is that a jingle?
Christmas Eve was always a time of hushed anticipation for me. When I was a child, I spent every Christmas Eve in the same bed as my little sister. One year, my aunt and cousin were visiting, and my cousin piled into the bed with us, too.
We would huddle together, too excited to sleep, whispering secret wishes and wondering where in the world Santa Claus was at the moment. Once I was old enough to know a little geography, I always thought he must be in France while we were struggling to still our fidgety limbs and fall asleep.
Often, we just couldn’t stand lying there. Even with Mama poking her head in periodically to shush us and urge us to get to sleep, one or both of us would take the risk of peeking out of the blinds. A large window was conveniently situated above my bed, so you could kneel and lean on the headboard and scan the starry sky for a sign of reindeer approaching.
The year my cousin visited, I had Santa pretty well figured out. But the joy and excitement were still palpable for my sister and cousin, and I leaned on the headboard and searched the heavens for a glimpse of sleigh along with them, and whispered my wishes along with everyone else.
I couldn’t imagine interfering in that pure and innocent belief so evident in both their eyes. The discovery of Santa’s secret identity had unfolded rather gently and organically for me, not from the shocking revelation of some bullying tattletale at school, and in my mind that’s the way it always must happen.
Besides, playing along didn’t bother me. At some point I did get a little tired of it, though. I was ready to sleep.
Was the magic gone? Maybe.
At any rate, I discovered a sure-fire way to get everyone immediately quieted and at least pretending to be asleep. My hand went up dramatically in the moonlight streaming over the bed.
“Shhh!” I whispered. “Is that a jingle?”
Everyone fell silent to listen, and my cousin hissed, “I hear it!” with equal parts anxiety and thrill in his voice. A few moments later my sister was convinced she’d heard it, too. Phantom jingles were springing up like weeds outside the window. I even thought I heard one myself, although I knew I’d started the ruse.
Soon everyone was asleep, with visions of hula hoops and Ewok villages and spirographs in our heads. (All actual gifts from Saint Nick that year.) The imaginary jingle worked like a charm that Christmas Eve, and beyond.
Just another idea for all you parents and grandparents out there. I’m sure you’ve all got your techniques perfected by now, though. At this time of year, it’s easy to admire the herculean efforts of my friends who are parents. All that effort and secrecy, on behalf of a little pure wonderment and wide-eyed innocent belief. I’m sure it’s worth it.
Here’s to the real Santa Claus and his helpers — and here’s hoping y’all get a little sleep tonight!