pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Silent night

25 December 2012

Silent night


Orange County, California
25 December 2012

I could hear the chatter of voices by 6:30 am, but I was warm and disinclined to get out of bed. Probably someone heard me cough because not long after, the spouse brought me a cup of coffee and informed me that my presence was requested in the living room.

The daughter, he told me, "is acting like she's 8 years old again."

The kids are mostly grown ups now. The son will be 19 in February, and the daughter will be 16 two weeks later. Christmas is always pretty modest around here: larger gifts tend to be for the family, and no one gets cars with gigantic bows or even expensive cell phones. Some toys and games, sure, but a judicious measure of books and some clothes. Still, we've always had plenty of fun.

When the kids were younger, I would tie their Christmas stockings to their bed posts, mostly in a bid to sleep in a little while they tore into the small gifts contained within. Nonetheless, we'd hear them run into one another's rooms to show off their treasures, and one memorable year, the daughter awoke at 3 am, took everything out of her stocking, and evidently satisfied, went back to sleep with a mutant zombie action figure tucked firmly into her arm.

Their stockings stayed on the mantel this year, the son's filled with hair gel, and the daughter's containing a small silver ring.

The son graciously allowed the daughter first pick of gifts, and the daughter made a beeline for two boxes I'd put a ribbon around but hadn't bothered to wrap, less out of laziness and more because I didn't want to the posters to get smashed. She ripped the boxes open with vigor, first pulling out a Prometheus one-sheet (Michael Fassbender prominently displayed), followed by an Avengers poster (Robert Downey Jr prominently displayed) and a Skyfall poster (Daniel Craig prominently displayed). She grinned like a maniac, a teenage girl channeling both her inner 8-year-old and her inner filmmaker.

Not to mention her altogether teenage girl.

I tend to leave funny messages on the gift tags, and the son grabbed his first box and puzzled over the notation "It's cunning!" But he laughed and immediately pulled on the hat and wore it the entire day. And silly as it is, I have no doubt he will also wear it around his dorm.

And that was the sort of morning it was. As is custom, the first thing opened was the box of See's candy (and for the first time ever, an entire pound of See's had disappeared before dinner), since Christmas morning is one of two when chocolate is an acknowledged breakfast food (I later made scones and scrambled eggs).

Christmas carols played all morning and the daughter and I sang loudly, making up new lyrics to old songs. I don't remember what I sang that had the spouse crying with laughter, but it took him awhile to recover.

And this year, we started a new tradition: grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I really don't have the ability to stand for long periods of time anymore, and having just done so at Thanksgiving, I'd announced that we were skipping the fancy Christmas dinner. Since it was just us, everyone was fine with the idea. It was fun because there were choices for bread, and fillings and cheese, but at the end of the day, it was comfort food and quick to prepare as well as quick to clean up.

Games have been played and messages sent to friends and family. The cat has dozed on any number of laps today. Now the evening is winding down, and everyone is preparing to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. The tree has been gated off again (the cat tends to eat it, and after a very expensive, life-threatening intestinal obstruction two years ago, we're dedicated to the proposition that the cat should not chew on things that aren't cat food).

Years and years ago, I realized there was no point in praying for peace. Recent events have certainly borne that out. But no one can stop me from wishing you peace and warmth and happiness and the simple joy of whatever family you choose. And no one can stop me from hoping that you will carry that wish onward.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

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