When I was five and just a tiny squirt, I totally ruined Christmas.
As a mother myself, I made sure that nothing would ever come between Santa Claus and a little girl's desire for the "Ultimate Magic" and "Sheer Joy" that Christmas morning provided. The energy a parent puts into the traditional Christmas experience is well, monumental to say the least. It is just crazy, let's face it.
Children have this wonderful blindness that occurs in times of immense but jolly stress. Blind to all the work their parents go through to make the magic happen, every year, until the end of time. I remember the homemade sugar cookies and thinking that they just sort of appeared out of thin air, although I recall now how my mother pretty much resided in the kitchen, covered in flour for two weeks prior. It all happened so magically and seemingly without complaint. I know now that the pot was about to boil over at any moment, but my mother was a codependent saint and just kept moving. I don't even recall seeing my father at all between Thanksgiving and Christmas except for meals.
No one in their right mind does this except for the fear of letting go of "Family Tradition". What about the fond memories? Our kids will grow up without a sense of place, duty to the family, or letting us believe we gave them a perfect childhood. But we know that someday they will jump through all the same hoops for their own kids because you know, it's tradition.
Unless a package arrived we didn't put gifts for each other under the tree until Christmas Eve. It was more impressive that way on the Big Day. Then we would actually light the tree with real candles stuck in antique clip-on holders that looked like glittering silver pine cones. There was always this big breath holding moment when we turned out all the lights and saw our potentially too dry Christmas tree all lit up with about a hundred candles with real flames! It was truly breathtaking. We gazed at this amazing spectacle for about forty seconds, when everyone got nervous and after a quick "Merry Christmas Eve everyone!" we all frantically blew them out. My father actually did appear for this event, with a milk jug full of water just in case the cat decided to jump in the tree and start a house fire. Those candles lasted my entire childhood and somehow we never did catch the tree or the house on fire.
I absolutely LOVED Christmas. I hopped around for days wondering what Santa would bring me. My mother decided that the only way to calm me down was allowing me one gift on Christmas Eve with the promise that I would go to bed. I opened my gift, and went giggling to bed. On this particular night, from what I have been told, I really, really, really could not wait, and I went downstairs to see if Santa had come. He had! And then I got very busy seeing what he brought me! It was four in the morning, and my parents had just gone to bed after assembling the teepee, the bike, perhaps a glass or two of Christmas sherry and put all the presents out.
Oh my, yes, it was magical! Unfortunately my parents were not there to witness the glee, the utter thrill of it all! My mother finally came downstairs, bleary eyed and in desperate need of coffee. There I was sitting happily under the tree in the midst of utter Christmas chaos. I had ripped open every single present under that tree. The stocking lay forlorn and empty beside me and the big chocolate Santa was melted and glued to my face and hands. I had eaten it all. And all of the other candy too. I had opened the beautiful Native American Girl Madame Alexander Doll that was meant to go with the Teepee theme, had brushed her hair out already and broke the plastic toy bow and arrow set. My mother looked around the living room in disbelief. I was a little squirt swimming in wrapping paper, ribbons and bows and other people's presents. All of my mother's hard work was lost on me, grinning insanely on a chocolate high and in total Christmas Heaven.
I can only imagine her face as I write this. Three weeks of cleaning, shopping, wrapping, hiding and planning, all gone in a two hour flash. The magic was definitely taking a big break. What could she do, exactly? I was completely oblivious to everything she had done to make this the "Best One Ever in the Humphreys History of Christmas." And it was, to me anyway.
All of a sudden she barked "Oh my God, the mice!" I smiled sweetly. She found the open box with the holes punched out and the small cage that had housed two little soft gray mice that lived in my sister's red angora snow hat, and which of course, were no longer in the cage. The door was wide open and the mice were nowhere to be seen. Then my mother barked" Oh Dear God, the cat!" My mother totally lost it at this point. She started shrieking for my father to "come down and DO something with this child" or she would go "Stark Raving Mad." Did I mention that if I ate too much chocolate at one sitting I would break out in big red ulcers on my face?
My mother finally calmed down and sat me down and said how happy she was that I was so happy, but that from now on we must NEVER EVER get up before the crack of dawn, (whatever that was). She said I had to contain my excitement and wait for the whole family to get up on Christmas morning. The crack of dawn I found out the following Christmas as I stormed my parents bedroom was that thin red line on the horizon in the wee hours of the morning. Not much better than 4 a.m. but the psychology worked. I never did that again.
This was how I ruined Christmas. We spent the next six hours looking for the mice, which we found snuggling in the hall closet in a different snow hat, still intact and very cute. The cat could have cared less and was sleeping in a different closet. My mother had her coffee, cleaned up the mess and cooked the turkey and pretended that this was the "Best One Ever in the Humphreys History of Christmas." I have to say I think it was, because for some reason I cannot recall many others that were quite as memorable, despite all the magic.