Monday, December 19, 2005

Magic Time

I don't recall the moment that I stopped believing. I think it was a gradual awakening, rather than a sudden burst of clarification. But I do remember the first Christmas that I didn't believe.

I was the oldest of 5 siblings, all of whom still believed. Our Christmas Eve ritual was that we all five slept in my room, since it was the furthest from the Christmas tree. We were under strict orders to NOT open the bedroom door, under any circumstances, lest Santa look down from his sleigh and see us peeking. If that were to happen, he'd skip right past our house, and there was no way we were gonna risk THAT fate. For years, we all spent that night gazing out my bedroom window, watching the night grow darker above the big pecan tree, its bare branches silhoutted against the East Texas sky. For years, we'd watch and wonder, wishing we knew where Santa was at that very moment, afraid that if we blinked too long or turned away at the wrong second, we'd miss him flying by.

But THAT Christmas, I didn't bother looking out the window. Instead, I sat on my bed in the dark, listening with every bone in my body for clues as to what was happening down the hall. For I knew the truth: Santa had nothing to do with a fat man in a red suit. There was no sleigh. There were no elves. Instead, there was a rickety shed in the backyard with a padlock, a crawlspace in the ceiling of the carport, and the toolbox on the back of Dad's truck. I listened for the squeaky screen door hinges to open and close. I listened for the rustle of wrapping paper. I strained to hear the sounds of screws being tightened, of tape being torn from the dispenser, of hushed whispers between Mom and Dad.

Long after my siblings had fallen asleep, I laid there. And listened. The house was still and quiet. The pecan branches cast dancing shadows on my bedroom wall as they Christmas Waltzed in the winter breeze. The breathing in the room slowed and became background music to the scenarios that played in my head. I couldn't WAIT for morning. It was torture to lie there knowing that Christmas was already spread out across the living room like game pieces on a checkerboard. In this corner, Bobbie's pile. David's loot would be on one end of the couch, Rodney's on the other. Clay's would be on the coffee table, and mine would be piled on the recliner. The gifts from Santa would be unwrapped. The gifts under the tree, which all month had remained a mystery, would be piled up behind the Santa stuff. (Mom never put names on the gifts - instead, she designated a secret wrapping paper design to each of us, and we didn't learn which one was ours until Christmas morning.)

I waited and waited for sunrise, so that at last, we could bound from our prison room and into a world of wonder. I waited for hours. I finally determined that the sun would NEVER rise, and after a good half-hour of self-coaching, I finally worked up the nerve....

to tiptoe from the bed, gingerly stepping over the bodies of my sleeping brothers. I stood at the door, my ear to the hollow wood, until I felt brave enough to turn the handle. Slowly, so slowly. When it would turn no more, I eased the door open. Carefully, so carefully, so as not to make a sound, I crept in to the hallway. The carpet crunched beneath my bare feet. My shiny gown swished with every step. From around the corner, I could see the glow of the Christmas tree lights, and I was drawn to them, moving forward stealthily without taking a breath.

It was my magic time. I'd never experienced it alone before. I'd never seen it so calm and serene. All my life, Christmas morning had been a rush of kids, yelling, laughing, squealing, ripping into paper, climbing over each other, Mona yapping and jumping at all the commotion. But this morning, it was just me. I walked from pile to pile, bending down to see up close, but not daring to touch, everyone's gifts. I was giddy with excitement. I couldn't WAIT. I just couldn't wait.

And so I ran back to my bedroom, threw open the door, flipped on the light, and exclaimed, "SANTA CAME! Y'ALL GET UP, SANTA CAME!"

In a flash, all five of us were flying down the hall. Within a minute, the magic was gone, as the room filled with gales of laughter, squeals of delight, and Mona yapping at all the excitement.

Within a minute and a half, Mom and Dad came stumbling bleary-eyed into the room, rubbing their eyes and trying to make sense of it all.

