DiBartolomeo