At 6:00 this morning, Rocky (our dog) woke me up. He does that most days. I let him out, he ran around the yard, took care of business and bounded back into the warm house up to Caitrin's bed to finish the night. I usually weave and bob, and trip up the stairs back to bed myself for the remaining morning hours of sleep.
When I got up at 6:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, I plugged in the tree lights and stretched out on the couch. I stared at shiny bows and the four Target papers we used to wrap our gifts. I let my eyes range over the ornaments: the little cinnamon stick nativity scenes made in church, the photos from when Jacob was born in ornament frames, the abundance of snowflakes that we keep buying every year because we love them and forget we already have dozens.
I remembered when 6:00 a.m. was when everyone got up to open gifts. Jon had a rule that no one could go downstairs until I had put the cinnamon rolls in the oven and he had started the coffee maker. We also liked to set up treasure hunts for large unwrappables (like a mini tramp that hid in our garage located by following a long strand of yarn wound through the entire downstairs, or the year we wrote rhyming clues to lead the kids to the basement where the new foosball table stood).
Nowadays, the kids know to stay upstairs until we call them. Also, their gifts don't require so much assembly. But they are also a lot more expensive.
One year when the kids were small, we were so broke, just about every gift under the tree came from a garage sale. That's the infamous year where I gave Jon a newspaper rack and Michener's Iberia. He gave me a pepper mill. That was the best we could do. We found a Fisher-Price popcorn vacuum cleaner up the street at a Saturday morning yard sale. It became one of Johannah's favorite gifts that year.
This year, we loaded up on games (Carcasonne, Munchkins, Prophecy, Othello, Uno) and the most popular gift: Rock Band for the XBox 360. We have more money and that's fortunate because teens and young adults have far more expensive tastes! We start every Christmas with cinnamon rolls and then eat our traditional red lasagna and green salad for lunch. When we finished lunch, the family split into twos and threes. Jacob and Noah spent a lot of time hashing out the drum beats to Nirvana while Caitrin, Liam and Jon raced around the house sniping each other with AirPop Guns (from Brookstone - they are amazing!). Johannah texted friends and read her new book of short stories. I learned how to work my whipped creme dispenser (it's like the kind they use at Starbucks, but red and for the home).
Then we bundled up and headed to the movie theater (our newest tradition - now a couple years old). This year we watched "Juno." Terrific writing, delightful acting, good story (lots of teenage style references to sex, just in case you want to know that). Nice to get out of the messy house we left behind. Though we did a reasonably good job of bagging the torn paper and unwieldy boxes, I keep finding bits of Styrofoam clinging to every surface that refuse to be swept or sweepered. Mañana.
Now it's getting on to 1:00 a.m.
Jon and Liam are already in bed, exhausted. Johannah, Jacob and Caitrin can't go to sleep. They've got games on the Wii to try out. Noah has friends over to play Carcassonne. I'm finally spent. Another Christmas in the memory bank.
My grandfather used to tell me all the time when I was young: "All you have are your memories." I didn't know what he meant back then. I do now.