My buddy Whitney blogged the other day about her experiences as a child during Christmas and it got me to reminiscing about mine. She mentioned how, one year, her mom dipped their dog's paws in ink and let him run up and down their tiled hallway...and she sprinkled hay down the hall...and to any kid, that's a reindeer in the house right there. So cute! We didn't have a dog growing up...well, we did have one at one time. But, thanks to Noah, we had to give her away to a farmer. Thanks, Noah.
So, we didn't have reindeer in the house. Although, the Easter bunny did leave paw prints up and down the hall when he would drop our baskets off at our doors (Mom cut out a bunny feet stencil, sprinkled flour over it...voila!) Who knew the Easter bunny was actually made of a magical white dust. We would always insist on leaving him carrots...because, duh, that's what rabbits eat...haven't you read the books. But for some reason, in our house, the Easter bunny really just liked cookies and chocolate. Very odd. Also, Santa's reindeer liked cookies and chocolate, too. We didn't believe our parents, because I mean...it's a rabbit...and reindeer...why wouldn't they like carrots? So, one year, they let us set out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. When we woke up, ALL of the cookies were gone, but the carrots were only nibbled here and there. Well, that answered our question. Who knew? From then on, it was just chocolate and cookies for the reindeer and Easter bunny. We also attempted to leave out milk. Santa never drank much of it. So weird...my parents hate drinking milk, too....that's odd.
Months in advance, we'd start preparing for Santa's arrival. Of course, we were on our best behavior, because Santa knows a lot. Christmas was, and still is, my favorite time of year. Just like Whitney said, it's completely magical. The second that Thanksgiving was over, it was like CHRISSTTTMAAAAAASSSSSSS. We would decorate the day after, Mom would put on Christmas music, we'd (help) decorate the tree...which took FOREVER, but we didn't care, cuz it was awesome. Sometime in December, Mom and Dad would take us to the mall to see Santa. We'd wait forever in line...the silly, snotty nosed, whiney kids in front of us. They'd cry and cry and cry...and then when their parents would say "Alright, nevermind then," they'd cry even more. You couldn't win with those kids. Sara and I would look at each other like, "Amateurs." We knew Santa. We knew he'd never hurt us and yeah, his beard was creepy and he smelled a little too much like peppermints, but he was a good guy. He'd always ask, "Have you been behaving this year?" "Of course." "Are those your parents?" "Yes, sir." "Have you been obeying them?" "Of course." "Have you been doing good in school?" "Always." "Well, sounds like you've been good this year. Let's have it...what do you want?" "Okay...here goes......" And we'd list off our needs for Christmas that year. We'd hug him. Then Mom and Dad would put baby Noah in his lap for a picture and that was it. The parents would always ask us on the way home what we asked Santa for. I never quite understood why we needed to tell them because Santa already knew, but out of respect, we would tell them exactly what we told Santa.
Our local newspaper and news channel would have Santa Sightings and we'd watch on the news as the weather radar would pick up an "unusual object" flying across the sky...RIGHT over our town. SAAAAANNNNNTTTTTAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
I could never sleep at all the night before Christmas. We'd have to go to bed at maybe 7:00 pm...way earlier than normal. Sara and I would usually sleep together and she slept just fine, so it was just me, apparently. I'd "wake up" at like 4:00 am and I'd wake her up and we'd try to listen for something, anything. Santa was quiet (or already in bed). We'd drift back off to sleep...and finally wake up for good around 6:30-7ish. We were given explicit instructions to not get out of bed until Dad came to get us. The hall door was shut, so we couldn't see anything. When Dad came and knocked on the door, we'd bolt up and wait, huddled by the hall door, while Dad went into the living room to set up the camera. Then, when we got the okay, we'd lunged our bodies through the doorway, without really waiting for the door to open all the way. I never realized this until much later in life, but Santa never wrapped our gifts. We always had our sections in the living room that he would put our presents. So, when we saw A Christmas Story for the first time, I always thought it was weird that their gifts were wrapped and under the tree. I always tried to picture how Santa set up our presents and how he always remembered which couch was mine and which was Sara's and when the boys got to experience Christmas, which place on the floor was theirs (they got the floor...ha). Santa was pretty smart. One year, he got us a trampoline. That booger set it up outside...so ingenious. You know, because he knew Mom and Dad wouldn't let us jump inside. It was so magical and special and I loved loved loved Santa. I loved the Easter bunny. I loved the Tooth Fairy. She had the prettiest handwriting. She always left us notes. Tooth Fairy, how did you put money under our pillows and not wake us up? You're really good at that.
Oddly enough, I'm horrified of all three now. The long Santa beards are CRAZY. I like the short, real ones. The idea of a GIANT bunny is terrifying (ever seen Donnie Darko?). And the Tooth Fairy is insane...don't watch Darkness Falls.
I don't remember how old I was when I asked Mom if Santa was real...she'll say I was 15 and that I cried for weeks. But mi madre es loco. Would you trust this person?
In truth, I was much younger (maybe 14) and I cried for about 10 minutes because then Mom explained that we would get to help Peter and Noah experience Santa and that seemed like a lot of fun to me. Santa was such an important part of my childhood and I cannot WAIT to share that joy and magic with the girls.
As special as Santa and all of the other mythical (real) characters were to me growing up, my parents never ever ever ever replaced the true meaning of those holidays with stories of St. Nick or Easterbunnyland. Every Christmas Eve, my Dad would sit us on the couch and we'd read the Christmas story...the real one. Every Easter, we'd read the Easter story. Santa and the bunny were just small, separate parts of very special holidays. My parents would even read verses to us about love during Valentine's Day. We never were confused by any of it. And we never put the myth above what was really important. And when Santa faded away from our childhoods, we knew it was just something that was fun and temporary and we looked forward to one day sharing that with our kids. But Christmas is still there. Santa's gone, but the reality that God Himself sent His only Son to be born among us in the lowliest of conditions...only to one day give His life for us, completely undeserving of it, without any hesitation...is still there and always will be. That beats out any chubby guy in a red suit that can fit down chimneys.
Have a wonderful Christmas Eve Eve! I'm going to go decide what type of cookies and chocolate the reindeer will like when the girls get older. I'm pretty sure they'd prefer those over vegetables.