It's Christmas Eve…probably my most favorite day of the year.
When I was growing up, Christmas Eve seemed to last foooorrrreeeevvvveeeerrrrr…time seemed to stop, and the hands on the clock seemed frozen in time. And yet, that was okay, as the anticipation of what Santa Claus was bringing gave me an adrenaline rush that lasted all day.
We would sometimes visit friends…sometimes visit Midnight Mass at church, if we could stay up that late…and sometimes just sit quietly at home, watching a Christmas classic, such as "It's A Wonderful Life." If we could beg and plead and whine long enough, Mom and Dad would sometimes let us open up a Christmas gift early…but it would usually be something like underwear, or pajamas, so gah - what was the point to THAT??!!
One Christmas Eve, I took my usual book to bed, and became totally engrossed in whatever magical story I was reading at the time…and lost track of time. Suddenly, I heard footsteps…on the roof. Oh. My. God. I had stayed up so late that I was now awake during Santa's visit - the Big Man himself - and I was totally petrified. As in, my heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and I could not breathe.
"HE KNOWS IF YOU'RE AWAKE" kept repeating in my head, and I knew - just KNEW - that I would now lose out on Christmas, since I had not been sleeping, like I should have been. My folks had ingrained in us that if we were not sleeping during Santa's visit, he would skip over our house. YIKES. I was so screwed. Diving under the covers, I lay there, shaking, hardly daring to take a breath in case Santa heard. For a few minutes, I hid in fear…and then…thinking I had surely given him enough time to do his thing, I hopped out of bed, peered out my window - and I swear…I SWEAR TO THIS DAY…that I saw his sleigh and reindeer take off for the next house.
I flew back to bed, still so hyped up that it seemed like hours before I fell back asleep. Imagine my trepidation the next morning, wondering if there would be anything - ANYTHING - under the tree for me. At this point, I would have been happy with underwear or pajamas - so imagine my relief when it became evident that Santa had not "punished" me with a lump of coal for daring to be awake during his midnight visit.
TO THIS DAY, I STILL SWEAR I HEARD SANTA ON MY ROOF THAT NIGHT.
Don't ask me how. Don't even ask me how I saw his sleigh take off.
But I did.
As I grew up and had my own family, with a house full of children and grandchildren, my magic is now in watching others open up their presents. I could watch all day - seeing the delight in their face, hearing their squeal of delight - it never gets old. That's the best present I could ever have…being surrounded by the ones I love, and seeing joy on their faces.
Tonight, we will head down to our local theater, where we will watch some extremely talented actors put on "A Christmas Carol". It's become our newest tradition - for the last five years or so, anyway - and we enjoy it. Hearing Dickens' tale of how Scrooge was transformed on Christmas Eve never gets old for us…and then we'll head home, enjoy some chili from the crockpot, and then head to bed.
I'll pick up my Kindle, and I'll become engrossed in my newest magical story of choice…and maybe…just maybe…I'll manage to stay awake long enough to hear those familiar footsteps on my roof again.
Because when it's all said and done…yes, Virginia…there really IS a Santa Claus.