Sitting there on Christmas night, listening to carols by the light of the tree, I kept telling myself I should get up and go to bed. It was after 2:00AM and it had been a long day. The thing was – it had been a great Christmas and I really didn’t want it to end. It’s curious, that – finding moments in time and wishing they could last forever; holding on to the assurance of “now” and avoiding the uncertainty of “later”. I really didn’t want Christmas to end this year. “Maybe just one more song…”
This was probably the last year my son will believe in Santa Claus. Truth be told, I think he may have figured it out already, but I can’t be sure. Knowing this was likely the last year he would truly see Christmas through a child’s eyes, I couldn’t help but be a little melancholy. Christmas will still be special – but something will never be the same for him after this year. A piece of his youth will pass away into memory, and he’ll never be able to quite recapture that feeling again.
It’s not until we are much older that we realize how special these times in our childhood really are. I wish I had a way to let him know just how important these days are, but he’s a young man – he’s not really going to listen to his father in matters such as these. Instead, I tried to soak up every single moment of the season for him and store them away for that day in the future when he finds himself searching for them.
What I felt watching my son and daughter open presents that morning was something that’s hard to describe. They were so excited to get downstairs and get started – and they both enjoyed the day to the fullest. It wasn’t quite as crazy as it has been in years past, but we still made a deliciously massive mess of the living room. The presents for my son are getting a little more expensive and a little more mature, but he still loves books and toys. Now I’m finding the joy that comes with sharing the books with him that I read as a boy.
Even as I see my son moving closer to young adulthood, my daughter is at the perfect age where Santa is a reality, Christmas is the pinnacle of the year, and the world narrows down to what present to open next. Her smile was non-stop for the entire day and her laughter warmed the house more than any fire ever could. She had not a care in the world on Christmas. I envy her in many ways.
When all the gifts were opened, the breakfast was eaten, and the chaos of the morning had settled into a more manageable flurry of activity – I found myself setting three things firmly in my memory for later. First was pure innocence and happiness that was my daughter holding up her new Nintendo DS in the middle of the living room and screaming at the top of her lungs – “THANK YOU SANTA!” Second was seeing the unbridled look of joy on my son’s face when opening gifts – a look that was as much a mirror of the boy he has been as it was a window into the young man that he is becoming. Third was the simple hug my wife and I shared in the kitchen while cooking breakfast. This was our 15th Christmas as husband and wife and a hug can say more than I ever thought it could.
Those were the memories I tucked away this year, and those are the memories I’ll share with my family in years to come as we sit around the table over the Holidays and swap stories. Those are the memories that swirled around in my head and kept me sitting up on Christmas night. It had been a remarkable day – one of the best – and I just didn’t want it to end.
Like all things, however, it did end. I eventually found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. “Frosty the Snowman” somehow became “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” without my knowing. No matter how hard I fought it, I just couldn’t stay up any longer. The day had to end. I extinguished the tree, turned off the stereo, blew out the pine-scented candle, went and kissed my kids goodnight again, and then went to bed.
Then a funny thing happened. I woke up the next morning – and we had another great day. We played games all morning, moving from one to the next at a breakneck speed. We stayed in our pajamas all day again and watched movies. I spent the day today enjoying every single moment with my family, doing just what families are meant to do – be together.
And that’s when it hit me. As much as I wanted to hold onto to this year’s Christmas day, and the moments of belief that my children shared – I couldn’t. Just like my parents couldn’t freeze those moments in time for my brother and I. We grew up, we moved away, we had families of our own and, yes, we stopped believing in Santa Claus. But we never stopped believing in our family. We never stopped believing in all the good times we shared together. We never stopped believing in Christmas.
I know my son and daughter will also grown up, move away, and have families of their own. Do I look forward to that first year they aren’t there to open presents with us on Christmas morning? No. Do look forward to them understanding the joy that comes with sharing the spirit of giving with those you love – the fullness that comes with sharing the Holidays with your children? Yes – with all my heart.
I realized that there is going to come a day, sooner than I would like, when their belief in Santa is going to fall by the wayside – and that’s okay. I can’t stop the clock from ticking and I can’t stop today from passing into yesterday. The truth is – Santa isn’t real. But what he represents, is. He’s a day of innocence, and belief, and giving that may come to a close at midnight on December 25th each year, but doesn’t really ever end. As long as my kids believe in themselves and the power of giving, Santa will always live in their hearts. He’s the best of who we are. And with that knowledge, I find I can sleep well at night and face any tomorrow that comes.
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