The morning dawns just as every other morning but this day is different. It’s not like yesterday or the day before. This day is filled with joyous anticipation. Stand still and take a deep breath. You can smell it in the air, which is also filled with an electrical charge unlike any other day. You can literally feel the wave of excitement breaking upon the world. Streets that are normally hidden in darkness now flash with blinking lights and even the crotchety old neighbor waves as you drive down the road. The music piped through department store speakers calls you back to earlier, happier times and you smile at childhood memories. It’s the day before Christmas, just one more sleep to go, and soon the anticipation will be over. Christmas will be here!
Some will have some last minute anxiety as they rush to finish the holiday shopping, whether it’s gifts for friends or food for Christmas dinner. A few tempers will flare as they grab for what’s left, but be patient with them. They’re only upset with themselves for waiting so long and promise they’ll do better next year. It’s the same promise they make every year.
Around four or five that afternoon, however, you’ll notice a change. Traffic will grow lighter as fewer people venture out. The restaurants are still busy as family and friends gather for a meal before heading off to Christmas Eve parties. Houses begin to fill up as department stores empty out. The shopping is done. The last present is wrapped. Satisfied or not, it’s time to put the hustle and bustle behind and turn eyes upon the family that await. Little ones search the sky for Santa’s sleigh, hoping to catch just a glimpse.
I remember my sister and I with faces plastered to the rear window glass as our father pulled out of the English Pub where we had just had dinner and took us to a friend’s open house. Every red light we saw blinking in the sky was Rudolph and we just knew Santa was going to pass us by since we weren’t home and in bed. Mom never told us it was just an airplane, allowing us the magic of the moment.
The evening is filled with church services and holiday gatherings. Some are opening a present or two while others wait St. Nick’s expected arrival. The town is quiet. The streets deserted. Everyone has made it home for that One More Sleep. The cookies and milk are set out along with carrots for the reindeer. Children are tucked into bed and wished a good night.
“Aren’t you going to bed?”
“Not yet,” Mom had said. “You’re dad and I want to have another drink and I want to stare at the lights on the tree. You know how I love to do that.”
“But Santa won’t come unless you’re asleep.”
“I’ll be in bed soon, Robbie,” she promised, tucking the covers under me as she brushed a strand of hair off my forehead. “You won’t miss it. I promise.”
“Don’t stay up too long. Santa is close. I saw Rudolph’s nose.”
“We won’t be. Now, go to sleep. Unless you go to sleep, the morning won’t come.” She kissed my forehead, my eyes already closing.
I woke up once and peeked out my bedroom door. Mom and Dad were still sitting there, a glass of eggnog in Mom’s hand, Jack and Coke in Dad’s while Johnnie Mathis sang in the background. They weren’t going to sleep! I was going to miss Santa because my parents weren’t tired, yet.
I slid back in bed, pulling the covers to my chin. My head nestled in my pillow. I was going to wait up. I wanted to see. My eyes closed and opened, eyelids grown heavy. I could do it, though. I knew I could. They just needed to go to bed so Santa would come. My eyes closed again. I’d just leave them that way for a minute, but a minute turned into one more sleep and I never saw Santa that night.
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For Further Reading ~ When They Stop Believing
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