First Words

Every good storyteller recognizes the need to build up a little tension, to give a hint of things to come. I follow that principle at Christmas. Ramping up the anticipation before Christmas morning is all part of an unfolding story.

When the kids wake up, nobody – nobody but Papa – is allowed to go downstairs. First they have to wait for all the adults to emerge, brush their teeth and shake off the effects of the Christmas Eve eggnogs. Everyone sits on the stairs. The adults yawn; the kids squirm and giggle, feigning escape from their parents’ grip, all in anticipation of the big moment. Papa goes downstairs and starts the coffee production line. He puts on the Christmas carols and then, just before the kids are about to blow a gasket, he checks to see that Santa has arrived. At that orchestrated moment, (with apologies to George Frideric Handel) when the Hallelujah Chorus blasts out of the Sonos, the kids are allowed to come downstairs.

Last year, in early December, my eldest grandson, who was six at the time, asked if we could practice Christmas. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until he told me – step by step – how the game would unfold. First we brought up a tabletop Christmas tree from the basement, then we wrapped up some of the toys that were scattered about in the family room and we hung our stockings on the mantle. Finally, we lined up on the stairs. We waited, we wondered whether Santa had come and then Thompson called out for Papa to start the music…you know Papa, the Ha-yea-u-ya music.

On command, Papa pushed the play button. The kids, and I include myself in this term, ran down the stairs to the living room where the Christmas scene awaited. We unwrapped the presents that we had placed around the tree minutes before and finished off the cookies that Santa had left behind.

Thompson’s little mind had created the perfect story, complete with a setting, anticipation, an unfolding plot and a fairytale ending. Later in the afternoon, his four year old sister was still singing Ha-yea-u-ya, Ha-yea-u-ya, Ha-yea-u-ya.

Merry Christmas.