It was the night before Christmas and all through my house, it was nothing but noise, glitter, and gaiety. If you had stood outside my small two story home you would have thought we had a full house while in actuality it was just the six of us, well eight if you included the dogs. Our small house on Nightengale Drive was lit up from top to bottom as my siblings raced from room to room playing hide and seek, one boxer and one shiatsu hot on their heels. Mom sat on the couch her blonde hair pulled back and laughing as I began to entertain her by lip synching Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” The Christmas tree sat quietly out of harm’s way in one corner of our living room decorated with multi-colored lights, tinsel, and mismatched ornaments. I loved our ornaments and no two were the same. Some had been broken in our many moves, some were homemade and one of a kind, and some we found in our big blue totes where we kept our Christmas decorations. The top of the tree was bare however, our star having been broken the year before and the current tree topper lost somewhere amidst the chaos that was Christmas. A few presents lay on the blue and snowflake pattern tree skirt while the rest of them would magically appear after Erin and Sean, the youngest of our family, went to bed.
Our living room was small as Patrick proved by measuring the distance from the far wall to the kitchen in ten steps. There was a couch, a love seat, a black leather ottoman torn by the dogs claws, and one giant green chair. They sat in a semi circle around the blazing hearth while six stockings sporting everything from polar bears to penguins hanging from the mantle. The flat screen rested on the mantle top next to two family photos that had been my gift to my mother a few years before on Mother’s Day, and a wooden plaque that read “And they lived happily ever after.” The song changed and I took a seat on the hearth in front of the fire, rolling up my flannel bottoms as I laughed at Mom who was near tears from all the laughter. It wasn’t just me now, my dad was playing the harmonica, the single most annoying instrument in the history of instruments, and causing the dogs Riley and Roosey to howl. It was the same whenever I played the violin, and we weren’t sure if they were singing along, or crying from the grating sound in their ears. Still it never failed to make mom laugh.
Seany-bear, the youngest of my siblings, was doing his best to tip toe from the hall that led to the stairs and into the kitchen without letting his giggles give him away while he hunted for Erin and Patrick.
“Bear! Tst!” I called over to him from my perch on the hearth, feeling particularly mischievous.
He looked over at me with his large brown hound dog eyes and cocked his head to the side in that familiar pose I knew as well as my own face. I grinned as I pointed to the dryer and he broke out in a toothy grin and he padded over to the dryer and opened it.
“Found you.” He said smugly as he danced out of range of the large hand that shot out of the dryer.
Two long legs unfolded themselves from their hiding place, followed by a skinny body and an slightly annoyed face. Blue eyes shot me an accusing look as a frown took hold of his mouth.
“It doesn’t count, Taeg told you where I was.” Patrick said, his voice a deep growl.
“Hey Flotsom, Jetsum, cool your jets.” I said to them with a smile. “Ahnin’ come on out babe, Pat lost.”
A pale pixie of a girl with a dark brown bob and impish gray-blue eyes crept down from her hiding place on the counter behind the fridge and smirked triumphantly at her brothers. Patrick scoffed and rolled his eyes while Sean gave her a play by play of his win. Except for the color of their eyes and the difference in their skin tones, Erin and Sean could pass for twins given the closeness in age. They were exactly one year, one month, and one day apart, and to be honest I think they rather enjoyed it
Patrick walked into the living room and flopped down on the couch with Mom, talking away about the things he hoped he would get for Christmas and the elaborate dinner we would have the night after.
“Erin and Sean why don’t you come sit down so we can read now?” My Dad called. Though they mumbled they did as they were bid and situated themselves as Dad pulled a blue book from his backpack. They were the scriptures, four books bound into one for our convenience. Dad opened up to Luke and waited for everyone to settle completely before he began reading about a King born a long time ago in Bethlehem. Erin cuddled behind dad’s legs, Sean sprawled out on the floor half under the ottoman with the dogs, while Pat snuggled down under a Christmas blanket with Mom. I watched the events as they unfolded from my seat on the hearth, listening to the words my Dad read. There was something about the way Dad talked, the way he told and recited stories that never failed to entrance us kids. So he read, about the Savior born of a virgin in the city of David, the story behind the holiday we were currently celebrating and as always we listened and even recited passages along with him. When it was over, Erin said our family prayer, and with kisses and hugs Erin and Sean were sent to bed.
A short time later Patrick and I sat in one room with our siblings gifts, wrapping them rather badly, but as best as we could manage with the odd shaped parcels as our parents sat in the other room whispering and wrapping ours. When we were sure they weren’t paying attention to us, we grabbed our own gifts to the family and placed them beneath the tree, giggling at our own craftiness. As we finished wrapping gifts, Patrick sang “Rudolph” to us in a falsetto voice, incorporating random accents into the mix as well. I joined in until I fell over laughing, my sides hurting as I gasped for air. By midnight the last preparations for Christmas morning were done and the rest of the Hutchinson clan turned in for the night.
It was when I was lying there in my bed thinking of the torn paper that would surely come tomorrow and the squeals and smiles of delight that I had an epiphany of sorts. While the gifts and decorations of Christmas were certainly nice, the reason I loved it so was because of the time I spent with my family just being stupid and silly. It was a time for staying up late and watching movies or playing board games and sometimes doing nothing at all. It was a time for unspoken traditions like watching old music videos that were popular when my Mom and Dad were high school, and lazing around by the fire at least one day of each week in December. It was these things that made Christmas in the Hutchinson clan, and we rather liked it that way. So rolling over I shut my eyes and let myself drift asleep to the soundtrack of tinsel, snow, and the Little Drummer Boy, waiting for the break of dawn that would bring about Christmas day.