Christmas Presence Over Presents

When I think back on all of the wonderful Christmas memories in the Davis house, one stands above all the rest.  Now keep in mind that by “Davis house”, I mean “Big Ken” and Lenora Davis.  My parents.

December 25, 1987   East Chicago

It was Christmas morning and I had returned from college in Tallahassee, Florida to spend the holidays with the family.  My sister Denise and brother Terrance were back from Fisk University and Central State, respectively, joining youngest siblings Craig and little Kimberly.

As the five of us sat on the couches and floor, we exchanged and opened gifts while cracking jokes about each other.  The ribbing covered everything from each other’s schools to our boy/girlfriends, to our current wardrobe to the whoopin’s we got over the years around this time for whatever reason.

My mother was back and forth from the kitchen making bacon, salmon croquettes, grits, rice, scrambled eggs, and toast.  She always overcooked during the holidays, but we didn’t mind.  Everything she cooked, we ate, leaving no evidence. 

Every now and then she would stop and sit next to my father, watching us laugh together as Nat King Cole, The Temptations, Donny Hathaway and others sang soul and R&B Christmas songs on the “Soul Holidays” music mix cassette I had made.

My father didn’t say anything.  He just sat on the end table, hands reversed on his thighs with palms down, thumbs pointing inward, elbows out as he laughed at each insult cast between us.

But what stood out to me was how he smiled during his silent moments.  You didn’t have to be a mind reader to see the pride and happiness in his face.  He had wanted each of us to go to college.  Three of us were in and Craig was only two years away.  Kim was the youngest by eight years, but at 11, she was a straight-A student.

If you watched him long enough, you could see another expression mixed with his satisfaction.  It was gratitude and serenity.  He had found peace and joy in having his children home.  Mom had already made her jubilation clear by her outbursts of tears and praises to God, so there were no secrets there.  Dad on the other hand, said little, while failing to contain so much more.

It was the exact same face I remembered seeing as a little boy.  That elated visage both he and my mother shared as we children screamed in delight and surprise, eyes bright with the unwrapping of each toy.

Not one to seek gifts during the season, he preferred one thing every year, all summer long and during winter break…

He wanted his children home.  That was his present.

It was his final request to me the year he died in 1997; having his family together.  And even though I was out of vacation and personal time off, he managed to get me home for bereavement.  Not at all what I wanted, but he found a way to make it happen.

But I already told that story.

What was important was that his children, whom he’d often referred to as his greatest accomplishments, were together once again.

And now here I am, 25 years later, just days before Christmas. Smiling.

This year, just as every year before, I’ve made it known that I don’t want anything, encouraging them to give to each other.  I know that’s me being a hypocrite, since I love giving gifts.

I honestly don’t want anything.

I’ve got everything I could ever wish for:

We’re safe, in the home I built for my family twenty years ago. 
Everyone is alive (thank God) and healthy. 
There is no controversy or drama.

And I finally have a granddaughter!  My beautiful Gianna Rose (still working on a dessert food nickname for her).

And most important, for reasons I now understand as my father illustrated…

Within a two-mile radius, my family is all here.

Two live in apartments with their girlfriends.  But like last year and the year before, they’ll be here on Christmas morning for music, meals and merriment.

We will be together.

My Christmas presents? Their Christmas PRESENCE.

Amen, Merry Christmas.

Like what you read? Have a memory or comment to share? Leave a reply in the section below. And be sure to sign up at the bottom to receive email notification of future posts from Kenny’s Camera, Cooking & Crazy Confessions at!


  1. Beautiful piece. I can relate. I will remember this when I am with my sisters and their families today. It will be what my father would have wanted….their presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you kept that in mind while enjoying time with family. I think we miss that very important aspect of holidays too often. It becomes a thing when they’re no longer around and leaves us wishing for more time and opportunities. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it!


  3. ❤️❤️❤️ I love the stories about your Dad. I wish I could have met him. I hope to meet you in person one day and something tells me I’ll be meeting him then too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that I’m just like him. I ain’t ashamed of it. He was a hard act to follow, but the right one.

    So glad you enjoyed the story(ies). I have a thousand of them. And yes, we will meet up someday. Thanks, as always, for reading!


  5. So so beautiful Kenny. And the pictures too are so beautiful. You have a beautiful family. Whatever you write, it’s filled with so much warmth and love. My dad too was like that . He never wanted anything for himself. He used one pair of footwear for 8-10 years and only got another one when they could no longer be used. He had to customize them as he had polio and used to walk with a limp, but we never ever noticed that physical handicap as he was always so full of life and positivity . I feel fortunate to have been blessed with him as my father. Reading this brought back beautiful memories. Thank you 🙏


  6. That’s the great thing about fathers. TRUE fathers. They put everything before their family and others in their lives. As I got older, I learned to appreciate his sacrifices more, but I also hated them. I wanted him to do more for himself. That’s why when I was off in college and managing a men’s clothing store, I made sure to take him our most stylish sweaters for Christmas.

    I see your father was very much the same, so I know you were just as blessed. I’m glad the story brought back such fond memories for you.

    Thanks for reading!


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