In the glow of the tree's Light Emitting Diodes, Ittybit's cheeks blazed crimson and her eyes glistened …
Her brother was already nestled all snug in his bed …
Well before bedtime.
But it wasn't the impending arrival of the right, jolly ol' elf that I suspected.
T'was the flu before Christmas.
She had complained of a sore throat, but I had blamed songs we'd belted out while caroling in the cold.
I gave her a soothing drink and sent her off to dreamland.
She didn't want to be sick for Christmas.
“You're just a little hoarse. Nothing to worry about,” I told her as I pulled the covers up to her chin and kissed her warm forehead. “Tomorrow you'll be right as rain.”
Whatever that means: Right as rain.
Snow is right for Christmas; rain, not so much.
She closed her eyes and didn't question my weak, metaphorical talisman.
Sadly, my superstitious wishes didn't come true. For when they opened their eyes on Christmas morning, my children met Santa's loot with feverish brows and only lukewarm excitement.
Even the coveted electronic contraptions, which should have been Santa's finest work, were met with subdued disbelief and the intent to test out … later.
Honestly, the reaction might have pleased me were it the result of the their burning desire to play with LEGOs instead. But the magic goes right out of Christmas when the little ones only want play with their toys by proxy because they just don't have the energy to do it themselves.
“Please build me a LEGO,” begged the boy. “The helicopter one with the superheroes,” he directed from his nest on the couch.
He put his hand on my knee as I struggled through the instructions and didn't once complain of my ineptitude. He barely registered distain when I put the helicopter blades on backwards, as true a sign of the creeping Christmas crud as if he'd asked to go back to bed.
Had The Champ been tip-top, he'd have wrestled that chopper from my fumbling paws and put it together by just looking at the picture on the box. He'd have had it together in no time and announce his feat by squinting and speaking in pirate.
I couldn't help but think this skewed image of Holiday Cheer-turned-Holiday Make-The-Best-Of-It seemed worse than if Santa had crossed us off his list completely.
Oh, how I had pictured a different sort of Christmas: Me and the mister would be drinking coffee in our bathrobes. The kids would be ripping though wrapping paper, playing with a new toy every hour on the hour. The morning favorite would eventually give way to the gift we'd thought was a bust. Eventually, we'd all get bundled up and go visit the neighbors to spread a little holiday cheer.
Visiting now would just spread holiday ho-hum bugs.
Instead, we canceled dinner and sat, each one of us, nestled in all snug in our comforters in front of the TV ready to relax with cable's finest holiday offerings.
Of course, we couldn't find those in the listings so we settled instead for their sequels; the red-headed stepchildren of Hollywood's classics.
We sat, ate frozen pops and even laughed a little as Ralphie and Randy – now a teen and tween in A Christmas Story 2 -- relived the good old days of Red Rider BB guns and Little Orphan Annie decoder rings and planned for the future (most likely another straight-to-video installment).”
My kids were thinking of the not-too-distant future, too.
“When the new year comes will it still be 2012?” asked the boy. “Will we still be sick?” asked the girl.
“No, Sweets, it will be 2013 and hopefully we will all feel like celebrating.”
And if we're lucky, we won't be watching this sequel next year.