Maybe it’s a little shameful to admit, and maybe it’s as obvious as the lyrics of a Mariah Carey song, but I miss being a kid at Christmas.
I don’t necessarily mean the whole Santicipation angle where you lie awake at night listening for sleigh bells and the stamping of hooves on roof tiles, too young to understand the home invasion angle and the kind of damage that abuse would do to shingles. I don’t even mean the part where you open gifts. I actually mean the Christmas afterglow of an afternoon spent in the company of new, freshly unpackaged joy.
I get that as a father the real gift of Christmas is seeing the holiday through the eyes of my kids. I've read that touchy-feely bunk enough to embrace that as the diplomatic cork that isolates my pouty, selfish inner-child, but sometimes in my heart of hearts I know that’s just what I tell myself so that I don’t sulk around in a rut knowing that what I really need for the season is a nice dress shirt and a good roadside emergency kit. Besides, peek into any ordinary middle-class home at two in the afternoon this weekend, and what you will find is grown men playing with their kids toys, ostensibly for the purpose of “making sure they work properly.”
That’s people just like me trying to get back to that long forgotten corner of the child-brain that sips deep from the Holiday cup of innocence and unapologetic selfishness. It is an enchanting elixir indeed, the part of myself that had the unmitigated temerity to once ask why they had a father's day and mother's day but no kid's day.
Time just works differently on a day of gift giving, and it is to the benefit of children. While adults shamble in and out of a half-slumber on the couch, there was, for me at least, an entire day to be had of play. Maybe it’s different in other houses, certainly for people who don’t practice the convenient faux-Christianity that describes my traditions, but for me Christmas was a gigantic opening climax followed by a day long denouement.
By the end of the day it was always pretty clear which gifts were on the fast-track to a special place in the toybox, and which had been given their brief, semi-appropriate due to ensure that they were, in fact, infused with exactly as much suck as had been first suspected.
And, the great thing is, it’s not always the big video game that have been the defacto winner in my history. I recall with great enthusiasm an electric race track, a particularly epic pack of Legos and a small army of Transformers from various years of my childhood. Certainly all of those were better Christmases than that one time I got E.T. for the 2600.
As a now grown up, I feel far too much like the man behind the green curtain to ramp up for the holidays in the same way. The illusion is burst, and if I hear someone kicking around my roof tomorrow night, I’m going to grab a flashlight and a nine-iron long before I get some milk and cookies. So, Saturday morning you know where to find me -- clicking together these Legos I just bought my seven year-old, you know, just to make sure all the pieces are in there like they’re supposed to be.