They ran downstairs, feet slipping across carpet thanks to footed pajamas, grinning with expressions of delight at a small pile of childhood happiness. They took in the loot Santa had left them with bright, wide-eyed faces, happy shrieks and unvarnished delight. It was a scene, repeated each Christmas morning throughout their young childhoods, that made the great night-before- Christmas putting-

together sessions worth it. Pretty much.

Our children are now both teenagers and their toys no longer come with most assembly required, so those efforts are a thing of the past.

Jerry Clower once said, “It’s hard to pull a crosscut saw by yourself.” If he’d ever put together a five-bay swingset by himself, in the dark, while having to be quiet about it, he’d have gone back to solo sawing without further complaint.

For Christmas of his third year, The Boy asked for a train table, basically a 4 by 8 wooden table two feet tall, complete with drawers and such, to play with a wooden train set on. I figured there wouldn’t be much to putting it together.

Disassembled, it came in a box that weighed as much as a Burlington Northern locomotive. I began its assembly when we got him to bed Christmas Eve. I drove the last screw home as the sun came up the next day.

Still, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sadness at those moments’ final passing, not that I’m volunteering to hammer dowel pegs into fiberboard all night anytime soon. It was very special though. We thought we were giving little piles of loot to them, when they were giving much bigger gifts to us.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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