My best gift unwrapped them like a pro

December 28, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Christmas is known as the time for magic and miracles.

For guys like me, it's a time to count blessings, realizing that everything that seemed to be wrong really wasn't that bad after all.

It's also a time to take in the little moments you never thought you would expereience.

For me, I got to watch a future Olympic champion in action.

All right, it was my stepdaughter Brianna, who I know already, and the Olympic champion thing might be a stretch, too, especially since I don't think they offer competition in the event she excelled in ... gift opening ... at least not yet.

Hey, if they can give medals for table tennis and curling, Brianna still has a chance.

Anyhow, I was watching Brianna in her version of the decathlon. She has been in training for this event for the better part of her 9 3/4 years of life. She had her game face on and relied on all her past experience to give a top performance.


The crack of dawn went off like a starter's pistol as Brianna woke and darted from her bed like Michael Johnson coming out of the blocks for the 200-meter dash.

In her best Johnson-esque impression, she hit full speed within three strides. She remained at full speed as she took the right turn out of the hallway to head to the living room and the Christmas tree.

When she reached the tape in the middle of the room, Brianna hopped, skipped and jumped to a stop to look at all the gifts.

All Brianna's training and experience came into play now as she started to weight events. She methodically went through every package, using perfect form and technique, to make gift stacks for herself, her mother JoAnn and me.

It wasn't the shot put or the hammer throw, but Brianna's follow through was a picture of perfection.

She scored real points in the marathon portion of the morning, running a race that would have made Mary Decker Slaney proud.

She paced herself, hitting the bathroom for her morning bath and got dressed for the day before picking up the pace to wake up JoAnn to get the festivities going.

Brianna established herself as the competitor to beat when she saved her energy by helping make JoAnn's bed, before sprinting out to the lead to make her own.

Then came the final burst. She came over to make sure I was up, breathlessly trying to tell me about the one gift she did open and how she really liked it and wanted it and was happy she got it.

Brianna already felt like a winner ... but the most grueling part of the event was yet to come.

I asked Brianna if she had looked under the tree we have in our basement, just to see if Santa Claus left a little something extra for her.

Like Edwin Moses, she hurdled out of the kitchen door, through our garage and down the steps in perfect precision, stopping excitedly on a dime after finding three small packages.

Like swimmer Janet Evans, Brianna touched the wall and retraced her path to the other side of the "pool," back to the living room for the major attraction of the Games.

Then, like Picabo Street, Brianna swooshed through the obstacles of ribbons and bows in near-record time. Gift wrap flew like snow on the slalom as gifts returned to their original, naked identities. Brianna led the squeals of the crowd.

Then came the moment of truth, when Brianna opened one of the small gifts left by Santa.

The Chubby One heard that Brianna wanted a sleigh bell after seeing The Polar Express, just like the little boy in the movie.

To her surprise, The Big Man came through in the clutch. Underneath the wrap, was a padded jewel box with the coveted jingle bell inside, along with a hand-written note from Santa. The note said the bell was like the one in the movie and reminded her that Santa would always be around forever as long as she believed in Christmas.

Brianna jumped to her feet with the biggest smile of all on her face.

She acted like she was on the top step of the podium while holding up her new bell like a gold medal - the ultimate of all prizes for competitors.

Brianna swelled with the giddiness and pride of a champion. Meanwhile, JoAnn and I got big smiles on our faces, the kind that parents of a champion wear. We just wanted to find the ol' Super Elf and thank him for making Brianna feel like such a winner.

For 364 days a year, I live in a world where emotions and reactions are controlled by winning and losing.

This has been a year dotted with scandal and unfavorable circumstances created by athletes who have become too greedy and too blind to see the benefits they have earned by being able to use a God-given talent to perform in athletics.

Brianna's morning wasn't sports, but it was a good refresher course of how much fun unbridled joy can be. I've only known her for 5 1/2 years, but Brianna has become that has kept my compass pointing in the right direction.

I was very grateful for my gifts, but to be honest, they all took a backseat to the blessings, magic, miracle - and a gold medal performance - I got from watching one 9 year old.

Happy Holidays.

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