I actually had the above thought at the moment this picture was taken on Christmas Eve. And it's not true. I love Christmas in many ways, but this part of the day symbolized That Which I Hate Most About The Holiday Season. And it is this: Christmas is hyped up to be the hap-happiest season of all, yes? It is supposed to be magical. Glitter is supposed to be mixed in with the snow, reindeer are supposed to fly, laughter and love should thicken the atmosphere. Nothing is ever supposed to go wrong during the Christmas season. When I was a little kid, it was like that for me. Completely magical. The feelings, the smells, the excitement, the magic. But as I've grown older, I've learned that, for me, holiday happiness increases in direct proportion with a decrease in holiday expectations. But I goofed up a little this year and allowed myself to have a Christmas-related fantasy, a fantasy that harsh reality immediately snatched up and smashed to bits over my thick skull.
In my family, a long-standing Christmas tradition dictates that Christmas Eve be spent sledding. First thing in the morning on Christmas Eve, Dad would faithfully pack us four kids into the Jeep Wagoneer and drive us into the foothills of Idaho Falls; Mom would be left at home to perform any panicked last-minute Christmas tasks that had yet to be completed. We would sled until we'd worked ourselves into a complete state of exhaustion and hypothermia and then return home to feast on pizza and hear the final chapters of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" read aloud by my mother. It was wonderful. It helped Christmas Eve pass quickly and therefore hastened Santa's arrival. In recent years the tradition has petered out some, but seeing as how this year is the first year that I've had a child of my own, I started getting a little excited about the prospect of the Christmas Eve sledding trip again. I imagined my son, who enjoys being spun, twisted, hung upside down, and bounced vigorously on my leg, getting an enormous kick out of the sledding experience. I imagined his uncontrollable giggling as the sled carried the two of us down a hill. I imagined him grunting and groaning with the desire to go down the hill again and again. So Christmas Eve morning rolled around. We'd made arrangements to go sledding on the hill near my sister's home in Shelley at 10:00, so right after breakfast I made a last-minute trip to Wal-Mart to purchase Soren some tot-sized snow boots. The appointed hour drew nearer, and I forced a very sleepy Abraham out of bed, demanding of him, "Would you rather sleep, or would you rather be there for your son's very first sledding trip?" We stuffed Soren into a hooded jumpsuit, a pair of his dad's socks (which doubled as leg warmers), his oversized snow pants, his gigantic coat, and his beanie cap. I put a pair of socks on his hands for mittens and then began attempting to shove his feet into his brand new boots. I couldn't make it work. I'd think that maybe I'd gotten them on, but then he'd pull them off. I tried to get him to stand in them to force his heel down, but he would not stand in (or for) such strange accouterments. So I rubberbanded some baggies to his feet ("I look like a welfare baby!" said Abe, in his best Soren voice), strapped him unwillingly to his car seat, and we were off.
Off to experience the joy and magic and wonder of the Christmas season.
Anyway, this is running on for much longer than I had anticipated, but suffice it to say that it was Soren's naptime, a barrier which I had believed would melt away in the face of such merrymaking as a trip down a hill in a sled, but which did not; it was cold, a thing which was most displeasing to the little prince; and it was not pleasant at all to slide down an icy hill in the midst of a snowstorm, a condition that elicited from my son, not coos of joy, but moans of discomfort.
I sent Abraham after the camera, which was in the car about 50 yards away, and tried to show Soren how fun sledding could be. I took him down the hill again and laughed loudly all the way, so as to cue him into the fact that we were participating in a fun activity that might be enjoyed if one adjusted one's attitude. I tried pulling him around on the flat ground to get him accustomed to the sled. I tried letting the neighbor's dogs lick his face to see if their cheer might rub off on him. Through all of these fruitless efforts, it quickly became apparent to me that Soren was not going to produce the squeals of joy my imagination had so lovingly lavished upon him for this occasion. I admitted defeat and decided it was time to go. But I was not going to go without some sort of photo documentation to help make all our efforts on this occasion seem a little less vain. Where was Abraham with the camera? I looked over at the car to see Abraham, who had been gone for five minutes of uninterrupted Soren misery, to see what in the world could be holding him up. As far as I could tell, he was being needlessly slow. And indeed he was. He was piddling around the car, moseying around it, kicking at some ice chunks hanging from the side here, scraping some ice off a headlight there.
Let's just say that our Christmas Cheer might have dissolved into some Christmas Yelling At Each Other While Photographing Our Extraordinarily Miserable Child. So as soon as the dirty deed was documented, I scooped up my tired, be-baggied son and declared, "I hate Christmas. Let's go home and put this child in bed."