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All different, all the same, all over again

All different, all the same, all over again

Once upon a Christmas, our children came creeping down the stairs before dawn like little burglars.

They would tip toe across the kitchen toward the living room, where the glow from the Christmas tree lights was just barely enough to reveal what they hoped to confirm: Santa had been and gone, the cookies and milk consumed, a brief and cheery note left by the dish, their presents arranged in fetching pyramids on either side of the tree. 

Then a tentative knock on our bedroom door, and another, slightly more urgent, and then, the door slowly opening with two faces appearing around it like little moons rising.

“Mommy? Daddy? We just thought you might like to know that Santa was here. He was HERE!”

Upon receipt of this news, our miniature dachshund, Frody, tunneled underneath the comforter, emerged on the other side, and executed a perfect dive over the ramp and onto the floor, barking in midair, and then jetting into the living room with the kids in close pursuit.

“You ready, babe?”

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What time is it?”

“Um, 5:28.”

“I’ll get the camera, you start the coffee.”

So many of those Christmases, and so few. The assembly of race tracks and doll houses, the battle with elaborate boxing and toys sheathed in impossibly heavy plastic, the perpetual search for batteries. Trying to be in the moment but also to capture it all on video, trying to keep the dog from chewing the arms off of action figures.

It was over before the sun came up, each of the kids retreating to their rooms with their Christmas bounty to marvel and ponder the miracle of gifts so many months longed for and now right there in their hands. 

We made cinnamon rolls and drank our coffee while I loaded the car for our three-hour trip to have Christmas lunch with the family. The kids would be able to show off their presents with their cousins, who would bring theirs, too, and the grown-ups would make a big to-do over the kids’ Christmas outfits and how much they’d grown since summer, and we’d all pile our plates high with ham and turkey and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Eventually comes another Christmas, the kids now grown but back at home. It is well past dawn before a much more matter-of-fact knock, the kind of knock doctors make before they enter the room where you are waiting for them to tell you something positive about your lab results.

“Dad? Christmas.”

I looked at the clock on the nightstand: 9:58. I looked outside. Rainy, windy.

Frody, now 15 years old, struggled toward the Christmas tree, pausing briefly to poop on the rug. He has been battling cancer for years and is finally just about out of time. We are happy he made it to another Christmas.

The kids are adults now, but they’re good sports and have a little bit of their parents’ weakness for nostalgia and tradition in them, so we watch Christmas movies and play “Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas,” our Christmas soundtrack since they were tiny.

We watch the Christmas story episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” the one where even mean old Ben Weaver is overcome with the Christmas spirit.

We make the same Christmas cookies and Chex Party Mix. We take a ride out into the neighborhood to admire the neighbors’ Christmas lights. We play games, including some new ones.

We have a Christmas Eve dance party in the matching Christmas pajamas that Tammy got everyone to wear. Disco Christmas. “Dancing Queen,”“ Knock on Wood,” “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting,” “Staying Alive,” “Le Freak.” As ever, Tammy captures all of this on video.

The presents are kind of different, but kind of not. Kayden got a Kindle. Jac got a turntable. Some assembly is still required. There are more clothes, more practical things.

The parents are upgraded from homemade art projects to thoughtful and much more expensive gifts. My son got me a Kendrick Lamar album and my daughter got me a cool Appalachian State University T-shirt.

Yes, Christmas is definitely different in many ways, but the best is this. Now, that we are all adults, we can finally all be kids again.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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