It was 6:30 Christmas morning. My house was quiet, but I knew from past experiences it was only the calm before the storm. First comes the rumble of footed pajamas hitting the hardwood floor, followed by running down the hallway and finally the bed shaking from bodies jumping on top of me shouting, “Santa came! Santa came!”
Then, as quickly as they have descended upon me, they’re gone, running down the stairs to see what awaited them under the Christmas tree.
“Don’t touch anything until I get down there,” I gleefully shout, pretending to know nothing of what they are about to discover.
“Mommy, hurry up.”
I never once let on that it was I who took the bite from the cookie and drank the lukewarm milk, or that the ashy boot prints on the floor from the fireplace leading up to the tree were my hand; literally, my hands were buried in an old pair of hiking boots. Also, their presents from me were wrapped in a different paper than the ones from the North Pole.
However, the pièce de résistance, was a handwritten note from Santa. It was done on a special vellum paper with a fountain pen filled with translucent blue ink, used only once a year, congratulating each child on jobs well done.
I’ll admit my efforts rivaled that of a serial killer who doesn’t want to get caught, but wants the credit, nonetheless.
On this morning, 2021, at 6:30, the house was still silent. I wasn’t totally surprised; the twins are teenagers now and Jack is 25. I went downstairs and loaded up their stockings with trinkets and gift cards to Starbucks and Jamba Juice, pulled out the specially wrapped presents from the hall closet, and placed them under the tree. I made a pot of coffee, started a fire in the fireplace, and sat in the living room. It was 7:00.
“Santa came!” I shouted up the staircase.
That’s okay, I thought they could sleep a little longer. I finished that cup of coffee, started on the second, and sat back down in front of the fire.
My cell phone dinged.
It was my group chat with my closest friends, all parents of my kids’ friends.
Are anyone’s kids up yet?
Within seconds everyone chimed in with the same response. No.
Mine still asleep.
What’s up with that?
“Santa came! Santa came!” I hollered up again like a longshoreman.
“5 minutes, Mom.”
“5 minutes? It’s already 9:30!”
I wish someone had told me that you only have 10 magical Christmases. Only 10. Early on, I took it for granted. I thought it would last forever.
Kids don’t understand the concept at first. But by the time they reach 4, they’ve figured out the system – sit on the smelly old man’s lap, don’t cry, don’t wiggle, and tell him your heart’s desire. Days later, it magically appears under that bright tree. By age 6, they’re giving Santa detailed handwritten lists, forcing you to dash back and scramble, “Hey, elf dude, give me back my kid’s list. I need it.”
The golden years. Right around the 10th one, some kid’s rotten older brother spills the beans. But with a bit of finesse and hard work, you can keep the illusion going for a couple more years. They go along with you based on the adage – if you want to receive, you must believe.
Then they no longer can hear the ringing of the bell, and you find yourself alone at 10:00 on Christmas morning bellowing, “For God’s sake, kids, frickin’ Santa came!”
The chat dings again.
Anybody’s kids up yet?
No, parents moving on to Bloody Marys.
Now there’s a brilliant idea.
Apparently, the tree will not be the only thing lit on Christmas morning.
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