Editor’s note: Times Staff Writer Lois Swoboda asked around about fond Christmas memories, and received this wonderful story from County Commissioner Pinki Jackel.


My family has always opened our gifts on Christmas morning. We get up as early as the youngest child makes us rise, to run into my mother's living room to discover what Santa Claus has left us the night before. Of course, mama has been up for a while, the turkey is in the oven, and biscuits and sausage are waiting for us. In our family system, we are all children believing in Santa Claus on Christmas morning, no exceptions allowed.

Some of my fondest memories of Christmas' past though, are of Christmas Eve and my father. My father has been gone for years, a young victim of lymphoma. He was not an overly demonstrative man and not a shopper at all. However, he made one ceremonious trip to the mall every year, on Christmas Eve, and I only was his faithful companion. On this day, his tradition was to shop for my mother, my sister, and me. I'm certain he passed something along to my brother as well. We shopped together among the craziness of all the last minute desperate shoppers. Decisions were made very quickly, as daddy was more of a buyer than a shopper. He was resolved though to find mama, "something nice."

Twenty-three years later this Christmas, I still miss Daddy the most on Christmas Eve. That was our day. I relished every minute of guiding my father through the perils of last-minute gift selections. As a child, our trip to town was concluded by stopping by our local town store to buy a brown paper sack full of fireworks to set off that night. Cherry bombs notwithstanding, I am lucky to still have 10 fingers!

Between the two of us, I'm sure I enjoyed those Christmas Eve shopping adventures the most. However, my father's delight was knowing that Santa had come and gone, and left behind something that would bring a smile of surprise to my mother as we all opened our gifts early on Christmas morning.  – By PINKI JACKEL