Some of you may have noticed that December is upon us, which means Christmas is approaching like a runaway freight train captained by squirrels on speed. In the upcoming whirl of lights (this weekend), trees (this weekend), shopping (this…maybe next weekend), family and work, I thought I’d take a little time to share memories of Christmas-Past – from the days when lights were something we drove by after dinner, trees were something Mom and Dad picked out, and all the “Christmas shopping” was done for me instead of by me.
Yes, Virginia, we’re going back thirty-five years.
It was early Christmas morning,. The sun hadn’t risen. No birds had sung. Santa Monica gets no snow, but the air had a pre-dawn chill.
I jumped from my bed, too excited to notice the mingled smells of evergreen and fresh paint. The carpet felt soft beneath my feet as I padded toward the door. I knew the rule – no presents before dawn – but it was the first Christmas after we built a second story on the house and I thought I could bend the rules a little. I wouldn’t open anything, I’d just sneak down the stairs and look.
The door opened with a silent swish and I stepped into the hall. My parents’ door was shut and Dad’s gentle snoring said Christmas had not quite come. I glanced to my right. My brother’s door stood open, but his room was dark. I couldn’t see the bed. I considered waking him – he was my partner in crime – but after a moment I chose to let him sleep. Breaking the rules alone I could handle. A four year-old might cramp my first-grade ninja skills.
I turned left, toward the stairs, and screamed the loudest scream of my seven years.
Instead of an empty landing, I found myself face to face with Stretch Monster – the present of my little brother’s dreams – which he had sneaked downstairs and opened before the rest of us were awake. (Note: this was the last year “Santa”wrapped gifts in identifiable boxes.) Prize in hand, he sneaked back up the stairs. Halfway up he saw me at the top. When I turned to look in his room he crept up behind me, raised Stretch Monster high and waited for me to turn back – at which point he pulled its arms and roared.
As I said, I screamed.
Five seconds later my parents’ door flew open. Mom and Dad raced into the hall (to see what was the matter)…and what to their wondering eyes did appear, but a tot with a monster and sister in tears.
I still owe my no-longer-so-little brother for the near-fatal heart attack, but he gets full points for stealth and a bonus for execution. Scared the living daylights out of me – and created an awesome Christmas memory we’ve shared in the decades since.
What’s your best Christmas story? Leave me a link or comment, I’d love to hear.