I sneak into my parents' room, and nudge my Mom awake. "Mom! It's time to wake up! Let's go see!" She smiles, her eyes closed. "Wait at the top of the stairs," she murmurs. "I'll get your sister."
We have a tradition - we all go downstairs together. My Mom, dressed in her robe and carrying my little sister, sits next to me at the top of the stairs. We wait there together while my Dad, as he does every year, dresses and shaves. It feels like it takes about a million years, but finally he is ready. We walk down together, and I dash into the living room, breathless. The stockings my Mom made for us all, each with our name on it, are bursting with loot. A dollhouse sits proudly in the middle of the room, topped with a bright red bow.
I'm in awe. He came.
Greta pokes me awake, her eyes are huge. "Mom!" she whispers. "Mom! Wake up! It's time!"
Finn, curled beside me, awakes with a start. "Did he camed? Did Santa camed?" he says, rubbing his eyes.
"I don't know yet," says Greta. "We all go down together, remember?"
Steve and I quickly dress and brush our teeth. The kids stand at the top of the stairs, giggling and fidgeting. "Come ON!" they squeal. "I hope he camed," Finn says again and again. "I was mostly good this year. He camed, right?"
"Let's go see," Steve says. We scurry down the stairs, and the kids race around the corner.
"COME SEE! COME SEE!" Greta shouts.
"He was heeah! He was heeah!" says Finn.
The kids' eyes are shining, their smiles wide. "MOM! LOOK! He remembered the Chihuahua Webkinz! They were on our lists!" A Webkinz peeks out of the top of each of the stockings my Mom made for them the year they were born.
Finn giggles from the kitchen. "He did it again! Just like last yeeah," he cries. "He eated the cookies, and dwank the milk, and he left some of his beeyahd on da glass again!"
Greta proudly reads the note Santa left them:
We all stand for a moment and soak it in. The kids don't race to open their presents - they stand, in awe, of all the gleaming gifts.
And I feel it - the sense of anticipation. The butterflies swirl in my stomach. It doesn't matter that it's my turn to be the Mom. We are surrounded by magic, by possibility.
After the presents are opened, the gift wrapping picked up and thrown away, the kids settle in to play with their new toys. They chatter with each other: I knew he would come. I heard reindeer hooves on the roof. I can't believe he knew we would want beanbag chairs.
After a spell Greta looks up at me, smiling. "Did you get what you wanted from Santa this year, Mom?" she asks.
I look down at my happy kids, nestled together by the roaring fire.
"Yes I did, honey. Yes, I did."