the kids screamed that they weren’t tired.
he suppressed the flashing urge to drown them in the bathtub, and held on to more modern child-rearing principles.
a child at the end of a day of presents, new toys, and two dozen candy canes is little more than a wild animal. sleep will return the beasts to their normal rosy-cheeked selves. at least until they start the fight over watching morning cartoons and why can’t they kick a soccer ball in the kitchen.
they were unconscious in under five minutes. and now as he checks each of them from the doorway, their beauty and dignity returned, he feels some pride in these marvelous creatures.
he returns to the living room and hears the crashing of ice as his wife shakes up an order or martinis. the vision of those drinks probably kept him off death row and as she carries in the tray and their two oversized martini glasses he fully exhales for the first time since 6:20am when his daughter started beating on their door.
he was the same as a kid. he remembers a night when he nearly lost his mind, unable to sleep, the second hand moving at half speed, so tired and yet so excited. how could he begrudge her 6:20?
still, he’s an adult now, and he’s on the side of his parents, who always seemed to come slowly apart on christmas day. their martinis came out before dinner. the kids put themselves to sleep. things made sense back then. the boundaries between child and adult are much more fuzzy nowadays.
he drains half of a giant martini and sits back. his wife’s hand finds his. they laugh and shake their heads. two survivors. no need to retell the stories. they’re still too fresh.
half way through their second martini they will be singing full volume. anything but christmas carols. preferably sad stuff. his confident drama and her perfect harmony.
when they fall into bed together, christmas is a thousand years away. the parental pride of a job well done, wishes granted, a war survived, goes unspoken. they kiss and pull at each other’s clothes. and as much as they would love to bring their passion to a conclusion, there’s just not enough gas in the tank. and a bit too much vodka in the brain.
it’s a merry christmas.
and thank god we get a whole year before we have to do this again.