CHRISTMAS is a time not only of gift-giving and sharing the love and joy of families brought together. It is also a time of memories. Every December I recall staying up until the wee hours every Christmas Eve, my wife carefully wrapping each gift that, within a few hours, would be ripped apart by our small children in nanoseconds. Then there's the memory of our preschool kids asking more questions about Santa Claus than we had either the time or the wisdom to answer.
But the memory that surfaces longest and most tenderly is one concerning our son, Tommy, when he was about 10 years old. To say that Tommy was laid back as a youngster is an understatement. He took life at a leisurely pace, rarely worrying about anything and yet always seeming to get things done - and with a reasonable amount of success.
At Christmastime, my wife and I worried that Tommy would never get around to shopping, and our admonitions about getting started on the matter always seemed to fall on deaf ears. Tom would do it his way: Invariably on the afternoon of Dec. 24, he would mosey down to the local drugstore and complete all his shopping within a bat of an eye. Back to his room he went, taking about as much time to wrap the gifts as he did to shop.
Tommy earned the epithet ``one-stop shopper'' long before private enterprise got wind of the idea. As for his gifts, they were different and appreciated as much for their novelty and variety as for their utility, leading me to wonder how that little boy could find so many unusual items (including a scented kerosene lamp that still adorns the kitchen table) in such a small store.
Earlier this month I received in the mail a sales brochure from the same drugstore. Holding back my emotions, I carefully folded it into an envelope and mailed it to my 23-year-old son. ``Dear Tom,'' I wrote on the brochure, ``don't forget Christmas. Love, Dad.''
Thomas V. DiBacco is a historian at the American University.