Whoever woke up first had the task of waking the others. We rarely agreed on anything, but Christmas was different. The first thing we did was race to the kitchen table to see if Santa had eaten his cookies and milk and taken the carrots we left out for the reindeer. Then, of course, we checked out the stash of presents under the tree.
My parents had a rule—we could open the small gifts in our stockings, but we couldn’t touch anything wrapped under the tree until my parents were awake. And we couldn’t wake them until the little hand was on the seven and the big hand was on the twelve. Sometimes that meant filling as much as two hours with a pile of wrapped presents just sitting there, waiting to be attacked..
For my sisters that time was torturous. But not for me. Because Santa (aka my mother) always left some unwrapped gifts under the tree—right out front. When we were younger, those gifts were coloring books and crayons or paper dolls. Later on, those unwrapped gifts were books—glorious, glorious books.
My family didn’t buy things that we could get for free at the library, so getting a book from Santa was a huge treat. My sisters didn’t care about the books, but I loved them. I remember finishing a Bobbsey Twins novel before my parents got up one year and moving on to my older sister’s Nancy Drew. Sometimes I read aloud while my sisters crawled around, reading the tags on the presents and guessing what was in the packages.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with deadlines this holiday season. There’s one crazy-making freelance project I really want to GO AWAY, although of course it won’t until it’s done. I haven’t had time to decorate and at this point I won’t bother (something you can get away with when you live alone). I’ll spend Christmas with my sisters and their kids—they’re all getting books, of course—but the day after I’ll be back at my desk.
I hadn’t planned on doing anything for me, but then I remembered Santa’s Christmas tradition. I’m going to give myself a book, a deliciously long novel. And then I’m going to give myself the time to read it.