“Is it time yet?”
“Not yet, Lor. Climb in here with me…you wouldn’t want to let Santa know you’re up. He might not leave anything if he knows you’re awake.”
Breathless, I burrow down and cuddle up. My little ears strain for the sound of harness bells or booted feet, and as I listen the white noise of sleep takes over. When I wake again it’s full light, and the living room proves that Santa has indeed been here.
(What I don’t know for years and years is that Daddy went out looking for stuffed animals for me, and even then was wrapping, wrapping, wrapping…)
This memory always reminds me of the story Mom loved to tell, about her first Christmas memory. Her Daddy took her to the tiny second-floor balcony and pointed to the hoof-prints of eight reindeer…how they could have landed on that postage-stamp space is a question Mom never thinks to ask. She is enchanted, and so am I by the telling.
These memories leave me feeling ambivalent now. My husband and I are not big fans of Santa Claus and find the magic of the season in a stable instead. Our kids didn’t lie awake listening for sleigh bells or worry that the chimney was too small. Did we cheat them? We wanted to spare them the disillusionment of unmasking the untruth, and the skewed image of God with which we struggled for years before meeting Jesus personally. We always made much of Advent, lighting candles, decorating and baking, counting down the days with a paper chain or a special calendar. We always read them “The Night Before Christmas” before bed on the 24th, but it was just a beloved story (and the pop-up version my mom gave us still delights today).
Is there a Christmas memory for you which is bittersweet now? What did you do differently than your parents did, and are you glad as you look back on that decision? I wouldn’t change the way we celebrated Christmas when the boys were little. I wonder how they feel about it now, both nearly grown, or if they care. I wonder what they remember as special, and I hope we’ll get a chance to talk about that…maybe this Christmas eve.