Christmas Eve and (Almost) Five Years Old Edna
Well, let’s see now…
When little Edna was (almost) five years old she was such a true believer in Santa Clause that it was inconceivable that there could be any doubt he existed. By then, of course, she could remember what had happened the year before and she could hardly wait for it to happen again.
Edna’s older siblings worked hard during December to fill her to the brim with stories and activities so that by Christmas Eve her excitement level was bubbling over the top. As her father would say, “She was as jumpy as a fart on a hot skillet.” Her only sister was twelve years older than Edna, and her brothers were ages eight and ten years older; it was the perfect time to work on Edna’s imagination. She seriously soaked in everything she was told about Santa, his elves, the North Pole, and Santa’s Toy Shoppe … and it was all vividly painted in her imagination.
Her brothers told her tales of Santa’s elves and how they jumped from snowy fence post to snowy fence post; how they were so fast that you rarely ever saw more than a blur from the corner of your eye as they ran around gathering notes for Santa’s list. The brothers knew everything about the elves from the tips of their pointed little hats right down to the bells on their curly little shoes. They knew where they slept when they were on “duty” and how they would sneak in at night to get warm by the coal-burning upright heater in our living room and sneak little nibbles from our bread. Bill swears to this day that he saw one leap the high fences that corralled the farm animals who lived down the dirt lane from our home to the barns at the back of our three acre lot. They would take Edna to the windows of the house and watch for elves, occasionally screaming, “Did you see it? Did you see it?” At first, she didn’t … but by the time Christmas came around, she was pretty sure she was seeing them too. Both of her brothers made sure she understood the seriously worrisome details of how easy it was to get on Santa’s “Naughty” list, particularly if you disobeyed your older parents, your sister, or your brothers. (This story teller knows it was their way of expressing their love).
Ann, was in high school, and Edna thought she was the prettiest, nicest big sister you could have ever, ever … ever wish for and she always seemed to make sure every holiday there was plenty of “sister time”. She would show her pictures of the North Pole and tell her stories of Santa’s workshop, how the toys are made, and how easy it is to stay on Santa’s “Nice” list.
On Christmas Eve, after visiting some neighbors, singing carols together with the family and reading the story of Christmas from the Bible, it was time to hang up the Christmas stockings. Edna was trying to find the biggest stocking she could among the ones in her drawer but her foot was much smaller than the ones everyone else had found. Her mother found her sitting on the sofa, arms folded across her chest and a big frown on her face.
“What are you doing sitting here like that? You better hang up your stocking and get to sleep before Santa comes or he will see us still up. He has to visit every house in the world, and you know, he never comes unless we are asleep,” Mother told the pouting little girl.
“My stockings are too little. Santa won’t even be able to give me a big orange and apple in its toe,” she grumbled, holding up her longest stocking, which compared to the others was, indeed, very small. “That’s what he puts in the toe, because I know.”
Daddy, who overheard this exchange winked at her and motioned secretly with his finger for her to follow him. They went around the corner, through the kitchen, down the hall, and into her parents bedroom, which was filled with mysterious shopping bags and lumpy things that were covered with Mother’s table cloths. Finally, inside the closet, Daddy opened the drawer that held his neatly rolled socks and told her she could pick any one of them.
“I can?” Edna asked excitedly. “Won’t Santa care if it isn’t my own stocking?”
Daddy laughed and said, “No, I absolutely know for sure that Santa won’t care if you choose one of mine.”
And so she did. She chose the longest stocking in Daddy’s drawer and went running happily back to hang it in the living room where five other stockings were already hanging in a row. (This memory was three years before Reed was born.)
“Now Santa can fill it clear full,” she thought to herself as she sat once more on the sofa to look at the Christmas room; the decorations, the lights on the beautiful tree in the corner, and the odd shaped stockings hanging on the wall. She felt safe and happy as she looked at mother’s Christmas Crèche and thought about Mary and Joseph, the singing angels, the shepherds sleeping on the hills with their sheep, the wise men who followed the star all the way to where baby Jesus lay sleeping on the hay. Her mother told her the story when they would rock in the big, leather rocking chair and Edna knew that Christmas was the birthday of Jesus.
“I love Jesus,” she thought as her eyes got heavier and heavier until she was sound asleep. Her Daddy quietly picked her up and carried her up the narrow stairs to the bedrooms that were built in the attic above the kitchen and living room. The ceilings of the rooms were higher in the middle so everyone, even Daddy, could stand up straight but then they sloped at an angle out to meet the walls on two of the walls before they angled down about four feet to the floor. To get to the room Ann shared with Edna, Daddy walked through Bill and Chick’s shared room and then he gently laid her down in-between the nice, clean sheets and pulled the covers up and tucked them around her chin.
