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December 25, 2011
MADISON - Christmas morning always provided an opportunity for Wisconsin sophomore guard Josh Gasser that was simply too good to pass up.
"I was the youngest so I would always be the first one up," he said. "I was always pounding on people's doors to get them out of bed."
Gasser, like many other kids on Christmas morning, would then sprint down the stairs, dash into the living room and marvel at what was under the tree. Meanwhile his three older sisters and parents were attempting to gather themselves following that annual blitzkrieg.
"We're talking about eight in the morning," Gasser said. "For high school girls and parent's that's a little early. They'd be a little mad at me, but once they were up they realized how much I liked it as a little kid.
"They were fine with it, but a little angry at first."
Junior forward Mike Bruesewitz and his siblings maybe took it a step further each Christmas morning.
"When we were little kids we would jump on our parents bed," Bruesewitz said. "And we'd open presents at six in the morning or 5:30 in the morning. They were always pretty good about.
"But as we got older we pushed it back an hour or so."
In order to combat the madness of having four kids jumping on their bed, the Bruesewitz parents followed through with a plan.
"They started giving us books," Bruesewitz said. "We'd get one book the night before Christmas and we'd usually set a time the night before for when we were going to get up. It was usually about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. I would be up at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. so I'd have to read a book. If I finished the book then I could go into my parent's bedroom.
"They usually gave me a pretty thick book."
Freshman Frank Kaminsky is the middle of three Kaminsky siblings. He, like Gasser and Bruesewitz, played an integral role in jumpstarting the gift-opening process.
"I didn't even knock," Kaminsky said. "Probably about 8:00 a.m. I just busted in their door. My mom and sisters were always still tired from Christmas eve the night before. I was still in there to open all the presents.
"Then we'd go take a nap."
Sophomore guard Ben Brust, like Gasser and Bruesewitz, is the youngest in his family. With two older brothers and an older sister, Brust had his own set of traditions.
Each and every Christmas eve meant Brust would venture into his basement with hopes of finding his trusty old mattress. From there he'd bring it up to his sisters room, spread it out on her floor and sleep there until Christmas morning.
That's when they'd operate as the tag team that got everyone up and moving.
"We would wake up and go and wake up our grumpy old brothers who wanted to sleep an extra hour," Brust said. "We weren't having that."
It's all about the gifts:
If there was ever a beef to be had about gift placement under the Christmas tree, Kaminsky may serve as the poster child. While some may gloss over the whereabouts of their gifts as long as they got to open them, Kaminsky had a bit of an issue.
"I was always jealous of my older sister because her presents used to be in a cooler sport under the tree," he said. "Mine would always be behind the tree. I used to get pretty angry. It was like I was thought of last.
"Just throw them in the back."
Just like you can't judge a book by its cover, you simply can't judge a gift by its placement under the tree.
"When I was five or six years old my uncle got me a Nintendo 64," Kaminsky said. "I played that thing for hours. Donkey Kong 64 was the best game. That and NBA Hangtime.
"I put in more hours than I probably should have."
Gasser never said anything about the placement of his gifts. Instead he talked about the way he remembers getting a laptop one year and how that gift still gets plenty of use now that he's in the middle of his sophomore year of college.
This year it seems as though Santa came through a little earlier than usual, in the form of an iPhone 4S.
"I'm glad I got that," Gasser said. "I had an old school 1998 phone my whole life. It was about time for a technology change. I told my mom to get me that so that was my gift for the year. It might be my ultimate favorite.
"I can play on that for a while."
When Ben Brust was asked to share what his favorite Christmas gift was growing up he thought about it for a while before eventually coming up empty. It was one of those instances that caught him off guard and one where he probably remembered what he liked the most immediately after the fact.
He did, however, share a great story starring his oldest brother and his sister.
When the Razr cell phone craze was in full effect early in the 2000's, Brust's sister wanted nothing more than to own her own piece of the fad.
So when her brother opened a box early during the gift-opening phase only to reveal the hottest cell phone out there, she instantly became upset.
"He starts rubbing it in and she gets teary-eyed," Brust said. "She was crying and whining opening up her gifts."
That's a devastating moment during this specific holiday. When you really want something and really sell yourself on the fact that you're going to get it, it's hard to accept the realization that it might not be coming.
It can be a very emotional moment, and one that most anybody can probably relate with.
"Her last gift was a box," Brust said. "She opens it up and she starts balling tears of joy and madness. It was just the funniest thing. We make fun of her to this day. If I could just show you the picture of her face it describes it all.
"It's a picture of her smiling, crying, whining, mad and sad all in one."
The inevitable realization:
One of the most daunting moments in a child's life is the moment he or she realizes Santa isn't real. There just aren't many things that could be worse than finding out a fictional good-giver doesn't actually fly across the entire globe, in one night, in a sled pulled by reindeer meant to deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls.
Once you find out that Santa doesn't exist it feels like a little part of you has been taken away. And just as heartbreaking, a lot of the times, is the way you typically find out.
"I found all my presents in the closet in the basement," Kaminsky said. "I was devastated. I kind of had an idea because I had a Christmas present from Santa and a Christmas letter from my grandpa and they both happened to be the same handwriting."
Gasser, who said most of his friends were a year or two older than him, found out through them that Santa didn't exist.
"My parents were a little upset with that," Gasser said. "(My friends) just straight up told me and they talked about it. I remember telling my mom and she was a little upset. It was kind of unfortunate that I was friends with older people, and all my cousins and stuff were older than me.
"So they kind of ruined it for me."
Bruesewitz, like Gasser, is the youngest of the Bruesewitz clan. As the rational person he is, the not quite 6-foot-7 version of himself figured it out with a simple walk into his mom's sowing room.
"All the Christmas gift tags that my mom had in her sowing room were the ones she kept on all her presents," Bruesewitz said. "Also, Santa conveniently had the same handwriting as my mom did. It's just odd coincidences.
"I finally put two and two together."
Brust, also the youngest of his family, wasn't necessarily devastated himself. He actually made fun of Kaminsky for saying he was devastated by that realization.
"Frank probably would be upset," Brust said. "I was the person who told a girl in grade school and she started crying in class. I feel bad about that. I was like, 'I shouldn't have said that.' I had older siblings so I kind of grew up knowing so it just kind of naturally happened.
"I just realized that my mom's handwriting was a lot like Santa's."