It's Christmas Eve, and inevitably, as family gathers and conversation flows, memories float to the surface and bubble out in stories. They are the same stories we tell every year. Some details change from year to year, or depending on the person telling the story, but the spirit of the stories is the same. It's all about reliving those years gone by, which seem even better the further past them we get.
I know I have shared my favorite childhood Christmas tradition before, but this year it seems especially dear to me as I hear from friend after friend that they are considering doing away with Santa for their children. It's deceitful, they say, and I don't want some strange fat man to get the credit for the presents I bought for my kids. And to that I say...seriously? I don't remember really ever believing in Santa, so maybe I don't have a fair perspective. My sister told me when I was very young that Santa was not real, but I don't remember being all that upset.
Not believing didn't stop my siblings and I from having what we term "Santa drills." We all remember things slightly differently, but this is what I remember. Starting probably in early December, my brother, Ben, would begin calling "meetings." My sister, Emily, was to take notes on the meetings, so we wouldn't forget what we discussed, of course. After these meetings, we progressed to the actual drills. Now, the rule at my house was that we were not allowed to check our stockings until after 1am. So the main purpose of our drills was to make sure that we could find the quietest route downstairs so we didn't wake our parents with our mid-night wanderings. Emily and I would go to our room and feign sleep, and my brother would creep in and "wake" us. We would find the least creaky floorboards and only place our feet on the outside of the stairs, where they made little noise. We would do this time and again until it was perfect, at least according to Ben's standards. When the big event came, we were a well-oiled machine, and we would sneak stealthily (in my eyes) down and silently exclaim over the treasures left in our stockings. Our excitement temporarily satisfied, we would go back to bed and sleep until we were allowed to wake our parents at 6am. It wasn't until years later that Ben confessed to Emily and me and he used to sneak down before waking us and go through all our stockings to see what we got. Big brothers...
Tonight, as we were were talking over a delicious feast of lasagna, I made some confessions of my own. You see, my own personal Christmas tradition was to always find the stash of Christmas presents. Even back then I was employing my ninja skills, as I would usually need to sneak into my parents' bedroom to do my searching. The presents were usually in the closet, and I would climb back as far as I could go and search through the pile in the dark. One year my sister got a "teacher stool," and I would go sit on it in the dark regularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Tonight I recalled one time when I was in the midst of searching when my parents came into their room. I was so deep in the closet, they had no idea I was there, and I froze like a frightened bunny. My dad reached into the closet to change clothes, and still I remained invisible to them. I stayed that way for several minutes after they vacated the room, just in case. Tonight they learned for the first time that I was there, when I stopped giggling long enough to tell them. Of course, there was always the old-fashioned ways of finding out the gifts too...shaking the presents, or peeking through the keyhole when my mom shut herself in her room to wrap the presents.
It has been fun watching my nieces and nephew create their own Christmas memories, their own stories that, twenty years from now, they will be laughing about with their families over Christmas Eve dinner. As much as things change, they still seem to stay the same.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and may your holidays be blessed and full of love.
Laugh on, friends :)