It’s 6:00 PM, about a week before Christmas 1975, and 8 year old S. Blue is under the Christmas tree with his Matchbox cars. And I mean under the tree. There I am. Behind a few early-arrived packages, those are my pair of sock feet sticking out with a bit of tinsel looped around.
You see, under the tree is a great place to soak in as much Christmas as possible, sort of like a Christmas tanning bed. The multi-colored lights glow together to produce a luminescence the quality of which exists at no other time of year and in no greater quanity than here, and I am determined to absorb the maximum amount of color and taste and sound and smell of Christmas.
The door to mom and dad’s room is closed and it squeaks like crazy, so I go around to the bathroom closet. There is a back door that opens to my destination. As I inch my way in, the dark bedroom looks like a north pole tornado. Giant coils of red, green, and white ribbon lay partially unwound on the bed. Tall rolls of wrapping paper with Santa Claus, and snowflakes, and ornaments, and candy canes drunkenly hold each other up in the corner.
There’s an unfamiliar pair of sharp-looking scissors, not the old red pair from the junk drawer in the kitchen that don’t really scissor as much as gnaw. And stacked half as tall as the ceiling is a pile of Christmas presents, dozens of mysterious shapes wrapped in brightly colored paper, big enough that if I climbed up I could almost touch the ceiling.
Silence. The last purple glow of sunset barely illuminates the first tag I lift to read…”Joe”. That’s my brother. Lift another. Score! I have no idea what it is, but it’s huge. A submarine, maybe. I take a deep breath, not knowing that I’m storing away the scent of Christmas presents for years to come. (If you have any “magic” transparent tape in the house, go find it and take a sniff. You’ll thank me.)
In the living room again, I jump onto the big couch under the picture window. My cars are still under the tree. A traffic jam caused by a Lego robot. On the TV, Gilligan thinks he’s a vampire.
Outside on our front porch, the big C9 Christmas lights glow brightly. Mr. Sorgel’s all-blue display across the street shines coldly, and two houses down on the Klotz’s front porch an aluminum tree changes colors – blue, purple, red, orange, yellow. Windows, doors, and porches twinkle in electric glory all up and down Elm Street.
Chicken and gravy smells waft in from the kitchen. I slide back under the Christmas tree with my cars and legos.