As a kid, Christmas morning was a well-oiled machine for me. It wavered neither from tradition nor excitement.
I would run down the steps on Christmas morning to find each of my presents from Santa, not wrapped, but placed strategically in front of the tree, fully displayed.
My parents always made quite a presentation out of Santa Claus.
We never left Santa milk. We left him boiled custard. Mom and Dad said Santa must have grown tired of drinking milk at every single house on Christmas Eve. Makes sense. As it turned out, boiled custard is a holiday favorite of my dad’s.
We always had five or six different types of cookies in the house while I was growing up, and that number seemed to double around Christmastime. I always left Santa a sample platter of Oreo’s, Soft Batch Chocolate Chips, Fig Newtons, Peanut Butter Chips Ahoy, and any other cookies I could get my hands on. Mom and Dad would eat a couple of them, purposefully leave a few crumbs, and put the rest back in their containers.
I always fed the reindeer! I left carrots for them next to Santa’s custard and cookies. They would be gone on Christmas morning; they weren’t even visible in the trashcan (good job, Mom and Dad). My parents would also give me “magic reindeer food” to sprinkle all over our driveway. It was dry oats and glitter.
Along with writing a letter to Santa weeks before Christmas, I was coerced to write an advanced thank-you note to leave for Santa. Positioned by the cookie crumbs, there would always be a response to the note from the big man himself, written in red ink with carefully-disguised penmanship. One Christmas, Santa told me in the note that Rudolph was feeling a bit fatigued and that he chose my doorstep of all doorsteps to take a power nap. I felt so honored.
Aside from Santa, there were other things that never changed.
A 90’s camcorder always rested on a tripod in the corner of the room, and one of us would have to re-position it whenever someone opened a present in order to capture the moment. I’ll probably give that footage to my kids one day if there is still available technology to play actual video tapes.
Mom always took several pictures of me as I clenched my presents. I would always have wide eyes in the photos as if I’d just guzzled Mountain Dew.
I could never open a single gift until the coffee brewed. I understand that element now.
We were always done with Santa stuff and opening our gifts before the Sun even rose. One year, I was so excited that we started it all at about 4:00 in the morning and we went back to sleep once all the wrapping paper hit the trash can.
My mom would make cinnamon rolls for breakfast and she’d give me unlimited chocolate milk for the day. I could drink the entire gallon if I wanted. Before Christmas was over, I often did.
I’d play with whatever toys I received until more family arrived and the festivities continued.
So many Christmases have come and gone, and as they have, the gifts I opened on Christmas morning have changed. From to race cars and tractors to a solar system kit. Then VHS tapes. Then DVD’s. Then basketball gear. Then clothes. Then a laptop. Then a tablet. And this year, money for my upcoming move to a different country.
Like the presents, many aspects of my kid Christmases faded with my childhood. But there are some that are still exactly the same.
We still get up extremely early for presents—although there’s at least some color in the sky now instead of complete darkness. “Santa” still visits and leaves a couple things, unwrapped and perfectly placed in front of the Christmas tree. My Mom still takes a couple pictures of me as I hold a few of my freshly-opened presents, although now I look a lot more like I just rolled out of bed instead of being high on Mountain Dew.
Although that original childhood excitement about the magic of Christmas is no longer with me, I still smile as I go to bed on Christmas Eve night because I know what is to come. I still have that feeling of butterflies when I think about all the love and happiness people share at Christmas. I sincerely hope you still have that feeling too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of chocolate milk to drink. Merry Christmas from What Are This.