Growing up in a strict religious household, Christmas was never a part of my life. We didn’t put up decorations or exchange gifts; the holiday simply wasn’t celebrated. But one year, when I was still a young boy, my father decided he wanted to do something special for me. This would be the only time he would ever play Santa Claus. At the time, I was spending a lot of time with my sister Angie, who had left the church early on in her life. Her home was filled with the warmth and joy of the holiday season, completely immersed in the Christmas spirit. From the twinkling lights to the scent of cookies baking in the oven, Angie’s house felt like an entirely different world compared to the austere environment I had grown up in. One day, during a phone call with my father, he asked me about my wishlist. I excitedly told him about the three things I wanted more than anything: a PlayStation 1, WWF War Zone, and Madden. Before hanging up, he asked me to clarify what War Zone and Madden were. “One is wrestling, and the other is football,” I explained, my anticipation growing by the second. On Christmas morning, my father arrived at Angie’s home in Brooklyn, dressed in full Santa Claus gear. The red suit, the white beard, the jolly demeanor – it was like something out of a storybook. I could hardly believe my eyes as he pulled out a large bag slung over his shoulder, filled to the brim with beautifully wrapped presents. As the gifts were distributed, the room was filled with laughter and cheer. The festive paper crinkled and tore beneath my eager fingers as I unwrapped the first of my requests: a brand-new PlayStation 1. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear as I held the console in my hands. My second and third packages revealed two games, but not quite the ones I had asked for. Instead of WWF War Zone and Madden, I found TOCA Championship Racing and GameDay 98. Although these games weren’t what I had initially requested, I understood how my father could have misheard me over the phone. Besides, GameDay was a popular football series at the time, maybe even the most popular. And then, I noticed a fourth box sitting off to the side. Curiosity piqued, I tore open the wrapping to discover a steering wheel and pedal set, the perfect accompaniment to the racing game. I looked up at my father, my eyes wide with awe and gratitude. In that moment, the distance that had grown between us seemed to shrink, if only for a little while. He was there with me, sharing in the joy of the season, and that’s all that truly mattered.

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