Stephenville Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter, December 2019
It is Christmas morning and anticipation is in the air. I stand in front of the coffee pot—willing it to brew faster. It does not comply so I yank it off the hot pad, quickly dousing a wave of the black brew into my cream and sugar-laden cup, as coffee droplets sizzle as they hit the hot plate. I have done a great disservice to those unfortunate enough to drink from this now significantly weakened pot. My cup is thick and strong enough to put hair on your chest...just as I like it.
I ease over to my usual place on the floor, next to the chair holding my stocking, and carefully lower myself to the ground. I hear my husband filling his coffee cup. He takes a gulp then asks the empty kitchen why it is so weak. "Tastes like weak Dunkin’ swill," he says to no one. I quickly cover the top of my cup with my hand as he passes, close behind me, headed to his spot on the love seat. He looks suspicious as he hovers attempting to gauge the strength of my brew through my clasped hand. He has experienced the let-down of drinking the flavorless coffee-colored water before, and is not exactly thrilled.
The kids, home from college, have been patiently watching the coffee drama unfold and are ready to dive into their stockings to see what Santa brought them. They have been pretending to still believe in Santa for at least a decade since we informed them, early on, that Santa only comes to the homes of those who still believe. Stage one of our tradition dictates that we do stockings first so we can stuff our faces with unique sweets, straight from the North Pole, fortifying our bodies with nourishment to enter stage two of our tradition...opening the presents.
As usual, there are too many gifts piled under the tree. Every Christmas, my husband and I vow to buy less the following year. I make the cursory comment, "Whoa! Looks like someone went overboard again with the gifts.” (This could easily be any one of the four of us.) “Next year we should dial it back a notch." Three heads nodded in agreement, in the traditional way.
Gifts are passed around and we take turns opening. I open one…my husband opens one…our daughter opens one…followed by our son. The dogs even get involved as they beg for another strip of the "Bacon" left for them by Santa.
We open gifts, taking turns until it gets around to our son again. The three of us watch with bated breath as he slowly unwraps the gift from me, taking care to not actually rip the paper, a somewhat annoying but thrifty habit, and removes the lid. As he lays back the tissue paper to reveal his gift, his eyes widen in surprise and the three of us make brief eye contact as we wonder if this will finally be the year.
"Thanks, Mom," he says with a genuine smile, lifting the charcoal-colored flannel winter scarf out of the box. "This will match my gloves."
Later on, when the festivities die down after the traditional holiday meal, I stack the gifts. We each have our own little pile and the kids' take theirs upstairs to ready them for upcoming trips back to colleges. They usually leave around New Year's Day and then it's back to the empty nest for my husband and me.
A day or two after they leave, I go upstairs to remove sheets and towels to launder. I remember something of great importance and turn around, reentering my son's room. I spy the gray flannel scarf sitting atop his dresser along with some unwanted toiletries and discarded price tags.
I can't believe I almost forgot the most important tradition of all. I gently fold and place the scarf—price tag still intact—back into the original box...until next year...when he will open it for the fourth time on Christmas morning.
By Lisa H. Owens