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Fondly Remembering Childhood Christmas Mornings
In my young adult book Finding Frances, there’s a short scene where my main character remembers her Christmas mornings fondly. I think a lot of us remember back to Christmas with borderline sentimentality. This is possibly true for a lot of other holidays, but Christmas is such a concentrated dose of joy for lucky kids. At my house Christmas morning went like this: between my little brother and I, whoever woke up first would wake the other. We would creep downstairs quietly—it was fine as long as we didn’t wake our parents—and head down the long hall to the den, where I would flip the light switch to reveal the treasures from Santa. We’d step down into the room and shiver with excitement and cold as we sat amongst our gifts. Santa was too busy to wrap presents, so this meant all the unwrapped things were ours to behold well before sunrise. Then we would wait until our parents woke, after which Mom would make breakfast pizza, we’d eat it, clean up, and then it was time to open everything else. It was the same every year, except the one where it wasn’t.
That Christmas morning, the two of us trembled with excitement as we worked our way down the stairs in the dark. But this year was different, because I was on crutches after hip surgery, and it slowed me way down. So, as we made our way down the stairs, he got farther and farther ahead of me. By the time I crutched off the last step, he was standing straight ahead in the middle of the hall looking at me, his mouth hanging open in anticipation and uncertainty. The red cuffs of his Superman pajamas were halfway up his calves. He took a step backwards, while still looking at me. I trudged on while he raced the rest of the way to the end of the hall. His toes dangled over the step into the dark den. His hand rested on the light switch.
But he stopped and turned back around.
He still wanted to share Christmas with me, just like always. The realization made my heart pinch—he was only six years old. Where had he learned patience like that? Definitely not from me.
I crutched the rest of the way and as soon as I was next to him, I reached over to flip the switch and the room exploded with light. We stood there squinting and blinking, taking the scene in, although I couldn’t remember a single thing I got that year. I just remember my little brother.
I do know that we dug through the handful of unwrapped gifts our parents had left out and emptied out our stockings to find chocolate, nuts, and the cans of ravioli and beefaroni that were Dad’s specialty. Then we went back up to our rooms and slept until Mom came in and woke us. We went down and she heated up the breakfast pizza she’d made the night before and my brother and I willed it to cook faster so we could get to the wrapped presents.
I didn’t tell anyone about him waiting for me that early morning until years later, but it is still my strongest Christmas memory. I wasn’t the most patient kid and waiting wasn’t something I did well. I’d never really thought about how that impatience might impact other people. But a little self-control on my brother’s part kept our tradition intact. Any time I’m frustrated by a delay or just some requisite waiting, I picture a little boy in blue pajamas with an S emblazoned across the front, and feel measurably more patient, while the scent of clove oranges wafts across my imagination.
Retta Brooks thinks her life is on track after convincing her overprotective mom to stop home-schooling her and allow her to go to Buckley High. She comes home from a night out with friends to find that her whole world has changed, and she has extremely hard decisions to make. Not to mention finding the answers to questions some people would rather she not know. Is she strong enough for what lies ahead?
Kelly Vincent wrangles data weekdays and spends the rest of her time playing with words. She grew up in Oklahoma but has moved around quite a bit, with Glasgow, Scotland being her favorite stop. She now lives near Seattle with three cats who help her write her stories by strategically walking across the keyboard, with her first novel, Finding Frances, a fine example of this technique. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth program.
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