A cold winter drift blows against the south side of our colonial-style New England house. The sun has yet to rise, as it is late in the year but early in the morning. Not a single thing stirs, aside from this wind that is pushing hard on the outer walls of the house. I wake with a smile, grinning from ear to ear, as I imagine what lies beyond my door. I can see the gleam from the classical lights just under the crack of my bedroom door. I silently rise from my bed, making sure the only noise being made are the faint squeaks from my mattress that I cannot contain. I carefully navigate through my pitch-black room using all of my senses to make sure I am as quiet as a mouse as I slide on my pajamas.
I am thankful that I have the softest carpet in the whole house covering my bedroom floor, so walking quietly is not a problem. Even though the door is closed, I move stealthily, like a ninja trying not to be seen or heard, even though no one is looking. I find my way to my closet and struggle to feel out my favorite sweatshirt; I can tell by the way the lip of the hood is sewn. Just as I get a hand on it, I hear a slight noise. I can’t tell what it is; I freeze like a deer in headlights. I hear it again, and again, and finally my door creaks open, like a tree slowly cracking to its breaking point. I hold my breath. Hiding near my closet, I see four little white boots prancing towards me. My door hits the wall with a slight thud as it meets its stopping point. I let out a full breath with relief and lean over to pet my cat Sammy who is notorious for opening doors on his own. He rubs up against me wanting more attention as I pause to put my sweatshirt on.
With the door wide open, the gleaming lights of the Christmas tree have illuminated the entirety of my bedroom. I slide on the softest socks I own in an effort to quiet my steps and proceed ever so cautiously to through the corridor that leads to my sister’s room. I peek through the crack that separates her door and her doorframe to see if she is awake. With Sammy still rubbing on my lower legs, I take one step in, just so my upper torso is past the threshold and I whisper, “pssst… Kass, Kassandra, wake up!” The only reply I receive is a small meow from Sammy followed by him rolling on his back between my feet. I try again, only this time, a little louder. “Kassandra! Its Christmas wakeup!!” She sends back a slight roll and throws her hand over her forehead almost like she is sick. Startling me, she sits up as if the thought of Christmas morning has just entered her bloodstream and springs out of bed, quietly, of course.
We exchange a look that is equal to a thousand words as we peek down the corridor to make sure no one is up and about. As we approach the top of the stairs, I get down on all fours, just like my cat, and sneak a peek around the railing, laying eyes on the most wonderful sight of all: the stunning seven-foot magical centerpiece that is our family’s Christmas tree, covered in white classical lights and family ornaments that have been collected over the year. Small figures of my favorite hockey players hang from scattered glowing branches. My sister’s ornaments from school are placed evenly about, with our family pictures among them. Although this tree has been chopped and stripped of its roots, the feeling it gives off is that it is completely alive. Her eyes scanning the tree from top to bottom, Kassandra lets off the biggest smile I have ever seen, almost as if the tree itself was enough, never mind the gifts under it; for there is truly something magical about a gleaming Christmas tree on early Christmas morning.
Proceeding down the stairs, hugging the wall, my sister follows as close behind my footsteps as possible. Walking down the middle creates loud creaks that are sure to wake Mom and Dad. Now our stockings come into view, jam-packed with small wrapped gifts. The sight of them makes my heart beat a little faster because theses are what we have come for. My sister feels her stocking as I tiptoe across the tile floor to the junk drawer in a search of a pair of scissors. We have this down to a science. Kass holds the stocking slightly up as I clip the string in the right spot allowing it to slide off the railing and gently into her hands. We do the same for mine.
As I slip the scissors into my pocket, knowing I will be needing them to open some plastic packages, I put hands on my stocking. Suddenly this heart-pounding trek down one floor has become real. Feeling the bulging, stuffed felt sock, I can no longer contain my excitement and let out a faint shriek. Kass stops and looks at me but does not say a word; she does not need to because I know exactly what she would have said. I gave her the signal that I would zip my lips and we proceed back up the stairs. Increasing speed with each of the thirteen steps, I rush into my room and turn on a dime to close my door with precision to continue the silence. I turn around with my stocking in hand and am greeted by Sammy lying on my bed, as he knows what’s to come next. I take out each small gift one by one and line them up on my bed as I sit beside them, cross-legged.
I unwrap them and toss the paper onto Sammy; he seems to be almost happier than I, for this has become a yearly routine between us two. Unwrapping the last gift from my stocking, I place all of them neatly in an empty corner in my dimly lit room. Shoving all of the snowflake-covered wrapping paper back into the stocking, I place it next to my bed and retreat once again under my covers. Leaving the light on for Sammy, I nod off. Not into too deep of a sleep, as my body knows I will be doing this all again in a couple of hours, only this time with the whole family, and for the big gifts. The magical ones.
Austin Wildes ‘14