Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas morning

We all settled on the couch last night for our annual Christmas Eve viewing of It's a Wonderful Life. The kids, older now by a year, seemed to grasp a little more of what was going on than in years previous, though there were still inane, constant questions such as "Who's he?" every time George Bailey appeared on screen.

As the movie wound down, however, and George began his frantic search through Pottersville for Martini, his mother, Mary and, ultimately, Clarence, the kids quieted down. They became rapt with attention at the drama unfolding on the screen and there even appeared to be a collective sigh of relief when George's mouth started bleeding again, ZuZu's petals reappeared, the bank examiner was found to be waiting at home and Uncle Billy finally came through the door with a big basket full of cash.

Whether the kids understood the message or not, I'm not sure, but they were at least focused enough on the outcome to not notice their father sitting in the dark with only the glow of the tree lights to spotlight that he, once again, couldn't keep it together when Harry Bailey toasts his brother.

I say "we all" settled in but, actually, JP didn't stick around long. As he is wont to do, he announced that he was really sleepy and asked if he had to stay for the movie. I told him to go to bed whenever he was ready, so he trotted off with visions of sugarplums and root beer in his head ... only to announce he was still awake several hours later.

Unable to sleep, and fidgety with excitement, it seems he lay in bed for hours imagining the possibilities. Sleeplessness at night is so foreign a concept to JP that it actually scared him when he wasn't able to drift off. He kept C awake with his worry and C, being the alternate parent he is, came in to let us know.

Kristy and I, of course, were busy as elves.

So, for the first time in 11 years as parents, we were disturbed while performing our Santa Claus duties. This was never a problem for all those Christmases we spent in a 1,200 square foot house. No, we had to move to one three times that size to have these kids up and wandering around looking for us at 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve.

I think the real problem was that JP knew there was a Wii in the house. Of course he hadn't seen it, wrapped and under the tree since his Nonna sent it to him, but he could sense it. He could smell that game console over the Christmas cookie aroma, through the wrapping paper and from two rooms away. He vibrated with the knowledge that something in the aura of the house had changed and it kept him awake, the Miis quickly outnumbering and overpowering the sugarplums for real estate in his electronically-wired mind.

So, that's right, the kids got a Wii this morning. For those of you who know us, you know how big that is. You understand why JP's head exploded when the paper came off, leaving bits of wishfulness and hopefulness that had been harbored there for so long all over the walls, the decorated tree and my bathrobe. Life, as the kids know it, is complete. To show just how surprised they were, they named their Wii console, when the opportunity was given to do so, Miracle.

Welcome to the family, Miracle.

And thank you, Nonna, from your Memphis grandchildren.

My column in yesterday's Commercial Appeal was all about managing expectations and I think we did a pretty good job of that this year. Our kids wanted a lot, we told them there was no way they'd get it all, they expected less and then got more than they ever could have imagined.

Another holiday season in the bag. Merry Christmas, everyone.