What Wasn’t and What Isn’t

Charlie Brown Christmas jazz plays softly through the radio. A string of white Christmas lights twinkle across the mantel where five stockings hang. Daddy, Mommy, Biggest Brother, Middle Brother, and Baby. The smell of baking cinnamon rolls wafts from the oven. Mommy shuffles through the kitchen in her pajamas to get coffee. Daddy pours another cup and decides it’s time to start opening presents. First coffee, then presents.

The Christmas tree is surrounded by presents big and small. Two unwrapped disk sleds are propped in the corner, an long box for Daddy, a shallow large one for Grant, many small ones for Dane. A few for Mommy. Everyone circles around the tree. We start with the youngest first, that means little Reecer-man. Mommy sets the present down in front of him, his chubby baby face round with wonder. She tears a piece from the corner to get him started. His brothers buzz around him, eager to see him learn what presents are all about. His oldest brother jumps in place.

They can hardly contain themselves as they wait their turn with their own presents. Grant doesn’t contain anything. He squats low next to his baby brother and begins to tear the paper for him. Dane swoops in saying, “No, Grant! That’s not yours” and grabs his hands. A fight, like one of many, ensues.

Reece watches it all with his big baby eyes, having no idea what the fuss is about. He is barely a year old, sitting soundly in his footie pajamas and his fresh morning diaper. His flop of honey blonde hair is finally growing down around his hazel eyes. He crawls away from the package and makes a play for the Christmas tree lights. It’s then that Mommy decides to give each brother their own present to keep them occupied. They settle down in their own spaces on the floor.

She retrieves Reece from under the tree and folds him down into her lap as she sits. Reece smells like honey lotion and his sprig of hair tickles her chin. She pulls the present over and begins to encourage Reece to grab the paper. He grabs it and it tears to the sound of Mommy’s glee. He wads a fistful and puts it in his mouth.

“Oh, no, uuucky!” Mommy says, pulling the soggy wad away. She looks up at Daddy and says, “Daddy, will you take a picture of us?” She holds Reece up onto his feet and rests her face against his face. “Cheeeeese!”

And Daddy does, as he has a million times before to ensure Mommy makes it into at least some of the Christmas morning photos.


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