Christmas, Reindeer, and a Disfigured Santa Claus

I originally wrote this in 2005 for The Griffon News (Missouri Western University’s newspaper). It was published then, but my mom reminded me of it this year, so I thought I’d share it again. I haven’t changed it. Enjoy!
Lying flat on my back in bed, I focused my nearly unbearable surplus of energy on staring at the lightless ceiling.
My second-story room was drafty, and the cold often caused me to huddle into my blankets and quickly slide into the world of whimsical dreams, but not tonight.
There is one night of the year on which children universally suffer from insomnia, and frequently hallucination.
I was no exception.
Trees outside my bedroom windows slowly stirred my mind into a frenzy.
Was that an antler?
The creaks and groans of the settling old house on any other night would go unnoticed, but this night my wishful ears heard nothing but hooves on the roof and footsteps around the chimney. As the night wore on, my eyes grew steadily heavier, but my senses remained painfully keen until the moment when my body had had enough.
 Then, the most glorious moment in the life of a child. Groggy eyes flutter open to the knowledge that today is THE day.
It is Christmas morning and the year has reached its pinnacle.
I threw off my covers. My body was shocked by the cold, but no matter.
It was a strict rule in my house that I was not to wake my parents, I had to wait.
Being an only child, I found it very difficult to distract myself. I would play with our dog or cat for a short while, but soon the anticipation was just too much for my young heart to bear, and I resorted to my so very discreet tactics.
When walking around the house, I would be sure to walk as if I weighed about 50 pounds more than I did, and all dishes clanged extra loud until stirring was heard in my parents’ room.
Oh the joy.
I am now one moment closer to tearing into all those presents under the tree. After waiting through my parents getting coffee, and the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible, the moment arrived.
With glee I discovered the things my parents had been hiding from me in their closet, and after unwrapping it all I could never decide what to play with first.
There was never enough time to grasp it all before we headed to my grandparents’ house to be with our extended family and repeat the excruciating cycle of patience.
That night I would crawl into bed much sleepier than I had the night before, having played all day long. I dreamed of all my new toys and all the fun I would have with them tomorrow. The perfect end to a perfect day.
As I’ve “grown up,” I’ve experienced life becoming more and more complicated, and I’ve learned that things were not so simple as they seemed through my young and innocent eyes. Sometimes there was not enough money to get a new ornament for the tree, or gifts for our friends.
Sometimes the circumstances were not ideal for the perfect Christmas celebration.
There was always more to the situation than I could comprehend, but somehow my parents always managed to make it special.
The hand-made tree decorations, cards and gifts that were created out of lack are now the most precious things that I have the privilege of owning.
It is never the shiniest ornament that causes me to stop and smile, but it is the Santa that my dad made as a child, which tragically seems to have two right legs.
It is the little bird nest that my grandmother and I discovered together at the park. (I was so excited to see a real-life “tumbleweed” that my grandmother insisted on taking it home, and it still graces our tree annually.)
It is my tiny baby cap with the little pink bow.
It’s the sound of a Mannheim Steamroller record playing, the heat radiating from the fireplace, the intoxicating aroma wafting from the kitchen, the glow of the Christmas tree after the sun has set, and the smiles on the faces of those I love the most.
I realize now that it’s not about getting or giving the perfect gift.
Nothing we do means anything if there isn’t love behind it, and I am so thankful that I have loving parents and friends than guarantee me a merry Christmas every time, whether rich or poor.
Let’s all look past the surface and make this holiday season meaningful and memorable.
It just takes a little love.

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