September 16, 2014
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This Side Up
Countdown to Christmas Eve

Alex had a question: “How many days to Christmas Eve?”

Christmas Eve?

I would have thought, at five years old, Alex would be on the countdown to Christmas Day. But no, she was focused on the pinnacle of pre-Christmas excitement; the night when the stockings are empty, but you expect they’ll be bulging by the next morning; that night when it’s so hard to get to sleep and every noise makes you wonder what might be going on.

Erica paused. She was making taco soup for later in the day. Alex looked up, waiting for an answer. Erica was counting.

“Twenty-seven days,” Erica said.

That must seem like eternity to a child. Alex took it in and turned to her twin sister, Sydney.

“Twenty-seven days,” she repeated.

Ted, who had been following this, reminded his daughters, “That’s until Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas.”

Yes, they assured, that was what they wanted to know. It wasn’t Alex’s only question, however.

She was directly to the point.

“What are you going to give me?”

“It’s a surprise,” Erica countered.

“I hate surprises,” Alex whined.

Erica tried to convince her otherwise, thinking of surprises that she obviously had enjoyed. Alex protested. She insisted she doesn’t like surprises. Those other times didn’t count.

Sydney suddenly declared she likes surprises. She didn’t want to know.

Really?

I called her over.

“You really don’t want to know what you’re going to get for Christmas?”

She had a naughty smile and I knew there was more to the story.

“Do you have a secret?”

The smile broadened and she nodded.

“Can you whisper me the secret?”

Sydney cast a quick eye at her sister and mother. They weren’t paying attention. I cupped my hands around my ear and bent down. Ever so softly she murmured, “I know what it is.”

Now I was surprised.

Over breakfast we covered a range of topics, eventually getting around to Black Friday. Erica is super organized and I had suspected she had mapped out a plan well before she left the house. She had.

Her foray started about 7 a.m., with Toys R Us being one of the first stops. She found the lines tolerable and the merchandise she was looking for, although the shelves looked like they had been ransacked. All in all, the early morning start and the wait for the checkout were worth it. Route 2 traffic was no worse than most weekends. She was satisfied.

I wondered if Sydney found the plastic bags and the boxes her mother brought home. And, if she had, she would probably know what Alex would be getting as well. Surely, she couldn’t keep the secret that long. So, she didn’t know or she was guessing.

“So, what are you going to get?”

Sydney gave me that grin again. She was up to no good. Now Alex was watching her. She waited for me to bend down and whispered a name that sounded like “Chiquita” that had no meaning to me, unless she was thinking of bananas. Then she added, “I think that’s what it is.”

So, she didn’t know and I wasn’t about to ask Erica what she could have meant.

“I think surprises are a good thing,” I announced.

Clearly Sydney was with me. Alex hadn’t made up her mind. But whether Christmas will bring surprises or not the excitement is building. Just ask a five-year-old.


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