Monday, December 10, 2012

I Don't Know What's Wrong With My Kids

When I was a kid the anticipation for Christmas grew with every day. Mom would put decorations up all over the house and we’d go get a tree from the property and drag it through the snow to the house. For weeks before Christmas I would look forward to payday. It meant that Dad would take Mom, a housewife with no driving license, to town to pay bills and get groceries. If I was lucky the school bus would drop me off before they’d get home. I’d take my outside stuff off, check the kitchen window to make sure they weren’t there, then dash into their bedroom and check the back right corner of their huge closet. Behind the old hanging coats and dresses still in plastic bags were The Presents. My Mom may have had a limited education, but she was still smart enough to wrap the gifts as soon as possible.

What was that noise? Was that the car in the driveway? Check the kitchen window. Nope. Back to the closet. It seemed odd that they would put Christmas presents in the same part of the closet where Dad hid his dirty magazines and videos. Is that the dog barking? As I check the window this time my Mom is halfway down the walk to the front door. My next tradition was helping with the bags hoping to get a glimpse of something.

On Christmas Eve night I never could sleep. I always laid in bed listening to the radio. They played Christmas songs mixed with stories of the first Christmas tree, different traditions, or inspirational stories, and occasional North Pole updates from NORAD. You’d think a guy in a flying sleigh with reindeer pulling it could get around radar. I willed myself to go to sleep. Then I would hear noises downstairs. The crinkling of paper. Were those boxes touching the floor? Is that my Dad still snoring on the couch? Was it a good idea to leave Santa a beer and plate of cookies?

And then I would wait. Around two or three in the morning I crept downstairs under the excuse that I needed to pee. I didn’t dare turn the light on in case Dad was on the couch. My hands searched. Which step up was stalking? Is this mine? What is this sticking out of the top? In my mind I tried to imagine what was in my Mom made stalking with the smurf on each side. Then I’d go to the washroom. My Mom would sleepily tell me to go back to bed, and I did. I woke up just a few hours later though to the joy of all the wrapped gifts under the tree.

I don’t know what’s wrong with my kids. My daughter, age twelve, guarantees me that there is nowhere in the house I could possibly hide presents so she’s not searching. My kids go to bed early on Christmas Eve and sleep in Christmas morning. Where is the anticipation? Where is the joy of watching Charlie Brown’s friends decorate the twig of a tree and seeing Clark Griswold go nuts with his lights or seeing the Grinch’s heart explode with the Christmas spirit? Why doesn’t my son get the same excited feeling I get from watching Alastair Sims as Ebenezer Scrooge?

This year the money is tight, but we have to get some Christmas back in this modern world. We are away from the family this year so it is just the four of us.

Lorne Oliver is the author of  Red Island: A Novel (Sgt. Reid Series).

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