Once Upon a Christmas
“We want up! We want up! We want up!”
The chant grew louder and the dark morning faded to light as six silhouettes become visible on that early Christmas day. We were on a mission to wake Mom and get permission to go into the living room to see what Santa had brought.
“Do you think she’s awake?” Rita asked.
“I don’t hear anything,” Jimmy answered.
“We want up! We want up!” Jimmy cried, his voice louder this time. He was the oldest and knew what to do. It sometimes took drastic measures to wake Mom on Christmas morning after she…. ahemm… Santa would be up half the night decorating our tree and then filling each of our socks with hard candy, nuts and oranges. I guess it would have been easier if Dad would have stayed sober the night before and if us six kids would have refrained from telling stories half the night and trying to stay awake till we heard Santa on our rooftop.
“I think I hear someone…” Larry said. Jimmy jumped from his bed and tiptoed across the cold linoleum floor to the bedrooms door and cracked it, peeking at the magic beyond our place of rest.
“Was he here? Did Santa come last night?” I asked.
“Yea,” Jimmy said.
Mom’s door opened, then shut and I could hear her slippers scuff across the small kitchen floor and into the living room.
“Can we get up now?” Jimmy asked, still peeking from our cold room.
“Not yet,” Mom replied, “Now get back in there and close the door!”
Why wouldn’t she let us go out? Why did she put us through this same agony every single year? Why did we have to wait for her okay to see what Santa brought for us in the middle of the night while we were asleep? My heart was pounding inside my chest and I lay shivering beneath the old wool blanket that sheltered me from the cold. Winds slapped hard on the frosted window by the bed I shared with my sister Angie. I could hear mom-shoveling coal from the coal bucket into the potbelly stove in the living room and I heard the poker hit against the stoves wall as she began to stoke up the fire after it had more than likely almost died out. Mornings were always cold in our house until the fire would be built up and hot red coals would replace the gray pink ash from the previous nights fixing. It was the place of choice; sitting next to the stove’s warmth… and oftentimes we’d fight over who sat next to it. Jimmy was still waiting at the door and a line had formed behind him. Not wanting to get in trouble for disobeying the Christmas rule of staying in bed till Mom said we could get up, I waited shivering beneath the blanket with visions of my hearts desire, a new baby doll with a minuscule wardrobe, waiting beneath the Christmas tree for me. I couldn’t wait to smell the new plastic smell, wrap her in a blanket, hold her close and love her.
David giggled at Jimmy cracking jokes and fidgeting at the door while Rita pushed Angie out of the way so she could be second in line. Larry stood his ground, third in line, not smiling or showing any signs of enthusiasm but rather hiding in his armor of steel. I could feel the fires warmth beginning to seep beneath the door and I could even smell the trees fresh pine mingled with candy canes and new toys. My senses were always best at Christmas-time, and oftentimes I could actually hear Santa and his reindeer on our little house’s rooftop late into the night. I’d close my eyes tightly though and pray to sleep… because I knew about Santa’s magical powers and that he was aware if we were awake and he wouldn’t dare enter a house with children who were not sleeping soundly.
“Okay,” Mom said. “You can come out now.”
The door bolted open and an army of kids filled the room of enchantment searching for their names beneath the tree. I gingerly knelt down by the rest and that’s when I saw her. Her name was Chatty Baby and she was the cutest doll I’d ever seen… and her tag read ‘To Bobbie Jo from Santa’.
Our little house was filled with love as relatives came and went and neatly wrapped presents were torn open with enthusiasm and excitement. As dusk slowly made it’s way into the Christmas sky, the trees delicate colorful balls and bright multicolored lights blended with it’s silver icicles continuing to bring the days magic to life as we played happily into the night with our new toys.
Christmas memories can be laden with regret or thick with joy. If you would ask one of my siblings to describe past Christmas’s they may see things differently. Optimism is a trait of choice.
God bless and Merry Christmas.