Ho! Ho! Ho! Home.
One thing Jimmy sure loved was Christmas Eve. From the nights in Coronado, where the local doctor donned a Santa Suit (and didn’t need a pillow on his tummy) knocked on the front door to deliver a fire engine or a big wheel, Jimmy would hardly sleep for days before the big night. He would hide behind his beloved grand-dad Jim Dick when Santa “ho, ho, hoed” outside the door and then squinted as he walked inside the toasty yellow home to deliver a much awaited gift for Jimmy and 5 years later, for Jeff. His large sleigh outside would be packed with gifts for all the boys and girls in Coronado, and the reindeer would balance on beams that went high into the sky. We’d offer Santa a shot of bourbon to warm him up, he would take a bite of Aunt Hattie’s special cookies, and leave with another hardy Ho! Ho! Ho!
Jimmy would be up and down all night, getting water, going to the bathroom, and checking to see if Santa had come back with the rest of the toys on his list. We would hear his door open and close late into the night as we feverishly tried to finish assembling and wrapping, away from his curious eyes.
As soon as the sun was up, so was Jimmy! He would jump into our bed, wherever we were, and excitedly show us what Santa had left in his industrial size giant red stocking. The rules were that he (and Jeff when he arrived) had to wait until everyone was up before going to see the tree and opening presents. This is how the stocking tradition came about: the more little gifts in the giant stocking, the longer it would take them to open, play with them and let us sleep for a few more minutes. I think this ploy lasted until the boys were in their 20’s!
Christmas 2003 was not so very different from many of the holidays before. My mom, sister Deb and family were in town, Jimmy was living in El Segundo, Jeff was home from Northern CA, and we were back at 524. We had a family photo shoot and probably had Christmas Eve pizza with the whole gang. After much laughter, champagne and opening of a few presents, everyone snuggled down to get ready for Christmas morning. The giant stocking were hung on the chimney, and the stockings for Brent and Darren were filled with surf wax and other goodies. Jimmy said he couldn’t spend the night at our house, but promised to be back early in the morning to jump in bed and open the stockings. And sure enough, he was indeed back early, but we noticed he did not have any presents in his arms. We figured he had something in store for us and went on to open presents, eat our bacon toast and coffee cake. Finally, when we were all finished opening presents, Jimmy said, “OK, now it’s my turn, everyone come jump in my truck and we will go back to MY house and finish opening presents. We all climbed in that new huge red truck that he had just purchased online, and with Christmas carols blasting, we rode along Highland, looking at the waves until we reached his apartment in El Segundo. He jumped out of the car, said to “wait a minute and then come up the stairs.” All of a sudden, there were lights flashing in red, blue, green and brilliant white. His front porch was decorated with poinsettias and his door adorned with a smiling Santa. As he opened his door, he was practically dancing with excitement! Inside, was a lovely tree, decorated with old fashion popcorn chains, some construction paper loops, and few family keepsakes like the Sterling Silver snowflakes with his name and year he received them. On top was a little star. There were presents wrapped in newspaper and comics, and he had some Aunt Hattie’s cookies waiting for us.
“I wanted to have you to my home this year,” he said. “It could be the beginning of a new family tradition.” We all loved the idea and as we looked around apartment, we saw he had carefully cleaned the whole place, and hung some of his fabulous sarongs from his travels. It was cozy, comfortable and wonderful. Jimmy had taken time and created special and meaningful gifts for all of us. I think I’ve shared the Sailfish picture he painted of our sunrise fishing trip in Puerto Escondido. He had presented Jeff with a painting of a guitar on his birthday right before Christmas. There were handmade gifts of love for everyone. If I’m not mistaken, the guys all ended up taking little cat-naps after we opened presents and had a cranberry cocktail or two. Mom and I laughed at my sleeping family and cuddled under a comfy blanket while we waited for them to wake up. It was the first and last of Jimmy’s home holiday tradition. By Christmas of 2004, he was gone, leaving us with all the memories that 35 years created. As the years have softened the tragedy, the best of times have emerged and gratitude is the overwhelming emotion and spirit of this season for me. For those who knew Jimmy and for all of you who know him through the Foundation, I hope the stories I have shared this year have given you a glimpse into his life and who he was: as a son, brother, friend, cousin, nephew, soul surfer, lifeguard, artist, entrepreneur, traveler, musician and creative, sensitive human being. His spirit shines brightly this holiday season because of all of you.
I HOPE YOU HAVE A HO! HO! HO! HOLIDAY AT HOME OR WHEREVER YOUR HEART CALLS HOME!