Christmas has always been an exciting time for me. Sleeping when I was a child was difficult but eventually I would be overcome and fall asleep but would wake early Christmas morning wondering what Santa Claus, then my parents might give me for Christmas. Later I enjoyed being Santa Claus to our children and even though they all know that my wife and I have been Santa for a long time I still find it lots of fun to plan and then put out presents and stockings on Christmas Eve.
This is always very late at night because I want to be sure that they are asleep and that when I put out the stockings that they will be seen for the first time when they wake up and come into the family room. Well as the kids have gotten older that has gotten harder because they are constantly staying up nowadays and doing their own Christmas surprises and that means I get to bed pretty late and the consequences are that I am tired Christmas Evening. You'll probably hear more about that in another blog.
So here I am Christmas Eve. Lisa has long gone to bed because she knows I'll be up late and she prefers to be rested the next day (imagine that). Megan has built a barricade fort like structure in the living room to wrap and finish her Christmas surprises behind. So on the other side of her barricade I am putting together the only present that needs assembling this year.
When the kids were young I sometimes had to assemble some Christmas presents after they went to bed and that would keep me up a little late. And this time it wasn't anything that was real complicated or had a lot of parts but was something that just took time. I was putting together the new piano bench that I was giving to Lisa for Christmas. It is extra long and padded and has adjustable height. I had noticed in recent months that the current or as I write this the 'old piano bench' was getting pretty rickety and it seemed likely at some point it might collapse entirely. So a new upgraded bench seemed like a good gift idea. So there I was attaching the legs to it. It had come in the mail in a largish box and to my chagrin had printed in five inch letters on each side of the box "piano bench". I lucked out though because it had arrived while we were in Washington DC and was sitting on the front porch when we got back with the porch light off at night. So I was able to get it in the house and covered by my coat before anyone else saw what it was. Success! Surprise is still possible although after years of trying to do surprises I knew it was not assured.
So there we are in our living room with Megan on one side wrapping presents and me on the other side of this barricade of furniture putting together the bench. We are carrying on a good conversation and I am finding it enjoyable having this conversation while doing this assembly work rather than by myself as usual.
I decide this year that I'll put Lisa's stocking on the new bench so she can get her big present right from the start rather than save it to the end. My decision to do this is influenced largely by a Christmas a couple years ago when my brother Jim was visiting. In my effort for the big surprise that year I had come across what I figured would be the perfect gift for my wife and one that surely she could not anticipate that I would give her. It was large and when I brought it out from it's hiding place at the end of the gift opening with everyone sworn to keep their eyes closed as I am triumphantly bringing it in the room my brother (who was visiting that year) blurts out "that looks like a..." and of course names the gift. At the time I found it less than pleasurable but nowadays it has become such a great joke and fun memory for us all I am sure that it will live on in family lore much longer than if my surprise had been successful.
So after completing the bench and getting everything set up with help from a couple of elves all is ready for tomorrow and I can go to sleep. So all is set for Christmas morning!
I know I won't get much sleep because a certain daughter who has a tradition of her own--that of being the first to get up and come in to our bed room suggesting it is time to get up and go down stairs to open presents. That daughter used to beg, whine and cajole us in that early Christmas hour to get up and let them go open the presents. In those days the kids were little and so we would tell them it was too early but they could pile in our bed and sleep until it was time to get up. Her goal and tradition was to always be the first one in our room. It is a point of pride for her now to continue that. There have been a couple of attempts by other daughters to wake up first but as all attempts have fallen short and they now sleep until the appointed time sometimes needing to be awakened by us! Things do change.