I'm wearing my pajamas, the fuzzy red sleeper-blanket with glittery snow flakes across the front and a hole worn through the heel of the left foot. I'm curled into my window seat, nose pressed against the glass, watching the condensation from my breath fog the window in a rhythmic circle.
I'm supposed to be in bed.
But it's Christmas Eve and I can't sleep. Not yet. We've opened one present already, like we always do. One small gift to tide us over to the wonder and sparkle of Christmas morning.
I got a set of Nancy Drew books, hardback. I'm relieved my mom didn't pull out the soft, squishy package with my name on it. I found it while rummaging through the brightly wrapped gifts and stuffed it to the back of the tree. I'm pretty sure it's underwear.
My books are lined up neatly on my desk but I don't look at them now. My lights are off and the house is settling for the night, though I can still hear Christmas music drifting down the hall from the living room and my Dad's reel to reel tape. Hours and hours of Christmas music are captured on those tapes. I love to watch the glossy chocolate ribbon roll slowly from one silvery disk to the other while the Nutcracker or Karen Carpenter or Boston Pops fills the air.
I strain to recognize the song playing now. White Christmas.
I smile and look out the window again. It is a white Christmas, here in Oregon. The snow swirled down today, deceptively slow, coating the bleak expanse of dead grass and bare trees with icy brilliance. Our Christmas lights, a single string of large bulbs in blue, red, green, and orange, blink steadily across the line of our roof and I watch their reflection wavering in the glittery snow heaped beneath my window.
I am waiting.
We are a family that has never believed in Santa Claus. He is a fun story, part of the Christmas time lore and legend, but we don't put out cookies. We don't get presents from Santa. And we don't worry about lighting fires in our fireplace.
I sit up straighter, looking around the aerosol-sprayed snow-from-a-can letters on the inside of my window. "Christmas", it says. My sister's room next door says "Merry". I stare at the sky with nearly unblinking vigilance.
White Christmas fades and something else takes its place but I am not listening. Not anymore. I'm straining to hear bells and far off sounds of something magical sliding through the winter night.
The stars seem brilliant tonight, sharply cut into the frozen sky. It isn't hard to imagine a sleigh and some reindeer darting among them, carrying joy and mystery and hope.
I don't believe in Santa. But still I watch. And I listen. And I wonder. Because I do believe in hope.