This time of year has changed


Cameron Penner

A leaf I saw on a walk last winter that looked like a heart.

This time of year will never change. 

This time of hot chocolate and pajamas. This time of transforming the house into Home Alone and praying the Grinch won’t steal the gifts. This time of everlasting wonder of what’s behind that wrapping paper. This time of joy, free from boredom. 

Leaves no longer fall. Instead, they are replaced by snowflakes falling onto our tongues—tongues of rosy-cheeked children. Our eyes squint at the bright sky, yet gloomy and gray. That does not bring down our confidence, though. Snowballs are still molded, embarking on the most important war of a child’s life. 

Sheltering behind snow caves, we worried about our stash of snowballs packed in a pile running out. One by one, they disappear into the depths of the unknown side of the battlefield, never to be touched by the same hands again. 

Agreement to a truce is soon unanimous, leading us inside a living room kept warm by a raging fireplace. It is hard to not imagine Santa Claus falling through that same fireplace, that same chimney in the late hours of that coming night. 

The sun begins to fall into an imagined horizon, for it is hidden by thick woods. The nicest glass and dish are set out on a small table alongside a note welcoming a certain guest into the home. They are to be filled with only the finest milk and cookies. 

We rushed upstairs, quickly brushing our teeth and slipping on a clean pair of pajamas. Underneath the layers of blankets set out for the cold, we are unable to sleep. The excitement of tomorrow is overwhelming. The thrill is a drug, soon putting us to sleep. Sleep that is unable to last. 

The sun hasn’t had a chance to say good morning before we are up with a smile. We barge into silent rooms and demand responses because today, we are the sun. We decide the correct time to wake, and that time is now. But we are shushed and told to wait a little longer, and that might be the most impossible task ever asked. 

Minutes feel like an eternity. We sort the presents under the tree by who it is addressed to, recounting how many are for the other. Searching for cards in the tree branches, we secretly hope for money from our grandparents. Soon, we hear the heavy footsteps that tell us we are allowed to start unwrapping our hopes.

The sun finally caught up in our race of good mornings, and we begin our tasks planned for the afternoon. Jumping into snow pants that still hold a feeling of dampness, we got dressed for hours of laborious work. Together, we would build a snowman tall enough to shade us from the bright sky. As tall as our hearts could ever imagine. 

In our eyes, our snowman is the best thing the world has ever seen. With lopsided coal eyes, a crooked carrot nose, and two uneven sticks for arms, it was perfect. Unnamed, but perfect.

Hours rolled past us, and we finally could stand back and admire our masterpiece. In our eyes, our snowman is the best thing the world has ever seen. With lopsided coal eyes, a crooked carrot nose, and two uneven sticks for arms, it was perfect. Unnamed, but perfect. 

The cold began to nip our noses, silently telling us that it was time for a hot chocolate and films. Bundled up under blankets from our bedroom and more pajamas, we worked our way through our annual Christmas movie selection sipping on hot chocolate that burned our tongues.

The sun soon beats us to goodnight, but we are still awake. We have no intention of sleeping soon: a feast of flavor is ahead of us. All sat around the dining table, we piled our plate with much more mashed potatoes and chicken than it can hold, but we don’t care.

Soon, it is time to say goodnight. And by morning, the countdown begins.

Year after year, small bits of excitement are plucked from our experience. Year after year, Christmas gets repetitive. We’ve seen every movie,  built every igloo, tasted every candy cane. All of our past Christmas spirits drained from our bodies every first snow until it is gone.

The joy of Christmas as a child is gone. We know Santa Claus isn’t real. Instead of lists of un-givable gifts, we are now handed small bundles of cash and told to go buy ourselves something. Where did the joy go? 

This time of year. This time of disappointment. This time of nostalgia for when Christmas wasn’t a sad story, but something to sing. 

This time of year has changed.