the ghost of christmas past

No sane child wakes their parents at 6 am on Christmas morning. That being said, my brother and I have never been sane. At least we had the presence of mind to let our five year old sister stay sound asleep in her crib. Jon had wanted to wake her up.

Jon had also wanted to unwrap one of our presents before we went set foot in mom and dad's room, saying he could just re-wrap it. I'd just shook my head and dragged him away from the tree, because no one could simply just unwrap ONE present, and knowing my brother, he wouldn't have the patience to sit down and re-wrap ALL his gifts. He was just that kind of a person.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" I whispered, toeing the edge of the carpet at the threshold of our parents' room. Inside, the curtains were drawn tight, and my parents were reduced to cocoon lumps of darkness on the bed. Dad's snores rumbled like the snowplows that drove up and down our streets all week. Jon, who snored just like Dad did (which mom said was freakish, as he was only 9 years old and still had arms like limp spaghetti), beckoned to me from the shadows. His face lit up with Christmas energy; light flashed behind his eyes in eagerness and impatience.

"Come on!" he hissed. "They can't wait either!"

"You sure about that?" I asked sceptically, but he ignored me and grabbed my hand, pulling me into his mischief. Typical.

Shivering in my thin flannel pajamas, I followed him hesitantly to mom's side of the bed. His strategy was brilliant for someone whose voice hadn't changed yet and who still thought it was cool to make sculptures out of his bread crusts. And who was scared of the dark (which is why he had such a tight grip on my hand; my fingers stung and threatened to turn purple). Going to mom's side would take longer, because her nickname was Sleepy the Dwarf--she never woke up easily--but dad had a tendency of lashing out if we woke him up too suddenly--and our reflexes were far from lightning quick. 8 prior Christmases were enough to prove that.

Even so, I eyed Dad's lump carefully. "This is such a bad idea," I mumbled, and Jon shushed me. He already had a hand on mom's shoulder, shaking her gently and whispering in her ear. She didn't budge. I sighed. "I'll go check on Shiloh, okay? I don't want to get in trouble."

He grabbed me by the shoulder. Panic turned his dark brown eyes into round pebbles of fear. "You can't leave me alone in here!"

"Why not?" Obstinacy ran in the family, even though mom joked that I must've missed my portion of that gene. Hey, I wasn't happy about him waking me up this early either. "Just turn on the light, idiot. That should wake them up." And if he was smart, he could run out of the room before Dad's feet even hit the floor. Brilliance.

Jon's eyes lit up. "You're right! Thanks, Matty!"
"No prob," I grunted. I didn't stay to see if my plan worked, or if he'd chicken out on his way to the light switch, or if for once Mom would wake up before Dad. Down the hall, the tree's lights threw crystal rainbows across the ceiling and the floor, and without meaning to, I found myself sitting at the foot of the tree again. My sheets should've still been warm. I could've curled up with Shiloh, who was literally a hot water bottle with a lot more hair and a louder voice. But the tree was so stunning that it sent shivers up my spine. I couldn't pull my eyes away.

An ominous thump and crash came from my parents room.

"Jonathon Mallory North!" roared Dad. "What do you think you're doing this early in the morning?!"

I smiled, and the tree winked back at me.

Merry Christmas.


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