Skipping Along 45: Twas the Week Before Christmas

By Gemsong

Why I thought this was a good idea I'll never know. We did it last year. Jack was happy to sit in my lap and listen to me read a traditional Christmas story. We even forgave him for waking us up at an ungodly hour on Christmas morning. So here we were. We had gathered together again as a family a little more than week before Christmas.

Janet was sitting on the couch doing embroidery. Yeah I know. That was a surprise to me too. To make it worse she's bad at it. But we're wise enough not to say anything. After all, she had committed surgery on nearly all of us. Neill was lying on the floor his long legs stretched out. He was 17 now and had another growth spurt. I think the term lanky was penned for him alone. All long limbs sprawling in all directions and laying on Neill's stomach was Jack's year old puppy, Patches. Apparently this was the Jack Russell terrier's tradition; to sleep on any non moving warm body. Cassie was on the couch next to her mother painting her nails blue. Yes. Blue. I don't know why and I am not going to ask. And lastly our Jack-Beast was curled up on my lap helping me hold up the book.

Since the incident of the exploding compost bin at the end of last summer, Jack was lying low so to speak. Even his third birthday passed with little incident. No one's been publicly humiliated for months. It was not going to last. I know it's not. I'm waiting for the anvil to drop. Most likely on top of my head as the worst possible moment.

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;" I read aloud.

"I thought mice were nocturnal," Jack said.

"Diurnal," Neill said from his position on the floor.

"Oh," said Jack.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;" I read.

"Wouldn't that be a fire hazard?" Jack asked.

"Don't worry," Cassie said. "I only poured lighter fluid on yours."

Jack blinked at her with his mouth open. "Oh," Jack said.

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads," I read. "And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap."

"Sounds like a bad LSD trip to me. What kind of drugs were they giving those kids and what's sugar plum? Is it a plum made of sugar? Or is it a plum covered with sugar?" Jack chattered. "And mama wears curlers."

Janet looked up from her sewing to stare at Jack.

"What?" he asked innocently. "And besides, bears don't sleep all winter. The mama bears wakes up in February to have her babies and it's still technically winter then."

"Shut up, Jack," Neill said.

I cleared my throat. "When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash." I read.

"That was dumb," said Jack. "It could have been a sniper. What was he wearing? A shoot me now t-shirt?"

"Do you want me to read this?" I asked finally. I was getting a commentary per stanza.

Jack nodded his head quickly. "Yes Daddy," he said. "I like when you read to me."

"Then let me read this?" I asked. I'll admit to a hint of begging.

"Okay," Jack said and leaned back against my chest.

I returned to reading aloud. "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer. With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick."

"More rapid than eagles his coursers they came and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; 'Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!'"

"Reindeer can't really fly," Jack said turning his head to look up at me.

I sighed. I told you it wouldn't last. "No, Jack, reindeer don't really fly," I said.

"What kind of name is Donder?" Jack asked. I gave him the look. "You want me to ponder my donder in silence?" I nodded.

I took a breath and continued to read aloud. Again. "As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky, so up to the house-top the coursers they flew with the sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too."

"And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack."

"Which is why we have to *buy* Christmas presents," Jack chirped up cheerfully. "Get it? Peddler? Buy? No? Shutting up now."

There was a snort of disbelief from the floor and Patches yipped in his sleep. The story was doing nothing for him.

"His eyes -- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!" I read. "His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself."

Jack mumbled something.

"What?" I asked and instantly regretted it.

"I just said he's a fat, hairy, smoking pedophile," Jack said. All eyes turned to stare at him. "Ever wonder why kids scream bloody murder when they sit on his lap?"

"Eeww Jack." Cassie said. "That's just sick."

"I'm just saying…" Jack replied with a shrug.

I shook my head. The things he thinks about is a constant reminder he's not just an ordinary three-year-old. I returned to the illusionary safety of reading. "A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread."

I heard a whispered 'yasureyoubetcha' from the 'elf' on my lap.

"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, 'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.'"

"Angel dust!" Jack exclaimed. "That's how they fly! Doped up on angel dust!"

"That's it," I said and closed the book. I got up and slung Jack over my shoulder. "Say good night, Jack."

"Good night Jack."