The smell of bacon caused me to stir. My brother-in-law, Neil, once again proved himself worthy as the executive chef for the traditional Christmas morning breakfast. A sense of duty drove me from the warmth of my cozy cot. Others soon followed in turn. Feeding the growing clan became more challenging as we added littler appetites to our number one by one. Young families require more logistic support, so I stumbled to the kitchen with the promise of coffee just ahead.
To awaken one child on Christmas morning is to awaken all. And before long the kitchen filled with excited and impatient elf-like creatures eager to hear the tearing of paper and squeals of delight. A valiant attempt by parents to make this a slow and deliberate process failed miserably. Size and maturity were no match for speed and agility. These elves operated low to the ground with amazing precision. The stronger came to the aid of the weaker. Readers were helping those not yet able. The noise was deafening and the piles of wrapping paper grew as the pace quickened. Eventually surrender was the only option.
The wreckage was unbelievable. The debris field spread from the small living room to the hallway. By the time order was restored and the opened gifts were being organized we realized our oldest daughter Emma, a toddler at that time, was missing. Piles of wrapping paper were searched with no success. Calls throughout the house were met with silence.
A Christmas list for a two-year old is highly focused. Maybe it’s the lack of experience, but even the simplest things seem satisfying. Some even take a greater interest in the box than the toy. For Emma, this Christmas was about “lips” (a.k.a. Chapstick). It was just a stocking stuffer hidden among candy and hair ribbons. Yet it was what she asked for all season long. As is the tradition for many families, the stockings are opened first, and Emma hit pay dirt early in the frenzy.
An all-out search found her at the farthest point from the living room inside the house. She was sitting among a pile of coats and boots in the mudroom adjacent to the garage. I’m not sure how much of the tube had been used, but her lips and cheeks resembled the sheen of a figure in a wax museum. At that moment I doubted she would ever suffer from chapped lips for the rest of her life. It was a quiet and warm space where she could enjoy the only thing she really wanted that Christmas – her lips.
Perhaps the simplest things do bring us the most joy.