When the Santa Years Are Over

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, I came downstairs to find the artificial Christmas tree box was pried open by forks. It was a kiddie-crime, orchestrated by Dylan (age 6) and Carter (3). However, the true mastermind behind the operation was yours truly ~ me.

You see, Aimee had a strict “no tree until after Thanksgiving” policy. If I messed with that policy, it wouldn't end well. However, if I just took the box down from the overhead storage in the garage, and left it in plain sight for the kids, then I couldn't possibly be blamed for what happened next.

And what happened was a box opened by forks. The kids loved Christmas as much as me and they couldn’t wait for the tree! With a now open box, there was only one logical thing to do — put it up.

I’m just glad they bypassed the knives for forks. Good kids.

November 2013

In the years that followed, the love of Christmas remained, but putting up a tree — they saw it as a chore. No one helped anymore. When I finished the once joyous "chore, I had to get them off their devices so we could hang ornaments as a family. The excitement for Christmas was still there, but it was more measured. The older they got, the more distractions they had.

This worried me.

They knew Santa brought gifts for kids but not necessarily adults. I wondered how much magic would be left when they grew up; when the Santa years were behind them.

I obsessed over that thought.

For the last few years, I laid the groundwork with my oldest son, Dylan. We talked about the Christmas spirit. Regardless of his age, I stressed that Christmas could (and should) mean just as much as it always did.

I wondered if my message would resonate. I wondered if the bright lights and sights of the season would overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.

This year, because of travel (and years of breaking down Aimee’s hard-and-fast policy), I put the tree up early. I knew the routine ~ I’d do the chore, then as a family we’d decorate it. That was fine.

So, I ripped the duct tape off the box. I walked to the trash can to throw it away. I turned to walk back to the box and there I see Dylan.

He was holding the first branch.

He handed it to me.

Then he grabbed the next one. And the next.

Carter turned away from his computer and got wind of what his older brother was doing. He hopped off his chair and helped.

Grady heard the commotion from the other room. He wanted in too.

They suggested it was a good year for a new tree topper. Dylan pulled up Amazon and picked a gold star.

A few days later, while Aimee and I sat at the table, the star arrived. They opened it. Then, with no prompting, the boys opened the large box of ornaments. All three decorated the tree as Aimee and I looked on. The tree was all theirs and they were proud of the job they did.

We were too.

November 2019

The tree won’t make the cover of a magazine, but this year the spirit of Christmas lived on through our oldest son. The meaning of Christmas seemed to intensify with his maturity — not the other way around, as I so feared.

Thank you, Dylan.

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