“There are sandspurs in my shoe!” The boy shouted there, somewhere nearby, visible to me only as a shape that looked the same dimensions as the boy.
“There are sampsurs in my shoes too!” The tot make a point of stopping in the same area as her older brother. I paused there on the street with Big Dog, feeling as though I had pulled the reins on a very stately carriage horse. Big Dog paused too in a most patient way, ever the gentlemanly character.
The sky had only recently turned to blackness. First it was gold, then pale, then a deep blue, but by that time it was merely black. Black might have made for an uninteresting color if it weren’t for Venus and Jupiter shining brightly, like the only two Christmas lights left gleaming on the cord after a fuse blew.
How dare I compare ethereal Venus and Jupiter to those jerk lights on plastic coated wire that tangle at every opportunity? They aren’t comparable at all, I thought as I let out a blast of visible breath to drift upward in Venus and Jupiter’s direction.
I was hardly in a position to complain about Christmas lights, given the miraculous event that had taken place three hours earlier.
The Miraculous Event
It was time. Thanksgiving had just yawned and stretched its legs like a napping cat, having been barely nestled into its bed to sleep until next year, when the boxes taped over a hundred times immerged from the attic with one word scribbled on each in Sharpie: Christmas.
I am generally not that gung-ho about ushering in Christmas at the first opportunity, but the children think differently. Those orange pumpkins that looked so rich in color in September, now have increasing numbers of diseased little black spots. Out with the leftover turkey, and in with the sparkling glittery presence of Christmas.
By one o’clock in the afternoon Christmas was already tinkling little bits of glitter and fir needles across my living room like a tot making a run for the potty. I wasn’t entirely in the mood for taking on the gargantuan task of setting up the fake Christmas tree—completed only by installation, lights, garland, and approximately one million ornaments. I am far from a bah-humbug kind of gal, but I was feeling a little fatigued from Thanksgiving’s abrupt transition to winter.
And that is when it happened.
The boy cut open the tape on the long Christmas tree box, burst open the top with a flourish of spraying faux-fir bits into the air, and announced: “I will set up the Christmas tree!”
Sure, sure. You’ll set it up. You’ll install two branches and then realize why this is an “adult” job—it’s crap, I thought as I squinted my eyes at him.
Kids zoom in when it is time to reminisce about how much bigger their hands are compared to that salt dough ornament they made last year. Otherwise, they are too busy wanting to know when candy canes will appear on the tree to care how their parent suffers snapping each branch into place, and the frustration of untangling the garland.
But of course, I told the boy to go right on ahead. I went about my business.
It was an hour later that I realized the boy was still at it; it was a half hour after that when I realized the boy was still at it. Granted he was stopping to periodically threaten his sister with scary monster noises and getting distracted every five minutes by basically anything—Was that the mailman? Did the egg or the chick come first?—but he was in fact installing my tree.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was installing the tree like a normal, moderately rational adult. For instance, there happened to be one long branch installed at the very bottom, and one short one at the top, along with several somewhere in the middle, and therefore no method to his madness. The tree looked a little embarrassed, like it desperately wanted to reach out and grab some of that garland lying on the floor to properly cover its trunk nether regions. I shielded my eyes in respect and carried on.
Surely, anytime now he will quit, I thought. I waited.
Three hours in and the boy was requesting my assistance to snap in a few ornery branches. There was undoubtedly some sort of size mix-up, wherein an “E” branch had been mistakenly placed in a “J” hole. As a result there were a few, obscure branches that looked malformed. It looked a bit like a growth hormone difficulty—parts of the tree had hit puberty, but a few simply had not. Nothing garland, lights, and one million ornaments couldn’t take care of.
...Good Morning Glittery Christmas
I walked back to the kitchen, badly needing to sit down in such a shocked state.
I Knew This Day Would Come
I rested my face against my hand as I tried to wrap my head around what was going on in there. There on the living room floor was the explosion of Christmas (quite literally, as the tot had already taken down a glass ball), and I had not yet had to tend to it. The goose bumps rose up on my arms as the thought crossed my mind:
It is not yet December first, but this is a Christmas miracle.
Then I let out a happy smile, feeling just a tad bit smug. I always knew this day would come. Finally, six years into this job—from my own blood, sweat, and tears, along with the poop of two other small people—it had arrived.
Finally, these children were doing work for me.
I basked in that glory for a solid two minutes. Then the tot arrived at my side. In her two hands she held the tree-topper angel. In one hand was the decapitated body; in the other the lovely little porcelain head.
Clearly I wasn’t exactly looking at servants trained at the Ritz, or basically any sort of servants at all, as the tot then insisted upon my peeling a tangerine on her behalf—but I will take what I can get.
Back to Those Christmas Lights in the Sky
“Come on! These are the train tracks!” The boy shouted as he hopped into the shallow ditch that ran along the edge of the road, onto those imaginary crossties. And the tot hurried in to follow behind him, the little sister version of a train car dutifully following her engine.
Big Dog sniffed the sky thoughtfully as I looked back up at Venus and Jupiter. The evening air ran cool fingers along my exposed legs as I nestled the long sweater more comfortable around me. The freshness of the smell and the clearness of the sky, tangled up with the joyful sound of the children scampering up ahead filled me up.
This life, this night, this moment—a Christmas miracle, indeed.