Santa's nicest gift: joy wrapped in love Christmas: Visits to several area homes find them aglow with the wonder of Christmas.

December 26, 1997|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Two-year-old Michael Kelly -- blond hair, blue eyes that sparkle like Christmas lights, face smeared with chocolate -- rests his head on a stuffed bear's leg in his family's living room, next to a large Christmas tree.

His 6-year-old brother, Joey, bangs on a toy, begging for attention.

It's young Michael's first Christmas here; in July he was adopted from an orphanage in southwestern Russia by his parents, Marie and Michael.

"He's so special," says Marie, 34, as she holds Michael's mechanically giggling Tickle-Me Cookie Monster in her lap. "Christmas is about family. We wanted to expand ours."

Those sentiments were echoed in her small neighborhood of Jeffers Road, Jeffers Circle and Jeffers Court near Towson by families still opening presents and others enjoying the beautiful day outside.

Megan Baily, 5, pushes her stroller down Jeffers Circle, her sister and father following closely. She looks down at her doll, Emily, who's wearing a new red Christmas dress decorated with snowmen, teddy bears and wreaths. Megan says she likes her presents, but Christmas is more than that.

"It's baby Jesus' birthday," Megan says shyly as she brushes the smiling bear on her own new red dress. "I like celebrating his birthday."

To Cathy Bolesta, 44, mother of two, Christmas is about family, even as her former husband drives away with her two boys, Christopher, 10, and Matthew, 8.

Bolesta was awakened at 5 a.m. by her boys, excited to see what Santa had left, wondering if the reindeer had munched down the carrots they had left. It's noon, but Bolesta is still wearing her pajamas and a sweat shirt.

"I'll think about them while I'm at my younger brother's party," says Bolesta, standing on her Jeffers Circle front stoop. "Christopher even said this was all about family, friends, our health."

Down the street, grandparents, aunts and uncles have gathered at the Bowersock home.

Eight family members -- all opening presents -- crowd in the living room; a grandfather drinks beer, a mother sips coffee.

For 16 years the Bowersocks have been gathering here. But Christmas finally feels complete, says Mary Bowersock, 45, who lives there with her husband and two daughters. The family has an addition this Christmas, Diane Barnard, a sister-in-law.

"We've finally come to a full circle," Bowersock says. "Everybody has somebody."

On the street, Jessica Evensen, 6, skips rope, having mastered the running hop a week ago.

Jessica knows that Christmas is about family -- even though she and 4-year-old brother, Drew, woke her mother at 7 a.m.

"I don't know," Jessica says as she skips along the sidewalk. "I guess it's about my family."

Her mother agrees. Three weeks ago, Danielle Evensen learned that she was pregnant with her third child.

"It's like another Christmas present," says Danielle, as she watches Jessica lasso Drew with her jump rope, tripping the pajama-clad boy wearing wolf-style slippers.

"This is the one day when they're on their best behavior, too," Danielle says. "They were just so surprised, amazed that all this comes together this morning."

A few houses down on Jeffers Road, the Luera family, including grandparents and grand uncles, have gathered to open presents and enjoy brunch. Xanne Luera, 32, mother of two, is still wearing her bathrobe at 11 a.m., her eyes droopy from her children's 8 a.m. wake-up call.

Xoe, 10, scrunching her hazel eyes, twisting her many freckles, bounces on a large rubber ball, then quickly shifts gears to display her new Beanie Babies. Then, Xoe rushes across the room to join her family -- a scene worthy of a modern day Norman Rockwell, if only a painter could capture the mechanical roars from a toy dinosaur.

Her brother, Austin, 4, plays with his tools -- that's right, he received a real workbench, a few levels, a tape measure.

"While all the other kids are getting the latest electric toys, we get Austin the latest tools, real tools," says father Chip, 35. "He loves to build things."

On the couch, Pat Dorn, 51, listens as his brother, the Rev. John Dorn, 55, explains the homily he delivered Christmas Eve at Holy Trinity Monastery in Pikesville.

A school holds a play with a nativity scene. A young boy doesn't want to be an innkeeper because he simply can't turn away Mary and Joseph, but the boy's family forces him to return and play his part.

When the curtain opens and Jesus' parents approach his inn, the boy welcomes them with open arms -- instead of turning them away and forcing them to find a stable.

"It shows that any of us can change our story if we wish," Dorn says.

And this is the first Christmas that members of the Luera family won't be celebrating at their great grandmother's home. She died earlier this year.

"It's really hard on us," says Xanne, the mother. "But we have to start new traditions, build new memories."

Pub Date: 12/26/97

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