Christmas Brings Out The Kid In Many of Us
by mary jane hurley brant
What is it about this time of year that goes straight to the heart? Is it the special foods like warm gingerbread or moist Jewish Apple Cake we love smelling and eating? You know, the kind with real whipped cream dripping and falling all over itself and down the sides of the cakes. Or is it songs like “I’ll be home for Christmas” or “The Candles of Hanukah” that make us sigh and cry because of all those goodbyes? Well, maybe the food and songs have a lot to do with our feelings about the holidays but I suspect the deeper joys in this season come from our memories. One of my favorite memories is when our kids were quite young and Christmas Eve was upon us.
We always trimmed our tree on Christmas Eve afternoon. Why put up a tree weeks before to enjoy when you could have it up for just a week then take it down? But we loved doing it together then sitting down to our traditional holiday meal of linguini and clams.
After the dishes were washed and the footed pajamas pulled up, the children hung their stockings and placed a few red and green sprinkled sugar cookies alongside a glass of milk for Santa. I wanted to put out a nice cold Bud but Santa didn’t think that was appropriate. I told him I knew Santa very well and he prefers beer over milk.
With cookies in place I began feeling nervous as we marched over to the fireplace and the kids did their annual shouting up the chimney for any last minute presents they hoped Santa wouldn’t forget to bring - and Mrs. Claus never heard of until that minute.
Then it was off to bed for the children with strict orders not to get up too early. Santa and Mrs. Clause liked this part because they could have a little drink and look over the kids’ presents. That’s when I got concerned though because some of those toys had lots of pieces to put together. I thought to myself, “I hope Santa doesn’t think I’m going to put those toys together. I’ll just try to look cute and smile at him.” But Santa wouldn’t be fooled, wouldn’t be distracted, “Where are the directions? I can’t find the directions!”
“Here they are” Mrs. Claus answered jubilantly, “and look, they’re written in Chinese, French and Spanish!”
Exhausted old St. Nick looked at her, then at the directions. That’s when a big sigh escaped his serious lips as he lined up the many parts and pieces of toys. “Is there a problem?” Mrs. Claus asked sweetly.
“A couple pieces are missing,” was Santa’s reply.
“Nothing’s perfect,” she smiled and batted her eyes as she poured them both another glass of wine. But Santa wasn’t buying this coquettishness on Mrs. Claus’s part and he started making noises that sounded like grumbling, so naturally Mrs. Claus began shushing him, afraid the children might wake up. That’s when Mrs. Claus saw Santa’s jaw start to clench so she zipped it up and chided herself, “What’s wrong with me? Stop shushing Santa because come on, you’re having a drink, it’s Christmas Eve, and poor old Santa is the one who has to read all those dumb instructions written in foreign code!” But she had to admit she didn’t feel guilty - not one bit - because she had her own duty: wrap the kids’ presents. So she asked, gingerly, “Are you almost finished? I have to wrap the toys before the sleigh pulls away you know.”
Santa’s head flew up, “No, Mrs. Claus, the elves never wrap presents at the North Pole because Santa puts them under the tree, unwrapped. Period!” Since Santa’s voice was authoritative and firm Mrs. Claus didn’t argue and, she didn’t wrap.
Finally it was 5:00 a.m. Mrs. Claus was gone and I was in her place. I sat up in bed and listened, “Why aren’t the kids awake?” So I quietly put on my bathrobe and tiptoed down the hall. Standing motionless outside the kids’ rooms I felt my excitement pumping. Finally, I just couldn’t stand it any longer and I began clearing my throat louder and louder because in our home on Christmas there were more than just two kids in the house. Then the three of us ran laughing and hollering down the hall.
But we had a family rule - everyone had to enter our living room at the same time, period. My husband, the king of teasers, had a routine that was simple: he tortured us all as much as he could for as long as he could before we entered the living room. First, he pretended he was asleep. Second, he crept out of bed and brushed his teeth in slow motion. After hearing enough, “DAD!” he said, “Okay, okay” and we all headed to the living room.
“Hey,” he shouted, “those cookies you left out for Santa were eaten!” Squeals of delight rang out as little feet tore down the hallway and halted at the top of the stairs where Katie’s brother Richard stood wide-eyed looking out into the living room.
“Look at all the stuff I got from Santa!” he yelled wildly. However, there was a small problem and of course Mrs. Claus saw it coming the night before when she suggested to Santa that all the presents needed to be wrapped before they went under the tree. That’s when young Richard couldn’t bridle his excitement a second longer and ran to his sister Katie’s “unwrapped” pile. Mrs. Claus let out an audible groan, “oh boy” just before she informed young Richard those toys in the pile he was standing next to were his sister’s presents, not his.
That’s when young Richard’s eyes filled with painful incredulity, his cheeks puffed out, and he threw himself down on the floor next to his big sister Katie who stood there wearing a big cherry lipped smile and the sassy cowgirl hat he thought was going to be his cool cowboy hat.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah everyone. Remember to count your memories and your blessings, too.
Published in The SandPaper, December 17, 2014