For so many years, Christmas morning in our house has been a blur of too little sleep, much too early rising, and naps on the couch after all the wrappings have been torn off. The holiday has always been matched in my memory with a feeling of profound exhaustion.
There was the year when Paul and I fell asleep well after midnight, after carefully sneaking presents out of the attic and under the tree. A mere three hours later, three year old Tim woke up in hopes of starting the day. We held him off until 4, but then his Christmas joy burst into life. Before we knew it, the other two kids were up and jingling stockings to see what Santa had left them.
I remember the year of strep, when all three kids and I were sick. We still got up early, unwrapped, opened and played with toys, but Christmas dinner was Cream of Wheat. It was the only thing we could swallow!
And let’s not forget the memorable Christmas morning when little Matt calmly announced that there was a “creature” in the hall. (We must have read him “The Night Before Christmas” that year!) We reassured him that there were no “creatures” in our house, but he pointed down the darkened hallway and stated matter-of-factly, “Yes there is. Right there.” And I screamed! There was a mouse boldly heading toward the living room, wondering what all the excitement was about.
I love those memories, of course. But as I sit here on the couch this Christmas morning, well rested, with a cup of espresso in hand, I realize that I don’t miss the predawn wake up call as much as I thought I might.
My daughter is making a big breakfast of home made hashbrowns, bacon and eggs. The dogs have been walked (by my better half, not by me), and the youngest child is still asleep downstairs. No presents have been opened, no stockings have been plundered. Christmas is in a state of suspended animation this morning, and its not all bad.
Child number two isn’t here, and that has left a big hole in the holiday. I miss his voice, his big feet, the sight of him lounging on the couch. I miss the laconic jokes that bring his siblings to laughter. I miss his smile. It might say December 25th on the calendar, but it won’t be Christmas until he gets here later for turkey and all the trimmings.
So this Christmas morning is a new beginning. It has echoes of the old days with its crazy tree, its familiar knit stockings and its stockpile of chocolate treats. But it has a new sense of calm, and less stress and fatigue.
Maybe we earn these quieter holidays when we cope with the frenzy of the younger years. Maybe a restful Christmas is the just reward of having provided so many years of crazy joy. It could be that as we enter our golden years, we older people will be able to sit back and enjoy our well earned rest.
On the other hand, perhaps this is just a little respite before grandchildren arrive on the scene!