When I was a child, every Christmas morning my two younger sisters and I would wake up in the middle of the night. It was the same every year. I would wake up and tip toe to the door to peek out, then make a quick u-turn in to my sisters' room. They would be awake already, both sitting on one or the others bed, giggling quietly to themselves. I would speed across the room and leap onto the bed bouncing them both to the ground. We would sit there quietly laughing, asking each for the millionth time, "Do you think they're up yet?" Eventually our minds would wonder to what lay down the hall and to the left, under the huge Christmas tree that we knew was lit so Santa could find it easily. It was now 2:00am
As we softly guessed about the great gifts Santa might have brought, my middle sister's eyes would grow wide, not with wonder, but with the realization she was about to be sick. She'd jump off the bed, one hand holding her nightgown above her knees so she could run and the other hand slapped tightly across her mouth, she'd fly off to the bathroom with her robe flapping in the wind behind her. My youngest sister and I, abandoned on the bed, would look at each other first in shock, then in realization. IT'S CHRISTMAS! It was now 2:30am
Our parents, having gone through this ritual for years, dragged themselves out of bed at hearing the commotion. Mom went to the bathroom to calm my middle sister down and Dad went to the bedroom where my other sister and I were dancing on the bed caroling, IT'S CHRISTMAS! They'd calm the three of us down and tuck us back in to bed with promises that Christmas would soon be here. It was now 3:00 am.
It wasn't long before I was back up and around the corner to my sisters' room again where we quietly giggled and asked each other, "Do you think they're up yet?" for the billionth time. Our parents hearing the commotion and looking more like zombies then elves would drag themselves out of bed, come in to the room and announce that yes, Santa had been here. We would run out and sit in our perspective spots by the tree and its mounds of gifts while mom and dad would find spots in the back to sit and watch. It was now 4:00am.
With the gift giving done and a good breakfast ate, the three of us would sit in the middle of the carnage we created and start a day long play fest while Mom laid on the couch snoring and Dad slept on the recliner with his head tilted back and a little stream of drool sneaking out of the corner of his mouth. It was 6:00am.
For a long time, I had forgotten about those wonderful if not weird Christmas mornings until one year I was reminded of them in a not so subtle way.
It was Christmas Eve and we were tired from visiting all the relatives from both sides of the family all day. We arrived home weary and ready for bed. I turned on the lights to the tree so Santa could find it easily in the dark, then headed for bed.
I was awakened by the sound of rustling coming from the living room, a quiet, hushed rustling but enough to wake me. I began to toss and turn. A muffled sound escaped the pillow next to me, "what's the matter?" I reply with my suspicions that the cats are playing among the gifts under the tree. I'm told not to worry about it and go back to sleep. It's now 2:00 am.
I'm again awakened a short time later by a hacking sound. I roll out of bed and grab my robe. The pillow next to me mumbles again, "What's wrong now?" I reply with my suspicions of a cat having a hairball under the tree. I stumble into the living room and find the hacking cat. I calm him down and drag him and his brother to the foot of the bed and lay them down. It's now 2:30am.
A half hour later, I feel the cats restless at the end of the bed. I hear them jump down to the floor, knowing there headed back out to the tree. Tiny rustling keeps me up, I toss and turn. It's now 3:00am.
Finally, without warning, all sounds cease. I relax and begin the search for the slumber I long for.
CHOO-CHOO!!! We both fly out of the bed holding are chest as the extremely loud train sound came crashing in from the living room. Somehow, the cats found the tiny little "on" button to the train that encircled the tree. I threw down the covers I dragged with me when I jumped up in my terror, put on my robe, and exclaimed, "Get up, It's Christmas gawd dammit!" It's now 4:00 am.
We dragged ourselves out to the living room looking more like zombies than elves and found the cats sitting in front of the tree watching the train go around in circles.
We opened our presents and the cats played in the carnage of wrapping paper and empty boxes while we ate our breakfast of frozen waffles. As I sat myself down in the armchair I heard a muffled sound come from the couch, "I'm beat" followed soon by the sound rolling thunder. It was the last thing I heard as I felt my lids become heavy and shut. It was 6:00am.