…and mistletoe and holly and snow and slush and poop…
…and there was a poop…
At some point the smell of coffee hits. Or the sound of music drifts into your consciousness. Or dreams finally bid you farewell, and you wake from your slumber. Who really knows how it happens? But it is never a question as to what day it is.
When you were young it was a day of great mystery. All the things you have wanted and hoped someone had been paying attention, maybe, just maybe someone thought you have been good. At least for the last two months you have been on your best behavior. And you would make your way down the stairs, never running. Not like all the movies. You have had too many accidents on the stairs to dare running down them. But the smell is always the same, and the music is always the same, and the air is filled with some kind of excitement.
It isn’t like that anymore. Certainly you open your eyes and smell the coffee and hear the soft crooning of Christmas music from somewhere below. But there is no mystery to the day. No magic or wonder.
The threat of getting no present should you be bad no longer stands. When one says they don’t want anything, they still will get something. It is too socially unacceptable to NOT get them something. This is a day of giving.
People create shopping lists of things they want. There is no mystical being breaking into your home at night to steal sweets and leave suspicous packages behind. Stockings become holders for all the random candy and other items too small to justify wrapping. And the mystery that is the very purpose of wrapping paper is gone, because you already knew you were getting everything you get.
We finally gather together and begin opening presents around close to noon. No one is in a rush to get moving. Some never changing out of their pajamas. When the first corner of paper begins to tear, it is the dogs who show the most excitement. My parent’s older golden retriever long ago learned the fun of tearing up paper. What once was cute that she could open her own presents has now become a battle of whack-a-mole, except it is snatching presents back from her before she can open them for you. Combined with my cousins’s black energizer doggy who has learned the same game… Slowly unwrapping presents to savor the mystery is a thing of the past. The ground between us is littered with ignored dog toys and shreds of paper.
Somewhere in the background the warm smells of food drift from the kitchen and hunger pulls us from the living room. We snack on random bits while playing with our new toys. Except me. For some reason I never ask for things I can play with. I walk around in my new boots. I flip through new books I won’t be starting yet. Until finally I get on my computer and work on school stuff that has no impending due date.
It feels like a short day. Maybe the shortest. We wake up late. And then it is dark out so early. By 6pm it feels as though we have all been milling around for days. By 9pm we are struggling to justify staying up. What did I even do today? This day that is about family and togetherness. We did not talk to any extended family, and everyone sat around staring at their electronic devices. Maybe that is Christmas now. An internet live time map showing you where Santa is as he flies across the world. No reindeer. All electric fireplaces. Instant video notification of anyone who even gets close to your front door. I made cookies. “World Famous” my cousin calls them. And I left the bottle of White Christmas (rum and brandy) out on the counter, just in case anyone wanted some eggnog. But the dog only barked at my cats. And the nog was only being drunk by me.
In the end, it it’s not really about the presents. The things we ask for. And while it is no longer a mystery as to what is under the sparkly paper, it is an indication that we are not alone. We make a list and send it into the world, and the message we receive back is saying, “I am here, I see you, and I love you.” Maybe there is no cherry cheeked fat man laying down the fear of coal unless you pay him in sweets. But there is the promise of love and warmth as long as you put in the effort to nurture it. Maybe it won’t snow, and maybe you won’t get kissed under the mistletoe, but the mere presence of unconditional love is the gift you are given by an extraordinarily happy man who brings you all together.