Justin and I were talking in the kitchen the other morning. I had about five hours of Christmas shopping to do and was showing him what he could make for dinner.
"When are you going to do your shopping?" I asked.
"I'm all done," he said.
"So you've bought my present," I said.
"And now you're done."
"Christmas must be a magical time of year for you," I said.
No itemized lists with crossouts and write ins. No parking, no lines, no checkout workers who don't understand that while opening a store credit card can save you $20, it can also hurt your credit.
"No it doesn't," one girl told me. "It helps your credit." Like I would take financial advice from just anyone. I only take financial advice from one person, and that's Oprah.
Justin said, "Yeah, but you love Christmas shopping."
I do, to an extent. Just like I love holiday get togethers, to a point. Then I start thinking, "Will this merrymaking never end?"
I suspect Christmas is a little more magical for extroverts. There are literally people everywhere. For them, that's a holly jolly Christmas, by golly. For us introverts, we need a breather now and then. A silent night, if you will.
But Christmas is surely the most magical for children. When I came home from shopping, J.J. said, breathless, "A truck came last year (meaning a few hours ago) and brought a box and we opened it and we looked inside and it was a box and inside
I looked at the presents. "Guess who sent these," I said.
"Jesus!" he said.
"Um, no. It was your cousins Brendan and Ian in Boston."
"Oh my gosh!" he said, just as surprised.
I didn't think J.J. was grasping Jesus' role in Christmas. At first, he thought Christmas happened on the first snowfall, so I told him that, no, it happened on Jesus' birthday. Now he was picturing Jesus at the post office, mailing presents.
We went over to our nativity set, where we have these little handmade cardboard painted houses my mom gave me for Christmas last year. I showed J.J. how Mary and Joseph went to every house and nobody would let them stay, so they had to stay in the barn. The angel told the shepherd what was going on. Then baby Jesus was born. At the end, the three kings came with Christmas presents.
He loved it.
"Now it's my turn," he said.
Mary and Joseph went to the first house. J.J. had them ask, "Can we stay?"
"No," said the house.
They got to the second house. The fanciest in the colection, the roof is decorated with strings of shiny blue beads. He had Mary say, "This house has Christmas lights."
Joseph said, "Can we stay?"
J.J. couldn't stand having another innkeeper say no. I mean, how rude!
"Yes!" he said. So Mary and Joseph got to stay in the town's best house--the only one with Christmas lights strung up the night before Christmas was ever invented. It's like the homeowners had ESP. Or had been talking to the wise men.
Then J.J. said, "Jesus was born. The end."
Today, J.J. was going to take holiday popcorn and calzones to people at school. When he woke up, I said, "Do you want to be Santa today?"
He nodded solemnly.
"Okay, get dressed." I handed him his khaki pants and blue shirt.
Tears started streaming down his cheeks.
"Santa doesn't wear these things. He wears red," he sobbed.
I guess he thought I meant, "Would you like to magically turn into the real Santa Claus today?"
I clarified. "You're going to pass out presents at school. You have to wear your uniform to school."
"Could I carry a red bag?" he asked.
"And wear the red Santa hat that's in the attic?"
So he went out the door wearing a Santa hat and carrying a red plastic bag from Target over his shoulder. I even found him a red coat in the closet. Outside, he handed a calzone to the bus monitor.
"Thank you, Santa!" she said.
His eyes twinkled, as if to say, "I knew it. I knew I'd be the real Santa."
Christmas is magical to kids, my husband, and a lot of other people. Seeing J.J. with his bag swung over his shoulder and, earlier, retelling the story of Jesus' birth, only this time new and improved with a nicer inkeeper, I started to feel like Christmas was magical to me, too.
When I came back inside from walking J.J. to the bus, Johnny and Richie were glued to a story on the local news. The news station had given a woman a van to drive her husband and son, who were both disabled. With tears in her eyes, she said something like, "People are so generous, and I never knew it until today."
Maybe that's the magic of Christmas. At Christmas, you see how generous the world is. And every year, it's like learning it for the first time.