8 A.M.: Awakened by bells, tolling for me to rise and gape in awe at a colorful array of labeled boxes. What’s in there? A bike or a pony? Is a big wheeler with racing stripes cooler than a rainbow colored pony? Would mom let me keep the pony? Probably not.
9 A.M.: Wait in basement for cousins to arrive. While waiting, tried to imagine what Laura Ingles Wilder would get for Christmas, bar soap probably. An inquiry: Why do cousins, no matter how early, regardless of Santa’s visitation, arms embraced with toys, take the latter part of a century to come over in pajamas?
10 A.M.: Ravenous. The carcasses of gifts strewn across the floor-mine were untouched, for the record, hidden in the basement- there is a cabinet under the stairs that holds them. Helped burn the wreckage. Intermission, attempted to trade, with great success, my presents for things I envy: Road Dahl’s The Twits, Dinotopia in hardcover, a collection of works by Impressionist painters, the unabridged version of Dracula, though mother really should have stopped me from taking the latter. Argued with sister, grade 2, about the importance of embracing a variety of genres and that intelligent people read a vast array. She used my books for safety rocks while playing the floor is lava.
10:30 A.M.: All males gather in the kitchen salivating as grandma pulls out the strata and Christmas cinnamon rolls.
11 A.M.: The Catholics argue over the time the “Christmas Church Service” began. It was 30 minutes ago. Wonder which basement crevasse best accommodates me for hiding purposes. Hitch stocking full of necessary goods to pajama bottoms (containing the nutrients of Christmas sugar) and begin separating from the group, descending the stairs, clenched by aunt.
Noon: Eat stale wafer and sour juice. Man in white prays for us, man in pew sleeps, Papa smiles wide, exposing hidden doughnut from jacket pocket. All seek salvation, I crave milk. After sermon, the white cloth shakes hands, nodding, smiling. I am placed on Papa’s shoulders. Says the tale of Odysseus is just as good.
1 P.M.: Lunch is well under way upon our arrival home, must be careful not to injure uncle…asleep on floor. Others have assumed fetal position in living room, deeply lethargic, animalistic snores fill the room. Now for my escape.
1:30 P.M.: Nabbed again? Disappointingly, claw fingered aunt forces me to sit while she discusses loneliness: last Christmas cat died, the one before her husband, the third a cardinal hit the glass. Continues mumbling grievances well into deep sleep.
2-3 P.M.: Charles Wallace begins showing me that there is in fact no solid continuum of time but that time undergoes accordion like compression. Tried explaining theory to cousins, caused brains to combust. Went in search of others.
3:30 P.M.: Voyage wise sea captain! Upon searching the house for a willing ear, I found Papa on the porch. Removing his gold frames he set down Cervantes’s Don Quixote within 2 seconds of my arrival. I skim his shelves lined with adventures: The Far Side of the World, Seahawk, The Iliad, Treasure Island, and The Life, Adventures and Piracies of Captain Singleton. Papa told me that Ernest Shackleton, evidently a famous explorer, no doubt to be learned in school, best explained the complexities of a seaman, both a freedom and curse. After retrieving the necessary hot chocolate, we continue our conversation about the definition of mutiny. He feels that I am old enough to handle such complexities. Furthermore, mutiny, by definition, a crew against one’s own captain, is nothing more, than a physical argument.
5:05 P.M.: At this time, the adults awaken from their comas; Modern Prometheus rises from his man made couch only to be attacked by a swarm of underling cousins. Silence has been broken-weren’t Papa’s stories better then their comatose dreams?-and the family begins reconvening for another meal.
8 P.M.: Relatives begin slowly assembling layered garments. Explain that Demeter will be with her daughter soon. Realizing the redundancy of changing my current frog patterned garb I prepare for bed, listing the necessary steps. Would I rather read Alice in Wonderland or The Magician’s Nephew? Can’t decide. Where the Sidewalk Ends or Skin? Can’t Decide. Could I be transported to another world through a painting? No, and I don’t want to be involved in a murder either.
9 P.M.: Sister complains about the unknown location of new Barbies. Turn over grinning myself to sleep.
10 P.M.: Awoken by Papa handing me a box. Cautiously, lift cardboard lid. Drop box on floor, where it remains for days.
10:30 P.M.: Eventually fall asleep. Embracing my collection of C.S. Forester. Horatio Hornblower, 1st Baron Hornblower and the HMS Hotspur.