“Good night, Babe (He always called her Babe),” he whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Daddy”, Edna whispered back, even though she was already dreaming of elves, and candy and dollies who really drank from teensie, little baby bottles.
Morning took forever to arrive for the children in the attic. There was a firm family rule that no one … and that means NO ONE … was to go into the living room without first waking up their parents. The tradition was that Daddy would get up and sneak in first in to make sure Santa had come and gone, so he wasn’t disturbed before he was through filling the stockings and putting presents beneath the tree, and then he would turn on the bright, flood lights so he could take pictures of the children who would come down the hall, shortest to tallest, to see what awaited just around the corner.
The first four or five times that one of the children quietly snuck down to the side of their parents bed to ask what time it was, they were told that it was still the middle of the night and to go back to bed. The last time, when the boys talked Edna into sneaking down to check on the time, Mommy sat up in bed and said, “Oh come on, Lewy, (that was what she called Daddy) let’s get up and see what Santa brought.
“It’s 5:00 in the morning,” Daddy loudly whispered as he sleepily sat up and stretched his arms wide as he yawned. “We don’t even know if Santa has been here yet.”
“Well, you could quietly sneak down and see,” Mommy whispered back as she winked and smiled at the now wide awake Edna. “You go back up the stairs very, very quietly and tell everyone they can sneak down to our room and Daddy will go see if Santa has come.”
Edna whispered back, “Okay, Mommy,” and she quietly did just as she had been told.
The children quietly huddled at the back wall of the hall, shivering in the morning chill, already lining up so they would be ready when Daddy gave the word they could march into the living room. Shortest to tallest; Edna first, then Chick, then Bill, and then Ann lined up very quietly in the hall and whispered excitedly as Daddy tip toed with a highly exaggerated steps, down the hall where he stood pressed against the wall as he peaked his head around the corner.
Quickly he pulled his head back and gave a panicked look at the children down the hall, motioning for them to be very still. Slowly, he flattened his back along the edge of the wall of the kitchen and began to inch his way very carefully and quietly back down the hall to where they stood. All motion and whispering had stopped and they were dead still as they watched Daddy make his way back to the family, where he quietly patted his chest and breathed in some big gulps of air.
“Don’t anyone move or sneeze or make any kind of noise. Santa and the elves are in there right now. You know what that means.” Daddy whispered seriously.
Yes, indeed, they did know what that meant, and Edna tried to stand still, but Ann, and Bill, and Chick kept whispering to each other and getting the giggles. The coal heater, you will recall, was in the living room and the hall was so chilly that cold Christmas morning that their teeth began to chatter, which made them giggle even more. Daddy hushed them and said he could hear movement in the living room and suddenly, so could they! They really could, it wasn’t their imagination! They could hear faint talking and bumping sounds, and the jingle of bells, and then, just as suddenly, everything was quiet. They waited quietly for another long minute before Daddy once again crept down the hall alone, just to make sure.
“It’s clear,” he called as he flipped on flood lights, played soft Christmas music on his new recording machine, and stirred up the fire in the furnace. “Oh boy, you aren’t going to believe the things that are in here,” he would call out every few seconds.
“Hurry, Daddy,” we called back as we took our turns in the single bathroom that everyone shared. Mommy and Ann decided to take their hair out of the pin-curls they slept in and comb it and put on lipstick for the pictures. It seemed to Edna that it was taking everyone FOREVER!.
When the excitement was literally bouncing from the walls and ceiling, Mommy and Daddy went into the living room and called, “Okay, you can come now!”
The first thing Edna saw when she turned the corner to the room of surprises was a row of stockings hanging on the wall … with round, full heels and toes and mysterious bumps with a banana and candy cane peeking from the top. What a relief she felt! Santa had really, really come!
And that’s where this memory ends because even though our gifts to each other were carefully chosen and deeply appreciated, and Santa had given us wonderful presents, those things are not what I remember most. I remember the things we did as a family in the days leading up to Christmas; whispering secrets, telling stories, singing carols, hanging our stockings, reading from about the first Christmas from the Bible, and faking sleep so I could be carried to bed. How fun it was when my father caught Santa in the act, and that we heard he and his elves in living room as we all stood quietly shivering in the hall.