To many, this is the most wonderful time of the year (you can pry my cliches from my cold, dead hands). Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and also – shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. And gifts. Who doesn’t love getting gifts?! Still, for some of us, this time of year is filled with darkness. And dictatorship.
Dictator (noun): a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession.
Hello, my name is Pam, and I’m a recovering Dictator O’ Christmas. And let’s be real, the only reason I’m in recovery is because I don’t live at home any more and my younger siblings are no longer under my rule. Still, there was a time, long long ago, when my dictator tendencies were infamous and revered.
Thanksgiving Day was always the catalyst. Filled with turkey and stuffing and lots of pie, this cheerful day turned me red and green like the holiday hulk. Once I had my fill of pie, it was time to move on to advent calendars. Not eating them, but making them, and not for crafting fun or to show off artistic abilities (because maybe some of us don’t have artistic abilities, okay?), but to start the countdown.
As the days carried us into December, my methods grew stricter. There was a Christmas Eve regimen, you see, and I spent days, no, years perfecting it. In the days leading up to December 24th, I made sure that each one of my soldiers (read: younger siblings) were fully trained and battle ready.
First and foremost, there was the completion of the Christmas Movies Must Watch List. We’d make our way through this list, not for enjoyment or viewing pleasure, but because we had a quota to fill. The CMMWL has at least half a dozen firm watches, but no movie was more important (or mandatory) than A Christmas Story. A gem always saved for Christmas Eve, and some years, it wouldn’t just get a cursory watch, but an extra viewing or two.
But the movies were child’s play compared to showtime. That’s right – Christmas Eve. December 24th. The big two-four. In the days leading up to this pivotal moment, I’d relentlessly review our game plan with the troops:
Pajamas: Each of us needed to have special Christmas pajamas ready and waiting for Christmas Eve. Pajamas that were approved by the Dictator O’ Christmas, because this wasn’t just some cute or sweet tradition but preparation of our battle attire.
Sleeping in the same room: The dictator took no chances. The dictator trusted no one. Hence, we all bunked in the same room. Under my control. And you best believe I didn’t start collecting my Zzzzs until everyone else was out cold.
No peeking: Oh this was a firm one. If there was one part of the game plan you did not want to disobey, it was this. I made sure my troops knew this rule inside and out: if you peeked and tried to see your gifts or the fat man in red before Christmas morning, all of your gifts would disappear. That’s it. End of story. This wasn’t just some sappy warning based on love, but a tried and true scare tactic. ::insert maniacal laughter::
Wake up call: Most years we’d wake up around 6AM. No exceptions. We’d get up and quietly make our way to the kitchen. We’d take turns in the bathroom and brushing our teeth (cause ew morning breath) and make tea for my mom and coffee for my dad. If we, the troops, decided to indulge in a cookie or six, there was no one there to stop us.
The lineup: Ah, the most important and rewarding part of the game plan. The end of the game plan actually. Once mom and dad were all sorts of caffeinated, we’d line up in the hallway youngest to oldest. The parental units would storm the living room first and get situated, and then we’d start our long-awaited march.
But mostly just gifts.