Thursday, December 17, 2015

That Christmas Feeling

I miss the child wonder with Christmas.

You all know me well enough, I do not try to hide this, I love Christmas presents. I love getting them, I love giving them. I love the feel of wrapping paper being torn to shreds between my fingers.

I'm a greedy capitalistic, material-good loving, adult-man-child.

Part of the child wonder with Christmas was the un-relenting energy as we bopped around the entire area going to grandma's house for Christmas Eve, going to the aunts and uncles to see their trees, going to my Aunt Mary's for chili, knowing full well there were presents waiting at each place.

I could see my parents' eyes drooping with exhaustion after the marathon holidays. Fighting to stay awake during Christmas mass, their only quiet respite from the screaming, sugar filled cousins.

I miss running around in grandma's woods with Jake and Ryan, falling through frozen ice, shooting paint balls at each other, seeing if we could reach the end of the creek.

But most of all, I miss the thrill of the 2 a.m. gift check. I'd read by the nightlight, checking my alarm clock every 15 minutes to see how much time had passed. (In later years when I had my own basement room, I would quietly watch A Christmas Story on TNT over and over again.)

I'd gently rock Nick and Brett awake, pointing out all the creaky parts of the floors, tip toeing in socks out to the Christmas tree.

We couldn't make out the names written on the packages, signed "From Santa, XOXO" in the shadowed light cast by the tree lights. So we played a game, guessing which ones we thought were ours. The small gifts were inspected, shook, and weighed. We cross referenced the shapes with the gifts we had circled in the J.C. Penny catalog.

And after a good amount of time, the excitement at a fever pitch, we would turn out attention to the three largest gifts, knowing that they were going to be divided between us. Most the time we had no clue about these. Our parents were great at figuring out large items that we needed or would love: a new bike, roller blades, giant Star Wars bases.

After we argued about what came in that size, we'd sneak back to bed for a 3 hour nap, waking up again at 6 am. We'd wake up making enough noise to wake the parents up.

Dad would get the coffee pot going and go outside to have a smoke before manning the camera. Mom would give us stockings to keep us quiet, cutting up some veggies and ham for our Christmas omelet.

And we'd wait patiently for each round of gifts, one to each brother, opening at the same time. We'd have to hold back an energy explosion when our parents presents were sprinkled in between a round of ours. Hoping that mom would quickly inspect her new robe or dad his hockey shirt, so that we could move on with what was truly important, us kids.

And in the post present euphoria, we would start assembling LEGOs, putting batteries in our laser guns, and strapping on our hockey gear for a pickup game in the driveway, eventually passing out for a long nap around lunch. Then, we'd wake up, and have a lazy day in at the house.

These sleepy Christmas days are some of my favorite memories of childhood. Everyone in the best mood they could possibly be, filled with cinnamon twists and joy, wearing pajamas, just happy to exist.

Now, Christmas works almost the opposite.

I'm so excited to possibly be surprised, that I don't look for the gifts beforehand. It would be easy for me to sign into Sal's Amazon account and take a look at it or find a random packing slip laying around. But dammit, I'm chasing the childhood dragon, that rush of being generally surprised and every piece of information I know ahead of time takes a little bit of that magic away.

And I can't wait to snuggle up on the couch, with a nice Scotch, watching The Family Stone or Love Actually, thumbing through the new brewing book I have, or cooking a Christmas dinner while listening to my new records.