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“Mommy, Mommy! Wake up!”
I swatted blindly at whatever was jumping and yelling at me. A small child’s giggle forced me to open my eyes; it was my favorite sound. My four-year-old son was bouncing on the bed, his loose brown curls bobbing atop his head and his blue eyes bright with happiness.
“It’s Christmas, Mommy!” he cried ecstatically, plopping to his knees beside me and grabbing my hand to try to pull me up. “Santa came and he put a bajillion presents under the tree!”
I had to smile and his enthusiasm as I sat up in bed. I glanced to my right and saw my husband with his face in the pillow and mouth hanging open, still snoring loudly and very obviously fake. I reached over and shoved his broad shoulder. His snore stuttered and he opened his eyes quickly, an innocent expression plastered on his face.
“Wh-wh-what?” he asked, a yawn disrupting his question.
Max turned to his father and began jumping again.
“Daddy, Daddy!” he yelled. “Santa came!”
Allen yawned once more, ruffled Max’s hair, and rolled out of the bed we shared. A little girl’s drowsy voice could be heard from the doorway of our bedroom and I looked around my son to see my three-year-old daughter.
“Hey, kid. What’s up?” Allen bent down in front of her and she walked into his open arms to put her head on his shoulder sleepily. He rose with her securely held in his arms, picking the end of her blanket up on the way and tucking it into the crook of his neck.
“Guess what, Gracie!” Max said loudly, hopping off the bed and running to grab his father’s leg. “It’s Christmas Day and now we can open presents!”
He looked up at his sister, starting to become more alert in Allen’s arms, and started jumping again. I got out of bed slowly and stumbled over to my family. I wrapped one arm around Allen with Grace between us and lifted Max to my hip with the other. I gave each of my kids and my husband a kiss on the cheek and went to carry Max out to the living room.
He squirmed out of my arms halfway down the hall and sprinted the rest of the way.
“Let me down,” I heard Grace say from behind me.
She ran past a second later with her blanket dragging along the floor and I felt Allen’s arm wrap around my waist.
“Merry Christmas, Beth,” he whispered in my ear.
We watched our children kneel in front of the mass of presents we had wrapped and stuck under the Christmas tree at midnight, each picking up a present and hastily tearing the holiday wrapping paper off. It flew in shreds in the air and Allen reached out to catch a bit of it as it flew past our faces.
Max and Grace finished opening the two presents they had chosen. Now they were both staring confusedly at the contents, a doll and toy firetruck in the wrong hands. Max looked from the doll he was holding to the truck his sister was holding and promptly switched them around. They both grinned happily.
Max started to drive the truck along the carpeted floor with its lights and sirens flashing and Grace hugged her new doll close. They seemed to have forgotten about the other presents for the time being.
I looked up to my husband’s face above mine and saw him watching them with a tender smile shaping his full lips. I smiled in response as he turned to stare in my eyes.
It happened every year, but Christmas was just something nobody really ever got used to, especially with two children to share the joyous holiday with. Each year, their responses were different than the last time. They may not have understood the fulfillment that came out of giving gifts, but I certainly did.
And as I looked so deeply into my husband’s eyes, I knew he understood, too, and that we were both filled with a wondrous sense of merriment that was warming our bodies, just as Christmas Day should.