I was so excited. It was Christmas Eve and we were off to church. Our church was about four blocks away, and my parents were making us walk in the snow.
I waited on the porch with my brothers. They were both older than me, and I wanted nothing more in my life to keep up with them.
“Santa doesn’t exist,” my oldest brother said, pushing his glasses up his nose.
“Does too!” I shouted at him.
“What do you think they’re doing in there?” he explained. “They made us go out so that they could bring out the presents.”
No way. I stomped in the snow and tried to peek in through the curtains. They were sheer and I could make out…. nothing. The room with the tree was in the front of the house, and the twinkling lights peeked at us. “I don’t see anything.”
The middle brother pushed me over. “Let me see.”
“There’s nothing to see,” I said. “There is a Santa.”
“Nope. There’s not.”
“Yes, there is.”
And so on. He maintained an infuriating calm as he stoically maintained his position on the matter, which frustrated me to no end. I hit him in the arm and he swatted me away like a fly. My other brother, the middle child, kept a vigil on the curtain, but had little to add to the conversation.
“I don’t see anything either,” he said.
I didn’t know if he still believed in Santa or not, but I chose to think he did. I left off my argument with the other brother, seeing the pointlessness of arguing, plus watching to see was much more entertaining.
There was nothing to see, though. A few minutes later, my parents came out the door, and my brother and I jumped away from the window by the porch, as if we were caught doing something naughty and Santa might not come for that reason if not any other.
They didn’t say anything, though, and we all left to go to church. It was a late service, a midnight mass, and we received a candle with a little paper wax-catcher attached to it. Being able to hold a candle was a novelty, which soon wore off, however. I wasn’t old enough to take communion, so I sat there during the mass and listened halfheartedly to the Christmas story. The story of Jesus stirred my imagination, and I tried to visualize what the shepherds might have felt when they heard and saw the heavenly hosts. And, what were heavenly hosts, anyway?
When the telling of the Christmas story ended, the priest began the communion. Talk about boring. The church was packed, and it took forever for the communion to be served to the congregation. I fiddled with my candle, spilling wax on the hard wooden pew. I picked it off and threw it on the floor, and when my parents got back from taking communion, I knelt next to them on the knee rest and tried to pray.
My mind wandered, however, and I wished to go home. Maybe Santa had come already! I started to fidget on the seat and my mom had to shush me.
“Let us go in love and serve the Lord,” the priest finally intoned in his sober voice.
We walked home in the dark and silent night, with freshly fallen snow on the ground sparking in the street lights. My brothers ran ahead, but I couldn’t keep up, of course, slipping and sliding on the sidewalk.
I heard my brothers reach the house and yell, “Santa came!”, and I started to run. We had to wait for our parents to catch up, but they were old so it took a long time.
“So Santa came?” my mom said. “I guess you guys have been good this year!”
“Do we get to open presents? Do we have to wait until morning?”
She exchanged a look with my dad. “I guess you can open them tonight.”
“All right!” My brothers and I whooped and hollered and ran into the house to open our gifts.
Totally true story. I can’t remember what we got, I don’t have any idea how late we were up, and I, to this day, have no idea who went to my parents’ house how while we were at church and put out the presents for us. And I’m absolutely certain that my parents enjoyed having a peaceful Christmas morning without little kids screaming at her while she readied our breakfast.