"Here's looking at you, kid." -Rick Blaine

The Protector of Christmas

I suppose when you do anything 44 times, the magic starts to wear off.

When you’re a kid, everything about Christmas is exciting. The lights, the songs, the cookies and candy canes, the presents, the television specials, the rituals… everything is so new and exhilarating. I was the kid who laid in bed every year the night before Christmas with his stomach in knots, staring at the clock for hours at a time and watching the minutes tick by, one by one, until it was time to wake up and see what Santa had brought. Nothing was more exciting to me as a kid than Christmas.

Then I became a teen. Then I moved out. Then I got married. Then Susan and I began debating whether or not we should wrap our gifts for each other. Right around the time Christmas began to feel like we were just going through the motions Mason was born, and everything started all over again.

Mason, our oldest, turned sixteen this month. His visions of sugarplums have been replaced by teenage girls and fast cars. Susan has been maxed out on a work project for several weeks, and I’ve been busy myself between work and school and writing.

And then there’s Morgan.

Had she got her way this year, the Christmas tree would have gone up the day after Halloween. After multiple rounds of negotiations we agreed on the day after Thanksgiving, and before the turkey had even made it to the fridge, Morgan was already hanging tinsel on the tree in the corner.

On the last day of school before Christmas break, Morgan went to school wearing a holiday sweater, red and white striped tights, and jingle bells. Lots and lots of jingle bells. Oh, and reindeer antlers.

Every year we have a traditional cooking making party. This year nobody came, but that didn’t stop Morgan. Susan made sugar cookie dough and Morgan sat at the kitchen table, mostly by herself with occasional visits from me and Susan, making Christmas cookies.

And where she drew the line, I think, was when Susan tried to throw away our old animatronic Santa. Santa used to shake his booty and sang Jingle Bells, but over the years he fell apart and his head got separated from his body. This year when nobody could find his head, the body went into the trash. The following week, someone found the head. Susan tried to throw it away too, but it’s tough to sneak things past Morgan. The next time we saw Santa’s head Morgan had mounted it on the end of a pole and announced to us all, “I am the Protector of Christmas.”

And so, last night, I, Susan, Mason, and the Protector of Christmas drove around Oklahoma City looking at Christmas lights. Susan drove, I took pictures, Mason played on his phone, and Morgan looked out the window with each Christmas decoration she saw sparkling in her eyes. We drove through three neighborhoods before she’d had her fill, and then it was back to the house where she could re-sort the packages under the tree, ask if anybody needed anything else wrapped, and try to hold it together for a couple more days.

One tradition we’ve continued from my childhood is that the kids can’t open their gifts until six a.m., Christmas morning. When I gently suggested to Morgan this year that everyone might want to sleep in a little bit, the Protector of Christmas was having none of that. With Santa’s head mounted to a pole, we were informed that Christmas would begin at six a.m., the same time it always begins, or else.

When a kid with Santa’s head mounted to a pole tells you to do something, you listen.

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4 comments to The Protector of Christmas

  • Aaron

    Wow, Christmas at the O’Hara’s just went all Lord Of The Flies. ;) Merry Christmas guys!

  • Ken Autry

    we miss Mason being a Kid! thank Goodness we still have Morgan and the “Protector of Christmas” Uncle Kenny and Aunt Barbara we miss you all !!

  • AArdvark

    I love the part about Santa on a stick, it’s like Jesus only not as graphic.

    Seriously, I hope she keeps hearing the bell ring long after everyone else.


  • Paul in AZ

    This is a great piece. Like the season itself, enthusiasm for Christmas comes and goes. We all need a Morgan in our lives – a “Protector of Christmas.”

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