The other day, my son found an old video recorder. He wanted to charge it and use it shoot some nature videos. No problem, I said.
I dug into a basket that has roughly 48,000 assorted chargers and eventually found the right one. (For what it’s worth, I am fairly confident that, should you ever need a charger, we have the exact one in that basket. There are far more chargers than the number of electronic devices I have ever owned, so I can only assume they multiply and evolve.)
Once the camera was charged, I turned it on and saw the video screen on the back come to life. There are nine panels on the screen, each a thumbnail of the video it represents. Eight were blank. The ninth showed a tiny image of two little critters sitting on some stairs.
I pressed play on the video. The image filled the screen. The two critters were my kids, sitting on the third step of the stairway in our home. I heard my voice. “It is 2010. We’re on the third step. Merry Christmas!” (The third step is a critical Christmas morning barrier, and anyone who lives in a one-story should assemble a three-step stairway unit that kids are required to sit on Christmas morning. It’s the most effective child containment device ever assembled. The third step is the ultimate Christmas morning blockade. Leave the third step and Santa’s offerings will have disappeared. I don’t make the Christmas rules. I only enforce them.)
My kids were 7 and 10 in the video. My daughter is an old soul, so she probably had already figured out that Santa had certain helpers who were key players in the Christmas morning bounty, but she was not about to let on any doubt. Hedge your bets. My son, however, was all in. I asked my wife what was next. The kids chimed in.
“Look at the carrots!” my son said. “The carrots!!!” my daugher echoed. I looked outside. Indeed, the chewed up carrot bits left on the front steps showed that the reindeer had, indeed, been there and feasted upon their treats. I really don’t like carrots, so I am glad the reindeer did. And that we are now beyond that. You know, for other reasons…
“Back to the third step!” my daughter said. Training.
At this point, they were, understandably, most interested if Santa had come. I told them to wait for a second while I checked with mom.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” my daughter said, trying not very well to hide her annoyance at the Christmas delay.
The video showed me trailing into the den, surveying the scene. We had a slight pause as my wife had to plug the tree lights on. This did not please some. “Don’t peek, Parker!” I heard my daughter say. Ever vigilant. It appeared Santa had indeed been to our house. They seemed almost relieved. Apparently, there had been some doubt. I suppose they were sitting on the third step going over the previous year’s behavior and wondering what was potential for nullification.
Once my wife was in place, we told them they could come in. They sprinted into the room and squealed with delight. There was Felicity (which I think is a doll), my daughter’s very own “hair supply thing with my name on it” that she had wanted (whatever that was), some hex-bugs (whatever those are), a Razor scooter that sparks (because that sounds safe), and a mechanical dog that walks on a leash (because our three actual dogs weren’t enough apparently). There were also Smurfs somewhere in the mix. Also, Santa left a letter to the kids, which was awfully nice of him. The video was three-and-a-half minutes of bliss.
This year, Christmas will be, hopefully, full of similar bliss. But it will be different. I think that was the last time they will have both been at the age where Christmas magic envelopes them in a sphere of awe and amazement. Christmas is still awesome, but seeing a kid completely swathed in the moment is pretty special. I’m glad my son dusted off the video camera and I found that clip. It was a special moment for our family. That time of mystical amazement may have passed, but I still look forward to every Christmas morning with my family. Certain things may be missing now, but that’s OK. It’s the nature of life. And if we need to find even more positives, carrots are no longer part of the equation.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.