Christmas has always been a time for happy memories. In the case of my own good fortune, the season has almost always yielded a fond harvest. As a boy, Christmas Eve featured what was probably a common theme among children of my age: waiting for Santa Claus.
After all of the larger family activities had subsided, my siblings and I dutifully took our posts as per tradition. We each had rocking chairs, sorted by age and size with no debates over which was assigned to whom. The room was always darkened, thus casting the scene of our ambush under a colorful camouflage of winking tree lights.
As an additional lure, the record player was carefully configured to play a series of traditional big game Christmas songs. The most effective, we were told, included Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, and the Ray Conniff singers. These were the ones most likely to draw our quarry.
And so the trap was meticulously arranged. There was the irresistible siren of Christmas crooners and easy chimney ingress to a darkened room. There the obese crimson interloper would be dazzled by blinking strobe effects long enough to be apprehended for questioning (and begging) by an elite sentry unit primed with cookies and eggnog.
Though Santa was certainly not careless prey. All of us knew our vigil would not end quickly. Thus there was no cause to deny ourselves good cheer in waiting. So we rocked in front of the Christmas tree, listening to the same old songs every year, and telling stories about the past while eagerly anticipating what gifts our welcomed burglar might bear.
We talked, smiled, laughed, and listened. Then one by one we fell asleep, to wake Christmas morning in our own beds having been brazenly bested by the stealthy old imp again. We always planned to catch Santa in our footied pajamas. That’s what we told ourselves and what we told each other.
But Santa exists in more places than just reindeer sleighs and presents under the tree. The Santa I really caught all those Christmas Eves ago lingered quite a bit longer than any forgotten toy. That Santa showed-up right in front of us every year in a disguise so effective we didn’t even recognize him until years later. The gifts he brought were family, tradition, love, and commitment to a larger whole than just the lone body in our own little rocking chair.
In a way I view modest enterprises like this blog as the Christmas Eve tradition of our civilization in its current bitter malaise. A little place to watch the blinking lights and tell stories about what may await tomorrow. I don’t know that we’ll ever catch Santa. I don’t know that Santa will actually ever come. We may not immediately recognize his gifts if he does. Though maybe he doesn’t have to be obvious for our watch to still be worthwhile. There’s real comfort in simply waiting with friends. And real strength in knowing you’re not waiting alone.
So to all those friends unmet, thanks for stopping by to listen to the music together. May you find happiness at home tonight in those gifts rocking through life with you. Merry Christmas.