It was Christmas morning 2013, and I was sleeping in the loft of my parents’ home in Northern California. While everyone else had a comfortable mattress to sleep on, I was the odd man out and forced to sleep on an air mattress in a rather congested area of the house. This shit happens when all the bedrooms are occupied. Even after I had awoken, I kept my eyes shut in the hopes that maybe I could get just a few more minutes of sleep. But I had no such luck because I eventually felt a foot tapping on my air mattress and looked up to see my niece who told me, with a stern look in her eyes:
“Wake up Uncle Ben, we’ve got to open presents!”
It took me a few more minutes to haul my ass out of bed, but I immediately knew how she felt. Her impatient waiting for Christmas Day to arrive brought back a lot of memories. I remember waiting for Santa Claus to arrive at whatever house me and my family was staying at to leave us Christmas presents, but I remember even more vividly getting little to no sleep on Christmas Eve (a lack of sleep these days feels normal unfortunately) which made the wait to open presents all the more agonizing.
The rule for my older brother and I was that we couldn’t open up any presents until 7:00 a.m., but waiting for our watches to reach the 7 o’clock hour was pure torture. Back when you were a child, Christmas could never come soon enough. Time just dragged on and on as you waited to open the presents nestled comfortably under the family Christmas tree. As we get older, time starts moving by a lot faster which at first is a relief because it allows you to get through the crappy parts of life at a quicker pace, but then we find ourselves wanting time to slow down so that we can hold onto those special moments just a little while longer.
When my niece finally got to rip open those presents Santa had left for her, her joy at what she received was extremely audible. Among the gifts she received was a trampoline which will be waiting for her back home. To this, she let out a very loud scream of joy that should have woken up the whole neighborhood. Then again, if my parents watching Skyfall on their HD television with the soundtrack blasting out the speakers doesn’t wake the neighbors up, nothing will.
But then there were the rest of the presents under the Christmas tree for the whole family, and my niece had to wait even longer to open those. We adults had to get up, take a shower, get dressed and have breakfast. While children might be content to skip meals to get at those presents, we older people have long since developed a level of patience that never came to us easily. Nevertheless, we couldn’t help but tease my niece as she shifted anxiously in her chair. Just when she thought we were done with our meals, we told her that we needed to go on a 5-mile walk to burn all these calories off. All the same, she didn’t quite get the joke and her impatience for unwrapping presents became all the more uncontrollable. Just when it looked like we were finished with breakfast, she came up to each of us, prepared to take our plates, and said, “Are you done?” Her parents responded that she needed to ask us nicely. As a result, she once again asked if we were done, but this time she asked us with a smile. Somehow the message didn’t get through.
As we were cleaning up our plates, my niece rushed up the stairs to the Christmas tree and awaited our appearance. When we didn’t show up right away, she began writhing on the floor like she was Linda Blair in The Exorcist; possessed by a force that needed to be banished from her body forever. She really couldn’t wait for much longer to open presents, and in her mind we couldn’t make it up the stairs fast enough.
Just like when I was a child, my niece had the job of handing out presents to everybody, but of course the first present she picked out was for herself (I used to do the exact same thing). She also insisted that we open our presents individually and not all at once. For a moment, I thought she was doing this to get back at us for making her wait to open presents, but her mother pointed out how much fun it is to watch the expressions on everyone’s faces when they opened their gifts. We were all quickly reminded of this when the present opening finally commenced.
It was all worth it just to see my niece get super excited about the gifts she got. She didn’t even try to hide her glee, and it got to where she spoke so fast that we couldn’t understand what she was saying. She received some sort of doll that was tied up ever so securely in its box, and she asked for our help in getting the doll out of the box as it seemed surprisingly child proof. I myself got her a Target gift card (I’m sure she does need a PIN for it) worth $15, and I have never seen a child get so exhilarated over receiving one before. I hope she wasn’t putting on some sort of act to hide her disappointment or anything.
Watching my niece opening her presents proved to be a reminder of how wonderful a holiday Christmas can be. I have been kind of blasé about it for the past few years because of all the commercialization surrounding it, but when it comes to family there’s no beating this holiday. It also reminds me of how precious time is because it keeps going by faster and faster as we get older and older. It almost makes me feel kind of envious of my niece because she has yet to discover how truly crazy this world can be. We all better enjoy these precious moments while they last!