It’s Christmas Eve, a night that always makes me very reminiscent of days gone by and past Christmases. I remember my parents trying hard to get three excited little girls to bed so that Santa could come. They certainly had their job cut out for them. And I remember back to when my kids were little and how excited they would be on Christmas Eve. We would always set out milk and cookies for Santa and then we would go outside and put out our magic reindeer food in the front yard. Those were the days.
This afternoon I went to the Children’s Christmas Pageant at our church. I smiled as I remembered just a few short years ago (or so it seems), that it was my own two boys in the pageant, playing the parts of the Wise men, the Shepherds, or Joseph. I was sitting there today watching the pageant and wondering if the parents of the kids in the play know just how time will fly for them too, and how in a few short years THEY will be sitting there watching and remembering a time when THEIR children were shepherds or wise men or angels or cows or donkeys.
I will admit that my sisters and I could be pretty darn sneaky at Christmas. We pretty much knew all our mother’s good Christmas present hiding places. I mean there’s only so many places you can hide a Christmas present, right? In the closet and under the beds were the favorite spots.
The Christmas when I was eight years old and in the third grade was our sneakiest Christmas ever. My sisters and I were determined to get up well before morning and see what Santa left us. The three of us came up with quite the ingenious plan. My oldest sister and I shared a bedroom and the middle sister had a room right down the hall from ours. We ran sewing thread from one bedroom to the other. On each end of the thread, we tied a set of small jingle bells. This thread ran right up against the baseboard of the hall and was invisible to our parents. The plan was for whoever woke first, to wake the others by shaking the thread which would make the bells ring at the other end. Pretty creative, huh? We tied the end of the string to our bed posts. It turns out, my sister down the hall woke first and rang and rang the bells but my sister and I must have been really sleeping deeply because neither of us heard the bells. Finally, she gave up ringing them and came and shook us awake. All lights were out and our parents were asleep. The coast was clear. Our plan was working marvelously. So off we went tiptoeing down the hall in our three long flannel Christmas gowns, all eager to see what Santa had brought us. Unbeknownst to us, our parents had bought us a blue parakeet that year and they had placed the bird, who was in a cage and covered with a sheet, on the kitchen table. As we entered the kitchen (in complete darkness mind you), my oldest sister bumped into, then tripped over a kitchen chair that sent that parakeet squawking. It sent the hair on the back of my neck tingling as I had no idea WHAT had made that horrible noise. For a minute we were frozen with fear, sure that our parents would soon be turning on lights and running down the hall to see what all the commotion was. Then we got to giggling and couldn’t stop. How my parents slept through all this I will never know. We finally reached the den where the Christmas tree was and where Santa had delivered his loot. The den was at the opposite end of the house from our parent’s bedroom, so we felt it was safe to turn on the light. There we found our Christmas surprises! We all three had received metal roller skates that year (the kind with the metal skate key that you tightened the skates with). I had a troll house and troll dolls as did my sisters and a new doll and doll bed. We stayed up and played with our stuff for a while, then quietly tiptoed back to bed. Our parents never knew a thing. Imagine us trying to look all excited the next morning. It was many years later when we told our mother what we had done. Her only comment: “Why, you little sneaks…. And all along I thought you were the perfect little angels”. There was another year when our parents totally did surprise us with three brand new banana seat bicycles that they had hidden at a neighbor’s house. We never suspected a thing.
My sisters and I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted mostly of all young couples with children. It was KID HAVEN. All the kids in the neighborhood were pretty close and all got along well. We keep in touch and remain friends to this day. Every Christmas Eve, the kids in the neighborhood would all get together and go Christmas caroling to collect money for the Fannie Battle Day Home for Children. This is something we always looked forward to and always had a blast doing and we did it for many years. It became a neighborhood Christmas Eve tradition. After the caroling, we would all pile in one of our parent’s station wagons and go down to the corner church to turn our money in. We were always treated kindly with hot chocolate to warm our cold and weary little bodies. One year, we had a family from Mexico move next door to my family. I was taking Spanish in high school at the time and had learned the words to The First Noel in Spanish. I copied down the words for everybody and we practiced and learned The First Noel in Spanish to sing it to this family. Those neighbors came to the door when we knocked and began singing, but then slammed the door in our face. We never knew why. Feeling a little bewildered and a little hurt, we went on our way, knowing deep in our hearts that it was Christmas and we had done what we thought was the right thing, by showing (or trying to show) a little kindness to our new neighbors. I still think about that night a lot.
My sisters and I still talk about the jingle bell incident all the time with much laughter. Those were fun times. And we still remember with much fondness going Christmas caroling with our neighborhood friends. We wouldn’t trade those days for anything in this world.
What about you? Do you have any fond Christmas memories? As a child, did you ever do any Christmas snooping at your house?