The day grew short, as winter days will. It was late in the afternoon when my brother John realized he needed to do some last minute shopping, so I rode along as he drove into Perry and headed for Gibson's Discount Store, the only place open so late on Christmas Eve. He found what he was looking for, and bought himself a present as well--Simon And Garfunkle's Greatest Hits on 8-track, which he listened to on the way home.
It was nearly dark when we got back to the farm, the sky turning ever darker shades of blue. Mom had turned on both the yard light and porch light, which we didn't really need to find our way, but the gesture was appreciated. John immediately vanished to his room, as my oldest brother Keith had already spent the day in his, and my sister Julie was in the kitchen talking to Mom, who made last-minute preparations for the next day's feast. Dad and I were the only ones in the living room, numbly sitting in front of the television, watching without interest the typically awful animated specials run endlessly in syndication, killing time until dinner was served.
After eating, there was some wrapping to be done--I was used mostly to tear off pieces of tape, while Mom and Julie did most of the real work--and then...well, and then, I just couldn't wait to go to bed. I was all of ten, too old for Santa Claus, but not too old to enact the comforting ritual of snuggling in the darkness, anticipating all the wonders the next morning would bring. I could hear voices downstairs, and the TV, and the hum of our fuel oil stove. My family was here, and the next day was Christmas. For the moment, at least, all was right with the world.