Christmas was like that as a child, the build up to the big day, shaking the presents under the tree, many which had been rigged with marbles or rocks inside to throw us off. Mom would make a couple of different types of cookies every few days, something new to taste and try with a plate set aside with a sample of everything to eat after the Christmas meal.
It's not just Christmas - there are many events in our lives we anxiously await. The birth of a baby, a holiday, a wedding, awaited with great longing, then suddenly over, vanished as if an illusion.
I spent Christmas Eve and day some years back with neighbors who let the kids open the gifts on Christmas Eve. They didn't go to church so Christmas Day was simply watching sports while the kids played non stop video games. I appreciated the invite but it felt no more like Christmas than the 4th of July.
We would always fall asleep too soon, and wake before the sun rose with that flaming stare of quiet curiosity.
Dad does not wish to celebrate Christmas as anything more than the quiet communion in his home with the minister in celebration of Christ's birth. By his choice, there has not been a tree for a traditional Christmas celebration since my Mom died over 30 years ago. The aluminum tree and color wheel were packed away, never to be seen again. In the years before he remarried, there was neither light nor breath in that house for my Dad and he just wanted Christmas to be over with, once my brother and I were out of the house.
Many a night I flew on Christmas Eve, eliciting a chuckle from the crew chief when he glanced up at the Cockpit and saw my Santa hat as we prepared to depart. We were only anxious as to the day and time until we were aloft, then like seaman have probably felt since time began, we settled down, finding the true Peace of God and Earth somewhere over 35,000 feet, finding the storms and turbulence not as some heavenly punishment for our selfishness in wanting to be home but rather a gentle rebuke to curb an impatient heart.
The recorded weather data that we'd confirm receipt of, instead of Delta and Echo and other letters of the phonetic alphabet were Dancer and Prancer and such. On more than one Christmas Eve, my copilot would confirm Information "Santa" received and we'd made our final descent, not to a city where loved ones awaited, but simply a hotel room with all the ambiance of a dental lab, it's emptiness bringing that quick sharp sting that I could taste in my mouth as I opened the door.
There, I would sleep like a soldier in the field without shelter but for stiff, cotton sheets, waiting to wake up to the fight and the firing.
It was a story of a baby, one not born of passion or pleasure but one born so that more than a Mother's suffering in his birth would be eased til the end of days. It was a story of forgiveness we often can't receive from man, but that is His promise in eternity.
Rather than wish that Christmas was here, I'm going to wish it would wait, that I can savor this time of quiet peace, the smell of warmth, the laughter of my husband, and the hearkening of a family of angels who calm this impatient heart with a touch as soft as a caress.
- L.B. Johnson