Christmas is just around the corner, in case you missed all the fuss. Commercials barrage us with Holiday sales, Stores drown us in holiday music, and the lonely Salvation Army ringers make us feel guilty as we walk past them. But for parents, those are not the surest signs of the approaching holiday. No, the most reliable indicator for any parent is the energy level of a child. Kids start bouncing as soon as Thanksgiving is over and the closer to Christmas, the higher the bounce. A chorus of “Is Santa coming yet? Is it Christmas yet?” is all parents hear for the better part of the month.
When I was a child, my sisters, brother and I would search the house for presents, eager to uncover the treasures we would garner on Christmas morning. Diane was particularly good at ferreting out the latest hiding spots. My skill was being able to unwrap presents just enough to see what was being covered up, then rewrapping them to hide the evidence of my espionage. Did we get in trouble? Of course. Many was the time we were threatened with getting no presents as Mom assured us that there were plenty of kids who would love to get our gifts if we didn’t shape up. Besides, Santa surely would know we had been dishonest and skip our house that year. We heard this threat virtually every year as kids. Once we grew into adolescence, snooping wasn’t as much fun.
But no matter the age, we found it difficult to sleep Christmas Eve. One year—I think I was 12—it was the middle of the night and sleep was eluding me. At least it felt like the middle of the night. My bedtime was 8 pm, so it may have very well been 10 pm. Anyway, it was late and I swear I heard jingle bells out my window. By my reckoning, Santa was due to be in our area (my reckoning figuring that Santa would be at our house at precisely midnight) so it seemed not only logical, but highly probably that those jingle bells were the very same bells that adorned Santa’s reigns! Surely he was near; probably over at someone else’s house, but he would soon be at ours!
I sneaked out of my room. My younger brother was sound asleep in his bottom bunk and I made sure not to jostle the bed as I climbed down from the top bunk. I tip-toed across the floor and opened the door; pausing to peer outside down the darkened hallway. No light was visible from my parents’ room next door or my sisters’ at the other end of the hall. I crept down the hall and looked around the corner down the stairs. I could tell the Christmas tree lights were still on from the colorful hues on the walls. I knew we set out milk and cookies for Santa, along with a carrot for the reindeer. If the cookies were still there, then I would know I hadn’t missed him. I started down the stairs as stealthily as a 12-year-old could. The staircase had walls on both sides from the second floor to halfway down on one side. The rest of the way was open to the living room aside from a banister. If I could make it to the banister, I could see the tree and the presents.
I was less than three steps from my target when my dad rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairs. He saw me. I was caught! His scowling gaze took control of my body and I turned around and climbed the stairs significantly faster than I had come down them. Santa got a reprieve that Christmas. I would have to try harder next year. The next day, all four of us were up and in Mom and Dad’s room at 5:30 to get them up to go down to open presents. Every year, we would wake them on Christmas morning long before the sun came up, and every year, they would make us wait until 6 and until they had the coffee pot going.
But the next year, something else happened. We went through the traditional routine on Christmas Eve: touring lights, reading the Nativity story in the Bible, singing carols; then off to bed with the long period of no sleep and trying to figure out how to catch Santa. The next morning, I awoke feeling refreshed and took a long stretch while I blinked open my eyes. The sunlight was filtering in through the curtains and I turned my head to see my mother opening my curtains and looking out the window.
“Good morning,” I said wondering why she was in my room.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” she answered. She had a bemused smile on her face as she watched me thinking. “I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” I automatically answered before it dawned on me. “CHRISTMAS! IT’S CHRISTMAS!”
I was out of the top bunk in a bounce, and out the door to find my siblings gathered at the top of the stairs looking quite impatient. Mom made them wait for me and wouldn’t let them wake me. This was the latest I think we ever got to open gifts.
From then on, we all slept in a little later and once I became an adult, I slept in on Christmas. That is—until I had children. Once my son was old enough to understand Christmas, he ensured we were up at terribly early hours. This was payback for all the years we rousted Mom and Dad.
Now I have no problem sleeping in on Christmas as my sons are out of the house. I actually miss the anticipation of a child yearning for Christmas morning; but I get to hear the stories of my grandkids rousting their parents, and that brings back wonderful memories. Memories of bouncing off the walls waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for Santa to show up, waiting for Mom and Dad to get up. I know that my parents never needed to ask when Christmas was coming.