When I was about 3 years old, we were staying at my grandparents’ apartment for Christmas. I was just at that age where I understood who Santa was and that he was going to bring presents. Well, I didn’t want to miss that. So I decided that I was going to stay awake all night so that I could catch Santa in action.
Obviously, my parents and grandparents had other ideas. Not only were they looking forward to some adult time while us kiddies were tucked up snug in our beds; they still had presents to wrap and adult beverages to drink, along with other preparations for Christmas Day that were best done out of sight of little prying eyes. I was eventually persuaded to go upstairs thanks to a convincing argument that Santa wouldn’t come unless I was in bed. So up I went, along with my sister who had just turned two. I climbed into bed and lay perfectly still, my eyes wide open, waiting for a sign, any sign, that Santa had arrived.
And then I heard it. A thump that surely meant the arrival of Santa down the chimney (it didn’t matter that my grandparents’ apartment did not have a chimney, or even a gas fireplace). I jumped out of bed, shook my sister awake, and ran downstairs to see Santa – only to be greeted by surprised yelps from the adults and frantic movements as they tried to cover up the presents. Disappointed but not dissuaded, I trudged back upstairs with my sister, ready and waiting for Santa.
I listed carefully, waiting, and suddenly I heard my Grandpa shout: ‘I don’t care if you are Santa, get those reindeer off my roof!’ I threw off the covers and raced downstairs with my bleary-eyed sister in tow, ready to greet the man in red. This time it was Grandpa who received the bulk of the disapproving glares from the grown-ups. Back up we went again, still determined to catch a glimpse of a white beard or a sack of toys.
This continued until close to 2am when, after dragging my poor sleep deprived sister down the stairs for the umpteenth time, I got into enough trouble that I stayed in bed for longer than five minutes. But I didn’t sleep. I lay awake in my bed, listening to the chatter of grown up voices, the clinking of glasses, the rustling of paper. For a few minutes, all was quiet. And then I heard it: the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof. I heard the soft thump, thump of boots on carpet, and the glug, glug of chugged milk. Excited but too intimidated to get out of bed again, I stayed perfectly still, smiling with the anticipation of Christmas morning – and sighing with relief that, despite the antics of the past few hours, I was still on the ‘nice’ list.
Miss A is three this year, and has noticed the presents under the tree with her name on them. And, although I really hope she isn’t as determined as I was to see Santa, I am enjoying rediscovering that childhood Christmas excitement. The kind that overwhelms you and takes over your entire being. I can’t wait to see what new Christmas memories we create together.