Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A mildly unwell Christmas (conclusion)

Christmas Day, 2004

There's something great about sleeping in on Christmas morning. I like the idea that there is a pile of presents waiting for me downstairs, and I am blissfully snoozing away. I can wake up, relax, and maybe even eat a little something, all the while giddy with the anticipation of what I'm about to get my hands on.

That anticipation is almost as good as the presents themselves. The anticipation got me through the endless Christmas masses at church and the centuries that came between December 1st and 24th when I was a kid. And it's the anticipation that I feel today, as soon as I open my eyes and see that it's morning.

Steph and I never made it off the couch. I wake up on my stomach, with her on top of me. Yes, I mean right on TOP of me, mounted on me like a backpack.

She's awake too. She rolls off me. "Merry Christmas!" We kiss. She curls up next to me. "Thank you for staying with me. I'm so glad I got to wake up next to you today," she says.

"You mean on top of me."

"Yeah! How did I wind up on your back?" she asks.

"Maybe you're part monkey," I say.

It's 8:30. We get up and make coffee, and Marti comes down. "Did you kids sleep down here?"

"Yeah, we never made it upstairs," I say.

"Awww. Well, I had the bed all made up for you up there!"

"I know."

The phone rings. Marti leaves the room to pick it up.

Marti comes back into the living room with the phone. "Talk to your uncle," she says, handing it to Steph.

"Merry Christmas!" Steph says. "Yes. Yeah, he's right here. He's leaving in a little while to see his dad. No, I'm staying with mom."

She pauses. "REALLY?! Ok, hold on." She turns to Marti. "Mom, Uncle Jerry wants to know if you want to spend the day over there so I can go home with Steve."

"I guess so."


2:00. Dad's house.

Everyone is here, and there is a pile of presents for Steph and I. We decided not to open our gifts for each other once we found out we were coming here. The anticipation, again.

"Ladies first," I say, handing her a box.

"Oooo, heavy!" she says. She unwraps it. It's the car stereo, her warmup gift.

"OH my God!" she says, holding up the box. "Now my stereo is officially worth more than my car!" We laugh.

"Your turn," Steph says. She hands me a small box.

I open it. It's a pair of $200 Ray-Ban's. I had tried them on at the mall with her one day.

"Steph!" I look at her.

"I snuck back in there after you tried them on that day," she says.

"These were expensive," I say.

"You looked SO sexy in those things, it just wasn't an option." she kisses me.

"Awwwww," everyone says.

"Thanks, Steph."

We open the gifts from my family. One of them is a basket from the Body Shop for Steph from Chris and Janet. "Do I see scented massage oil?" Steph says.

"Yes," says Janet. "I picked that out!"

"You're welcome, STEVE!" Chris says, to big laughs.

"Yeah, why do I get the feeling this gift is not for me," Steph says.

"Here you go," Steph says, handing me a huge, flat rectangular package. I open it.

It's an oil painting. I recognize it instantly. I know the jagged rocks, the foamy, splashing waves, the wispy clouds. It's the beach at Newport.

I look at Steph. "Where did you get this?"

"I painted it," she says. I knew she liked to paint, but I just figured she was so busy with school that she didn't do it anymore.

"So you went down there?"

"Meg and I drove down and took pictures."

"But that's a two-hour drive."

"Three," she says. "We hit traffic. And it was kinda hard to find that beach, too. You never told me exactly where it was; you just said it's where the people go to fly the kites. So I stopped at a few places and asked around. And then, as soon as I saw it, I KNEW it."

"Yeah, that's it, all right," I say.

"Your description was perfect," Steph says.

"Steph, I really appreciate you going to all this trouble," I say. "God only knows how many hours this took you, and I know you're busy." I feel myself getting all teary-eyed.

"You're quite welcome, hon."

"Open yours," I say, handing her her last box.

She's been eyeing this box all day long. I can tell she has no clue what's inside.

She tears the paper and opens the box. The room goes silent.

She stares at what's inside for a long time, turning it over, examining it from every angle, absorbing its every detail.

"Oh, Steve!" she says.