The Night Before The Night Before
In my youth, this was not a good night for me. You see, we typically would open all of our gifts on Christmas Eve. Way back when us kids were all quite young, we would pile into the car and trek all the way to White Bear Lake to our aunt Helen's house. Her family and my grandma and grandpa would meet there, have a huge dinner in the basement family room and then, after every dish was done and dry, we would head upstairs to open presents. It was for this reason that I grew into adulthood thinking presents should be passed out and opened on Christmas Eve. I still do.
Because we celebrated on Christmas Eve, I spent most of Dec. 23rd wishing it away. I would watch the hours tick by, not wanting to wait until the next day to open all my gifts. I would work myself up so much that sometimes I would be on the verge of throwing up. Working myself up to the point of being sick. I've always been an internalizer, so this was the perfect storm of worry and anxiety, and excitement and joy. Wrap it all up in seeing the mound, or rather mountain, of presents under the tree and it all combined to drive me to the brink of insanity. I get sick just thinking about getting sick.
I remember one touching moment when I was about 11. I couldn't sleep because my stomach was upset. My sister Pat, who was 16 at the time, came in to my room and asked if I wanted to come and help arrange the presents under the tree; to shuffle the presents around, so no person got two in a row when they were handed out. She knew it would be a good way for me to work through my excitement, and it was. We went downstairs and shuffled presents, shook a few and shuffled some more. It couldn't have lasted for more than half an hour, but I've always remembered it as a tender moment between Pat and I. It's strange what kids remember, so never discount the impact of your actions, both good and bad.
The anticipation of Christmas is still there for me as I suspect it is for most people. I don't get sick any more of course, but still look forward to going to Christmas Eve service, eating a good meal, and opening presents on Christmas morning, even though it is a day late. The holiday is usually surrounded with a trip far away in our case. Every year we seem to spend driving either east to NY or west to MN. I look forward to those trips as well because we get to see family.
In the end, after all the presents, food, lights, shopping, decorations, carols, traffic, stress, and anticipation, family is what it's about anyway. Go enjoy yours and have a Merry Christmas.