"What in the WORLD!" exclaimed Mom. "It's 1:30 in the morning!"

"Santa came!", we all exclaimed. I knew at that moment that Mom and Dad couldn't have possibly been in bed for more than an hour and a half. And I suppose I felt a little bit sorry for them, having to wake up so soon and face the day with a mob of greedy, toy-crazed, Christmas-morning-drunk kids. I'm sure I felt a tinge of guilt for being the cause of it all, but only a tinge. It was magical.

I knew, but no one else did, what Christmas morning looked like in quiet stillness. And 26 years later, that magic time is still my favorite part of Christmas day.

12 comments:

Melissa in AUS said...

Oh Stacy! That made my eyes well, and a belly laugh snort all at the same time!!

G.r.e.a.t. Story!

Veronica in Aus said...

Great story - I don't know when I "knew". Can't remember it as a specific time or age. I was the yougest though - and I guess my sister would have spoiled it for me at some point (she was that way then).

My bedroom was right next to where Santa came too. I don't remember ever hearing anything. And I was always the last to get up - my brother and sister were dragging me out of bed so that they could open their presents ;)

agent713 said...

Wow! You have an amazing way with words Stacy.

My mom used to do the "different paper for each kid" thing too. That or she'd number the presents. Drove me NUTS!

To this day I have a hard time writing names on presents though! :)

~Heidi

Nancy - nowimscrappin said...

What a wonderful story - my mother always says I was the one counting the minutes until sunrise.

Santa magic still lives in our house, too!!

DKelly said...

OH MY!!! Stacey, this is the absolute best writing I think I've read from you. . . you TOTALLY painted word pictures in my mind's eye and the entire scene came together as I read your blog about "Magic Time"! Wow! Thanks for the beautiful, crisp image of Christmas magic you painted for not only me but the other readers (and fans*Ü*) of your blog.

I still love "the magic"!

Denise

Bobbie said...

What a warm fuzzy feeling that reading was. Your magic in writting is awesome. You put me right back at 8 yrs old again, I loved every minute of it.

Lets bring that magic to our kiddos at moms..........can't wait!!!!!

Bobbie said...

i mean "writing"

Karen said...

stace,
there is a Santa claus.... if you don't believe then you get NOTHING i say...
but your way with words were ASTOUNDING!

Sherilyn said...

Hmm. I don't remember exactly when I found out the truth, but I am pretty sure it had to do with at least one of my older brothers getting tired of the Santa thing and bursting that bubble for me, LOL! Probably Gary. After I found out the truth, we started opening gifts on Christmas Eve before Midnight Mass.

But Daddy is still Santa. When I find a gift from "Santa" under the tree, it means that Daddy picked it out himself. The the ones marked "from Mom and Dad" were purchased by Mama. At 11 or so, I was thrilled to pieces when I saw that Santa had picked out a special doll lamp for me...Daddy almost never went shopping except for tools.

One year I flew in from Holland on Christmas Eve and drove straight to my parent's house. Got there at around 3:30 am. Santa had been there....all his toys were unwrapped in front of the tree. It was quiet and beautiful and I sat there in the LR for a few minutes enjoying it, raking photos of the set-ip. Then I hit the hay as I knew the kids would be up in a few hours....and told some wide-eyed little girls the next day that yes, I had seen Santa's sleigh leaving G-ville on my drive into town in the middle of the night. ;)

Rhonda said...

Beautiful story, Stacy.

I always had trouble sleeping Christmas Eve as a child. I would wake up several times throughout the night. Finally, around 2:30, I would sneak out to the den and look at everything under the tree. I would always empty my stocking to see what was there, then pack it all up again. (I don't think my parents ever knew I did that.) I would then head back to bed and wait impatiently 'til about 5:00 am when my brother and I would wake everybody up.

Good memories.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the best thing you've ever written. You should submit it for publishing somewhere.

-Darren

Bobbie said...

Stace,

Have you ever thought of publishing in Guidepost?