There comes a point during Christmas preparations when exhaustion just prevents a person from going any further, and there comes a point when the kids do the same thing. I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached both of those points.
It’s after 11pm, and the boys are still awake upstairs. They’re having a “sleepover” — which means, Matthew is staying in Christopher’s room tonight. Bad idea. While Kim’s and my exhaustion levels combine to increase themselves exponentially, the boys’ excitement levels do the same thing — the great dichotomy of Christmas Eve.
I can’t blame them; I remember how it was for a kid on this night. But if they don’t fall asleep soon, we will. And that would ruin not only tomorrow, but every future Christmas, because the cat would surely be out of the bag if they came downstairs to nothing in the morning.
Kim and I were just folding laundry when I asked, “What do you want to do after this?”
“Go to bed,” was her weary reply.
I looked at her. Glanced at our closet. Looked at her again. Realization dawned on her, and it pained me to see it in her face. She said a word that I’d rather not attribute to her, then summarized our problem: “We can’t do anything until they fall asleep.”
I think you know what’s in the closet. It’s things that need to be in front of the tree tomorrow morning, or there’ll be hell to pay. Simple solution, right? Too bad the only viable path from closet to tree, would take us down the world’s squeakiest staircase, right in front of the open door to Christopher’s room — where both boys are awake, alert, and paying very close attention to every noise or sight that’s out of the ordinary.
Across the room from the easy chair where I’m blogging, there are cookies. Lots of them. I hinted to Matthew that Santa might want Oreos tonight, so he carefully laid out six Winter Oreos — the kind with red filling in the middle (in levels approximating that of the vaunted Double Stuff variety) and four winter designs etched in the cookies themselves. Six! Then he remembered the Golden Oreos in our pantry, and figured he should put those out in like numbers.
So there are 12 glorious cookies — a great sugar rush for someone so tired — on the coffee table a few short steps from here. But I don’t dare touch them, lest one of the boys comes downstairs at that moment. Such a situation would be a bit hard to explain.
So it’s cookies, cookies, everywhere — but not a crumb to eat. And that mug of milk isn’t getting any cooler, either; if there’s one thing Santa can’t stand, it’s room-temperature milk.
There’s also some reindeer food at the foot of our porch steps; it had best be gone by morning. Too bad it’s right under Christopher’s window, where anyone watching for Santa might wonder what the hell Dad is doing down there. So this, too, must wait. And it’s out of my sight, so it’s likely to fall out of my mind. I must remember to go outside and deal with that before I go to bed.
So now we wait. Advent is supposed to be all about waiting, but Advent is also over.
Meanwhile, we have a very vocal cat wandering around down here, loudly demanding to know just why I’m still up. She thinks I should be in bed by now, where she can come in and wake me up. And if her yowls aren’t enough to keep the boys awake, she’s recently taken to jumping on the piano keys. It scares the hell out of her, but she probably considers that a small price to pay for the opportunity to do something bad.
And this is how I happen to be here, talking to you. Shall I tell you about tonight’s pageant while we wait? It’s the same story, but different every year.
Kim and I have helped with the children’s Christmas pageant for about 800 years now, and wild animals have never been a problem before — unless you count a couple of errant shepherds who acted that way a couple years ago, and got into a fistfight as we were lining them up to start. This year, though, the wild animal was real.
The way the pageant logistics work is, the kids put their costumes on in the community hall, then walk outside to cross a wooded courtyard and enter the church. We’d just gotten them inside the narthex and I was heading back to the community hall for my camera when I thought I saw a large, fluffy cat walk by. When it stopped to look at me, I realized it was a fox.
My first thought was, Are you kidding me? We just had a dozen shepherds walk by; there shouldn’t be a fox anywhere within miles of this place. My second thought was, Even though they were only kids, a healthy fox would have been too scared of them to just saunter up like that. My third thought was, It would suck to have to get rabies shots on Christmas; maybe I should at least chase him out of the courtyard before I go back inside.
I clapped my hands. He looked at me. I stomped my foot in his direction. He skittered under a bush, turned, and looked at me. I walked toward the bush, then thought, Am I an idiot?
I pulled out my Droid and set it to the camera function, hoping the flash would scare the fox. Instead, it just made his eyes glow like Cujo’s. But it did seem to confuse and/or annoy him, so I took a couple more pics and chased him a little further off. He finally got tired of me, jumped onto a low-hanging eave, and crossed the roof to the other side of the community hall. He stopped to stare down at me one last time, and I thought he looked a little like a reindeer up there.
He ran down the other side of the roof and jumped into the playground, where another guy saw him run into the lower parking lot and toward the gym, well away from where the kids would have to walk. I wanted to catch the end of the pageant, so I trotted back up to the church, only to see the kids walking out.
Once the kids were out of their costumes, the pageant director gave them some crafts to do until it was time to head back into the church for communion. About that time, a trio of strangers walked in and informed us that the church lets their AA group meet in the community hall on Saturday evenings, then asked what we were doing there at their meeting time.
We told them this particular Saturday evening happened to be Christmas Eve, the church was therefore holding a service, and we needed the community hall for kids’ activities. They demanded to speak to our rector; we explained that he was in the church. They wanted to know why they couldn’t talk to him about the schedule mishap; we explained that he was in the middle of performing the Christmas Eve Service. They began setting up for their meeting anyway; we herded the kids out of the community hall early.
The rest of the evening passed conflict-free, but the incense in the thurifer made me feel dizzy. Two confrontations and a chemical high; no wonder we’re exhausted.
The good news is, while I was writing this, Kim came downstairs to let me know the boys were snoring. Hoping they weren’t faking it, we tended to the necessary Christmas Eve preparations, and it’s finally time for a short winter’s nap. The boys are bound to wake up early tomorrow.