We were the first to arrive at my mom's house Christmas Eve. Although she said she was going to be more restrained this year in her gift giving, there were presents in a twelve foot diameter under the tree.
My sister and her family showed up. She has two daughters, Shnookums being just six. Little Shnooky with the huge round blue eyes and Shirley Temple ringlets, ran in and jumped up on the chair closest to the tree. Her long, skinny legs swinging to the Christmas carol that was playing on the stereo.
Look at all those presents, Little Shnooks! I said.
I know, she giggled.
Too bad Nana just said before you guys got here that we should wait till tomorrow to open all of them.
Here eyes grew wider and she went to say something, but bit her lip.
My stepfather chimed in, Yeah, too bad. No presents for anyone today. I think it would be better if we just sat around watching football and eating spinach dip.
That's ok, Little Shnook, Shnook said. Because I know what the true meaning of Christmas is. And she emphasised that by raising her hand in the air and pointing to nothing in particular.
What's the true meaning of Christmas?
The true meaning of Christmas is not all the presents. The true meaning of Christmas is just being together with your family.
That's so true, Shnookums. I bet we can figure out a way to open the presents right now! Why don't you start separating all the presents!
And with that she and her sister ran to the tree and started making piles of everyone's gifts.
When they were done, Shnookums ran up to me and whispered in my ear. Look how many I have!
I know! You must've been a good girl this year!
I was, she giggled.
For the next hour or so, it was a chaotic madhouse, paper ripping and ribbons flying and ooohs and ahhhs all around. While my stepfather did his normal Christmas Eve routine. Can't let one piece of paper lay on the floor too long! Gotta get it up and into a garbage bag within two second of it hitting the floor!
My mom was getting all the food out in the kitchen when Shnooks ran up to me and said, Look Aunt Blue Girl! I hid one of my presents behind that chair! I still have one left to open later. No one else thought of that but me!
You are so smart!
So, as everyone was eating and talking, I noticed my niece, the little Shirley Temple lookalike over under the tree all by herself with that last gift. And she was just sitting there on the floor, in her red velvet Christmas dress holding that last package on her lap, talking to herself...
Last year, I got a lot of toys. But, this year I got a lot of clothes. Heavy sigh. This year I only got two toys. I know this box is a rectangle. I bet there's only clothes in it...
And with that, she let out another huge sigh and ripped into that package like there was no tomorrow.