Christmas loses a bit of its magic when children become older. Once the Santa Claus mythos has been dispelled, there’s less of a sense of urgency to go to bed early on Christmas Eve and wake up early on Christmas Day. By the time the college years roll around, you may be opening gifts in the early afternoon.
And yet, as the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Though the timing of our Christmas celebration may have changed now that Youngest Brother and Younger Sister are both in college, Younger Sister is still Younger Sister, which means the family will be held to a schedule regardless.
I affectionately refer to Younger Sister as “the tick-tock lady.” She is adamant that she be on time for everything, which, by her standards, means being early. If she has something to do but doesn’t need to do it at a set time – for example, picking up a prescription before the pharmacy closes – she’ll still have a schedule to which she is adhering in her head.
If you happen to be accompanying Younger Sister to an event or on an errand, she will tell you, quite firmly, what time she is leaving and remind you frequently in the hours leading up to the intended departure time. Should you not be ready at the pre-established time, you may find yourself chasing her car up the driveway.
We were initially confused when Younger Sister’s insistence on punctuality and schedule-keeping began manifesting itself, as there didn’t seem to be any precedence for this sort of mindset in the family. And then, after Grandma passed away a few years ago, we realized Grandpa was the tick-tock man. The only thing that had kept him from adhering to a rigid personal timetable was years of training by Grandma. Once she was gone, all those old instincts came flooding back.
Mom learned this the hard way when Grandpa decided it was time to leave for church and she still needed a few minutes to finish getting ready. Grandpa went downstairs and got into the front passenger seat of the car, Dad accompanying him to assist him.
Grandpa informed Dad that Mom “knew where the church was” and told him to go ahead and drive. Dad didn’t have much choice in the matter, so Mom ended up having to walk to church.
Given that that was what Grandpa was like in his late 80s, you can imagine what Christmas was like with 18-year-old Younger Sister as the driving time-keeping force. This was our first Christmas in 20 years without Grandpa, who passed away earlier this year, but Younger Sister stepped seamlessly into his role as the unofficial keeper of the schedule.
Of the three of us kids celebrating the holiday at home, she was (naturally) the first one to wake up. Mom and Dad convinced her to wait patiently for about an hour and a half, which was itself a Christmas miracle. I’m sure, however, that being allowed to open her stocking in the interim contributed to her willingness to wait.
Then, she began texting the family group chat, politely requesting that Youngest Brother and I join the rest of the family to open Christmas presents:
“Get up here now.”
After half an hour without a response, she visited our bedrooms to deliver the request in person. “Aren’t you up yet? We need to open presents!”
I had actually been awake since receiving her text; I was just waiting to see how long it would take her to break down my door and drag me out of bed. I may be an adult, but I’m still her sister, and I can’t help messing with her a bit when given the opportunity.
Once Youngest Brother and I joined the rest of the family and we all began opening presents, Younger Sister chastised me for opening mine too slowly. We had nothing pressing to do for the rest of the day, but her mental schedule did not entail spending her afternoon watching me ooh and ah over fuzzy socks.
I am of the opinion that if someone takes the time to think of me and spends their hard-earned money on a gift for me, the least I can do is take my time opening it and express my gratitude and appreciation while doing so. Mom in particular puts a lot of care into wrapping gifts, so I often exclaim over the bow or comment on the placement of the pattern on the wrapping paper before I open them.
Younger Sister, however, feels that too much of this creates an unnecessary drag on the gift-opening process. She’s all about efficiency, and –
I’m sorry, I just lost my train of thought because Younger Sister returned home after running an errand and pounded on the front door and rang the doorbell and yelled until I opened it for her.
Where was I? Oh yes, she likes things to happen according to her timetable and becomes somewhat irate if they don’t.
As the years go by, our family’s Christmas celebration will likely continue to change as we kids get older and life takes us in different directions. Through it all, however, Younger Sister will be there to keep us on time and on task, whether we like it or not.
– Teresa Santoski