I have a really vivid memory of when I was about four or five years old. It was Christmas Eve and I woke up in the middle of the night and instantly wondered if Santa had already been to our house yet. I laid there in bed anxiously thinking about what he could have left and excited for it to be morning already so I could finally get out of bed to see. The door to my room was shut and it felt like I was shut away from the whole world with just my thoughts and my expectations. My favorite sheets were on the bed and I still think about them 25 years later; they were dark gray flannel sheets with white sheep on them. Every time I got into bed when they were on I felt safe and warm and so happy so they were perfect for falling asleep on Christmas Eve. They smelled like home. I can still smell that smell.
As I laid there, unable to go back to sleep, I was listening. After a few minutes I heard jingle bells. I was sure of it. Santa was there at that moment and I was awake to know it! I thought about crawling out of bed and opening the door to see for myself. I visualized peaking around my doorway where I had a perfect view of our Christmas tree and seeing him there in his bright red suit and black boots leaving the presents like he always did, setting them out on display in the most perfect way under the colorful glow of the tree lights. I thought about what I would do as I watched him- would I say hello or pretend to not be there? Would he take the time to eat the treats I had left out? Or would he not be there at all and maybe I don’t really hear any bells.
Ultimately, I decided to stay put with the sheep and let my imagination continue to bloom until I eventually drifted back to sleep. I didn’t want to spoil the hope I had, and I also didn’t want to be disappointed if I opened my door to see an empty space lit up in the pretty glow that I already knew to be there. Looking back I am impressed by my patience at such a young age, but I have maintained much the same approach to life as I have grown up so maybe it’s not so surprising. I tend to put off rewards until the last possible moments because I think they taste sweeter that way. I will always opt to wait it out, to let that excitement linger as long as possible (unless it’s a good book, and then I always skip to the end to read the last page, then contentedly continue reading, don’t judge me!).
These few days just before Christmas are a real sweet spot. It’s so close, but not quite here yet. Everything is ready and we get to rest in this space of time where we can feel the buzz of it all, but it hasn’t started yet. Once it’s here, it’s over instantly, and there is a deflating feeling that comes with it, try as you might to avoid it. But right now, you can still sing your Christmas songs loudly, and you can still look at your Christmas tree, full of light and held up by all the lovingly wrapped presents. And you can still anticipate Santa. Everything is full and on its cusp.
In the last few days, I’ve found myself day dreaming on this memory more and more, remembering what it was like to be a child and relishing in the happiness I have now in the same ways as an adult. And as the years have come and gone, and my sheep have moved onto other pastures, the feeling hasn’t ever faded. I am so full when I see the glow of our Christmas tree spill over our living room, and I still love waiting on Santa. Let’s keep these treasures close to heart all of our days.