I’ve lost track of which stories I’ve told you by now, so just tune me out if this sounds familiar.
When I was a kid, I was always very excited about Christmas; I would wake in the middle of the night, anxious to find presents under the tree where there had been none the night before. Every year until I was a teenager brought this yuletide-induced insomnia, but by far the most excited I’ve ever been about Christmas was the very first one I can remember, when I was Kina’s age. I recall bits and pieces of that night—waking in my bed in a silent house, tiptoeing out to the living room, seeing the presents laid out under the branches in the harlequin light of the tree, kneeling down next to a sled I’d never seen before (and that I knew was mine), and methodically tearing open every last present in the solitude of night. My parents, bleary-eyed, found me there and walked me back to my bed, letting me keep a glow-in-the-dark Superman watch (or was it Mickey Mouse?) which I stared at in wonder until I fell asleep. It was glorious.
This is the first Christmas we’ve ever celebrated as a small nuclear family, with our own tree, and so we’ve been really building up the hype this year. In light of that—and keeping my own personal history in mind—I’ve made a real point of hammering home to Kina in recent days that she should wait for us before she opens any presents this year, and she’s taken the matter under advisement. From time to time, I check in with her to see where she stands on the issue, and overall, she’s ambivalent, though in the last hour—as I put her to bed—she assured me that she’s capable of self-restraint. As a preventative measure, we let her open a present tonight that our neighbor gave her: a bag full of pink things that should keep Kina preoccupied for at least twenty minutes in the wee hours of the morning, if she wakes. I’ll likely wake in the middle of the night myself, either because I’ve heard stirring by the tree or because Kina’s newfound and specific excitement about Christmas is rekindling all the years of anticipation I felt for these mornings, and for tomorrow morning in particular.
We haven’t had a lot to look forward in the last twelve months, but in the closing chapter of the year, I’m giving us one little corner of the living room, with a half-garlanded tree shored up with presents and glittering with tiny lights. We’ll leave them on when we go to bed tonight, so Kina can see her way through.
If this meets you on the 25th, and you’re inclined to celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas. You deserve it.