It is exactly one week before Christmas, and I am worried that I won’t be ready. I think I have purchased all of the presents. I think I have all of the ingredients to bake cookies. I think I have enough bows and batteries. I have plans to clean and bake like a madwoman this weekend, I made arrangements for our five year old to visit with my parents so I can accomplish more while he has fun with them, and I have cleared my work schedule as of Friday, Dec. 19 at 4pm, to give myself time to make Christmas magic happen. My real work schedule, that is. If only I could get paid to wash windows, scrub bathrooms, mop floors, vacuum, dust, and somehow get those Lucky Charms marshmallow spots off the carpet! At least my Christmas trees are up and decorated. A designer of Christmas ornaments and gifts, Patience Brewster helped inspire me to slow down and enjoy decorating the trees and reflect on our traditions.
In the meantime, my poor husband will be assembling toys, finishing the homemade Lego table, and making room for all of the gifts from Santa. He will be in charge of making sure that Cookie, our elf, finds his way to a few more really good hiding spots, and he will have the distinct pleasure of vacuuming our stairs, cleaning our banisters, making our oven and kitchen sink shine, and washing down the walls that are too high for me to reach – picture a 20-foot stairwell wall and a precariously perched ladder.
Christmas Eve will find us, after family dinner and church services and the battle of getting two so-excited-that-they-are-vibrating boys into bed, cleaning up for the final time, praying our angels stay asleep while we make trip after trip from the basement and secret gift closet, loading batteries into toys in gift bags, and preparing the shiny new iPad with games and apps galore.
With everything that I still have to do, I have one thought that gets me through the pre-Christmas chaos: Christmas morning. When it comes right down to it, Christmas morning is the reason I drive myself crazy from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. Truth be told, I have more trouble staying in bed on Christmas morning than our boys do. I wake up before the sun, if I even sleep at all, and force my grumbling husband out of bed. I start turning on Christmas lights and lighting candles. I turn up the fire, start filling the cookie trays, and then I just sit and take it all in. It’s the proverbial calm before the storm.
When I was young, my brother and I were not allowed to peek at the presents on Christmas morning until my grandparents arrived. It was torture, waiting for them to arrive, but we always did. I never understood why we had to wait, because I knew that we could just show our grandparents what Santa brought us; now that I am a mom, I understand. Christmas morning is more special for the adults than it is for the children. We get to see the kids’ faces and experience the joy and magic of Christmas through them. They get new toys and games, but we get the joy of being together and spending time in the moment as a whole family. I admit, I have made it a little easier for our boys by ordering my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to be at our home bright and early. The funny thing is, nobody really complains about the early hour.
We open our stockings first and hand out presents to family members. We are not one of those families that takes turns opening gifts, but we do try to keep a slower pace to the opening frenzy. Our boys are still at the age when they enjoy handing gifts to others – and occasionally helping to open them – so we do get to see the surprises hidden in the packages, for the most part. We snap pictures and we struggle to open cardboard boxes and those straight-out-of-Fort-Knox plastic straps that hold down each and every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure and accessory. My favorite part is watching everyone’s faces as more wrapping paper flies and more wishes come true.
After the gifts are open, we start our traditional family breakfast. English muffins, Canadian bacon, dozens of eggs, and stacks of American and cheddar cheese appear on the counter as we make our homemade breakfast sandwiches. My grandmother is in charge of the eggs, my mom is in charge of the Canadian bacon, and my aunt and I are in charge of the toasters. After all these years, it is embarrassing to say that we still have to ask everyone how they want their eggs to be cooked. But, I know my grandmother will gross out everyone by putting jam on her sandwich. I know my brother will drink a quart of chocolate milk by himself. I know our younger son will refuse to eat until he is seated on my dad’s lap. And, I know that it will be another Christmas morning that makes my heart smile.
In the meantime, I just remembered we are going to ride on the Polar Express Sunday afternoon. Who schedules a Polar Express train ride four days before Christmas? What the Hell?
Image via Flickr by dony31