It’s Christmas Eve. I am 7 years old and it is about 11:45 p.m.
It’s 1979 and my cousin Rob and I are jumping into action. Each year we try to learn from mistakes made the previous year and improve operation Catch Santa.
This year we decide to divide up the floors. I will wait downstairs while Rob stays vigilant upstairs. We are staying focused. The eggnog and cookies can wait 15 minutes.
Not even the presents that are already under the tree are going to steal our attention. Because at midnight, after the countdown from 10, other gifts will appear and those are the ones brought by Santa!
The cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents who’ve assembled are watching us with grins on their faces as we focus on the task at hand. We are hoping that the addition of walkie talkies to this year’s operation will give it the edge it needs so we can finally get the jump on jolly old St. Nick.
We are wired as the family yells out in unison: “five…four…three…two…ONE! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!”And then, from the basement I hear Christmas bells ringing on the floor above me. I hear the back door open and heavy feet heading to the side door.
I run up the stairs as Rob – on the top floor – hears “HO! HO! HO!” below him! We meet in the kitchen as the side door slams shut.
The MIDDLE FLOOR! How could we forget about the MIDDLE FLOOR??
Rob lives in Florida now and has two kids of his own. On the phone, I asked him if he had a favorite Christmas memory. This was the one he chose.
I agree with him. This is my favorite memory as well. Nothing beats the excitement of cramming way too many people together in a small house on Christmas Eve. Not even the gifts I got to open on the next day!