Friday, December 13, 2013
When I was about eight or nine we were at my Mema and Papa’s for Christmas Eve, like always. It had mostly been a perfect night with cousins and food and presents and the loud, excited chaos that comes with being a child on that night. I was playing a game with my younger cousins that consisted of them being on one side of the room and me on the other and they would say “HEY!” and I’d say “HAY IS FOR HORSES!” and we would all DIE laughing and they would charge at me, full speed and we’d fall into a pile of hysterics. We did that for hours. HOURS!
Then at one point there was a collision with me and my cousin Josh and my nose instantly gushed blood. He cried because he felt so horrible that he’d hurt me. I cried because I hated that he felt badly. I think a couple other cousins cried just because the game was over. That was about the time Mema Allen announced it was EVERYONE’s bedtime. Adults included.
She strongly believed injury, excessive noise and crying was THE sign sleep was needed by all. Pretty spot on, really. Can you think of a time when that ISN’T the case? Me neither. So the cousins left for their close by Kentucky homes. We’d come from Wisconsin so we all had our rooms at the house. The house quickly became dark and quiet with just the soft sounds of adults getting ready for bedtime.
I started crying, nay (is for horses) sobbing, in my bed. I felt like my awkward clumsiness caused the end to the nearly perfect night. If I'd just been more careful. If I'd just ducked. If I could've just hidden my bleeding face from the adults...maybe we would've played at least one more round.
Crying in bed was a common thing around that age. I was a VERY early bloomer and was already feeling the ache and sadness of growing up. I wasn’t ready for it. Didn’t want it. LOVED being little. HATED what was happening to my body be it “healthy and natural” or not. Still…here it was anyway. Bras. Growing pains. Feeling chubby and gangly all at once. The burden of feeling boy crazy to the point of madness and wanting to punch them in the face simultaneously. It was brutal. I still haven’t really recovered.
It wasn't just my nose or the end of the night. I was blue about another Christmas almost over. Sad that I was pretty sure Santa and my mom had the exact same handwriting. Already missing a childhood that was slipping out of my grasp every minute.
Then I heard something that made me sit straight up. A bell noise. A lot of bell noises. Outside.
It started in the distance and became crystal clear. Sleigh bells. My first feeling was sheer terror. Someone was in the yard!!! At midnight! My heart was pounding and I felt like I was hearing a ghost, monster or murderer because there was no WAY it was who I thought it was.
I tried to regain some logic and thought it was maybe my parents. Then I heard them in the bathroom brushing their teeth on the other side of the hallway. It wasn’t them. It wasn’t Mema or Papa. Was this really happening? The stories were true?
Terror gave way to a warm blazing joy that felt near and dear to relief. I was relieved that I had no explanation. That I could just believe, at least for one more year. I’m not sure I’ve ever slept better in my life. The burden of growing up lifted. Santa had found me in Kentucky to remind me I was still little in my heart even if my body wasn't.
Of course now at 40 I know there isn’t really a Santa. I'm not really sure what there is, if I'm being honest. The past few years have shaken up my philosophy and faith in a thousand different directions and I have yet to land.
In fact the thought of the whole Santa in your house thing now sort of freaks me out. When we explained Santa to my whip smart nephew when he was about four or five (he’s now 22) his immediate response was “Mama. Board up the fireplace.” Smart kid.
Nevertheless I have no explanation for those bells that night. A neighbor? An older cousin? An inept home invader? Hallucination due to a crushed nose?
To this day I have no answers. I'd just assume keep it that way.