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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

A Child’s Christmas

Morgan Rooney
MSMU Class of 2020

(12/2017) I wake up to the first break of daylight shining through the shutters and projecting onto the wall across the room. There is a slight chill in the air, as would be expected early on a winter morning, yet the smell of the potpourri emanating from the kitchen across the house is more inviting than the warmth and protection of my duvet which my mother had lovingly tucked around me the previous night. The scent of cinnamon and cloves fills my airways and levitates me from my bed into the hallway.

The lights wrapped around the railing twinkle, and the scent of last night’s spiral ham and potatoes mix with the aroma I had previously savored. Atop the dining table, at which we only eat for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, our centerpiece still sits: A Norwegian blessing lamp. The lamp is a wood carving which holds a red candle. Lighting this lamp Christmas Eve is one of the few traditions my family has. Passed through the Norwegian lineage in my family, it is said that if you fall under its candlelight, you shall be blessed throughout the coming year. The drippings of the wax from the candle now stick to the tablecloth and the crafted wood. This Christmas is not a white one, as it would be in Norway, nor has it ever been. Texas winters are mild, and snow only falls on an annual occasion.

For a young child like myself, this morning has been highly anticipated. I can finally fulfill all this excitement I have built up for the previous month and a half, watching the classic animated movies like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman, listening to my father’s compilation of all the popular timely Christmas songs, viewing the lights and wreaths displayed around the house and around town and visiting Santa Claus himself at the local mall to tell him what I most desired to unwrap Christmas morning. This anticipation is so great that I feel no remorse for awakening my parents and practically dragging them across the house to the living room with solely the giddiness and pleading tone of my words.

I am certainly sleep-deprived myself, as I lay awake for half of the night, doing my best to keep my eyes entirely closed and not move a single muscle—a preventative measure I took to trick St. Nick into believing I was asleep rather than punishing me for my involuntary insomnia by leaving nothing behind. I was told that he would not come unless I was asleep by midnight. By the time I get to the living room, I can see that my scheme was successful, as there is an additional stack of gifts to the side of the tree wrapping in an unfamiliar wrapping paper.

Half of them are addressed to me and the other to my younger sister, who currently crawls around on all fours, requiring my father to follow her around to prevent her from breaking something or hurting herself; this room has not been baby-proofed. My dearest friend, a white terrier, wanders around the room discovering the new scents that had recently been added to the room before finding a comfortable place to rest on the floor beside my feet.

After the long, borderline painful process of my parents needing to take precious time out of Christmas morning to fulfill their addiction to their morning cups of coffee, it is finally time to open those gifts that I had only previously been limited to staring at and shaking when no one else was there to watch me. Before each gift I unwrap, and after it is opened, my mother pauses me, and I am required to sit still for a grueling five seconds so her camera can focus and capture the moment with clarity. These might well be the longest few moments of my life. The requirement of each photograph is only prolonging and increasing my excitement to discover what I am about to receive. My mother does remind me, once again that one day, I would be grateful that she is taking so many pictures of this precious childhood of mine, and she is right. One day, down the line, I will be grateful.

I do wonder in the moment, as I quickly cycle through each and every box, why grown-ups do not share my prominent giddiness directed at opening the gifts that have been collected over the past month. I do not understand this now, but one day I will understand why. Fifteen years into the future, I will understand that Christmas isn’t about what you receive from others, or how much you give to another. I will understand that Christmas is about the memories you make and the love you share.

In fifteen years, I will not remember what is in these packages, wrapped up with red paper and green ribbon, but I will remember sitting with my family, untying the ribbon, and tearing the wrapping paper from the box. I will remember the smell of cinnamon and cloves in the air, and the aroma of last night’s dinner. I will remember my infant sister, full of energy and occupying herself with everything around her. I will remember the terrier sleeping besides my feet, delighted to be in our presence. I will remember what is most important to me, and it is not receiving expensive gifts, but instead the proximity of the people I love most.

Read other articles by Morgan Rooney