For a Santa-believing, kind, upper-middle class white male like myself, Christmas has always been pretty sweet. Flashing cameras, filled stockings, and best of all, a towering stack of presents for us to unwrap. But for all of us at one point in our lives, it is inevitable that eventually the significance of Christmas will fade away as we transition from a magical experience to a more practical one. Though this process happens over time, it was not until I was eleven years old when this reality truly hit me.
My father, mother, sister, grandmother and I all woke from our beds Christmas morning. Instead of the mad rush to the Christmas tree we typically experience, it was more of staggered saunter, with the exception of a brisk walk from my mother, wanting to capture our first tired reactions as we lumbered into our living room on her camera. After the fourteenth group photo, we began to open our presents. My family always appreciated an orderly Christmas, one where we take turns, youngest to oldest, oohing and aahing at each others presents. Myself being the youngest, I began our annual ceremony by tearing apart the bulkiest looking gift addressed to me.
I was practically gnawing at the wrapping as I tore my Christmas present apart. Visions of Hot Wheels and Nerf Guns filled my mind as I opened the gigantic box, barely containing myself as I peered into the black abyss. My look of sheer disappointment was unmistakable as I pulled from the oversized box a new pair of plaid pajama pants. My mother ordered a smile from me as she readied her camera. I tried my best to find the lens through my teary eyes. Nowadays I would be thrilled to receive such a present, but when the precedent was GI Joe’s and sock monkeys, I was understandably a bit underwhelmed. We continued opening presents around the room, and I noticed that my other family members were receiving many of the same gifts. Coffee makers, decorative socks, and cutlery kits were being pulled left and right from their packages. Everyone seemed content with their gifts, but I still was not ready to enter the adult world of gift-giving. I missed the thrill of receiving my childish toys and wanted to go back, though I understood that I could not prevent the inevitability of aging. Eventually, I would grow out of my childish dreams and wish for more practical gifts that would help me with my adult responsibilities. However, I should be careful what I wish for, as the presents in the years that followed consisted of oversized jeans, a gym membership, and my very own FitBit. I feel as if my parents were trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I believe everyone has a transitional Christmas, one way or another. One where our parents decide that we must become adults, and leave behind our cheery childhood of Polly Pockets and Tech Decks.
The magic of Christmas seemed as if it could last forever, but for everyone, eventually, that magic is replaced with the cold reality of adulthood.