The irony of Christmas (at least on the purely materialistic level) is that one waits all year for something that’s over in five minutes. Or rather, four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. That’s how long it took for my children to rip through the wrapping paper that covered their gifts. It looked like a blizzard of gold and green.
This wasn’t lost on the kids, whom afterward sat among the empty boxes and shredded paper wondering aloud if there was more. There wasn’t. Both were fine with that—their gifts were more than they expected, and neither have ever been the greedy sort. They simply wanted to stretch the moment out as long as possible.
I couldn’t blame them. As dramatic and exciting as the days leading up to Christmas can be to a child, the moments afterward can border on the depressing. Soon, the tree and the outside lights will be taken down. The snow will melt. School will resume. Life as they knew it would begin again in all its pall color. The magic would be left behind.
For a brief moment, I saw those thoughts on their faces. And I felt them on my own.
They’ve been watching The Polar Express a lot this year. It’s the new classic in the house, worthy of placement alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. If you’ve never seen it, the plot revolves around a boy who has lost his belief in the magic of Christmas to the point where he can no longer hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh. It’s a fantastic movie, and quite spiritual in some places. At the end, the boy’s sense of magic is restored. Santa grants him the honor of receiving the first present of Christmas, and he asks for a bell that’s fallen from a reindeer harness. A bell he can hear ring once more.
I say that to say this:
When I walked upstairs on Christmas night to get some writing done, sitting on the top of my desk was one last present for me.
No one would take credit as the Giver. Even now, two days later, I have no idea whose idea it was. But I’d like to thank him or her for it. It’s a reminder that Christmas doesn’t have to end on December 26th. The giving and the joy can continue on through the weeks and months.
I believe that. I do.
I will keep this bell here on my desk as a reminder. On those lightless days when the world seems drear and heavy, when the words will not come, I’ll pick it up and give it a good shake.
I figure as long as I can hear the bell ring, I’m okay.