As I write this, my girls are decorating the Christmas tree. Not me. Them. It's the first time they have done it on their own, from unpacking the tree from the tree bag, to assembling it and the tree stand, to stringing the lights, putting the star on top, and hanging the ornaments. I am not allowed to offer instructions, although I can point out gaps. They're doing an excellent job. We've been laughing about the traditions and funny things that have happened to us in the 10 years they have been living with me. And I realize the girls are growing up.
We (ok, me) always wait to put up the tree until the Saturday before Christmas (unless of course when the holiday falls on a weekend we do it the previous Saturday). When the girls first came to live with me, they were quite young and I was not ready to have them help with the tree, so I told them that we assembled the tree so that the elves could come decorate the tree while we slept. Made sense to them, so we would put out the ornaments and a little snack for the elves. Little did they know I stayed up to put on the ornaments. It worked great the first year but the second year I fell asleep. I did not realize what had happened until the youngest came into my room crying that the elves had forgotten us. I thought quickly and said that it was my fault -- I had heard a noise in the middle of the night, had gotten up to investigate, and accidentally scared away the elves. I assured them both that the elves would return again. That night, the youngest chastised me, instructing me to "stay in my room, even if I heard a noise." She continued to remind me every Christmas for four years.
When I thought they were old enough to help out, I let them go to bed thinking the elves would decorate the tree while they slept. Instead, I woke them up at midnight, handed them elf hats with elf ears, and told them the elves had a lot to do that night so they asked that the girls help out that year. When they fully woke up, we finished with the tree, we drank hot chocolate and watched a Christmas video. Even after the girls stopped believing in Santa and his elves, I would wake the girls up at midnight to decorate the tree, share a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows, and watch some TV.
Now, they are teens. Tonight, we have been talking about when they first realized Santa wasn't real. For one girl, it was the year I had ordered a computer and pretended that Santa had dropped it off a day early. I made the requisite hoof beats noises on the ceiling, had a neighbor knock on the door, and then encouraged the girls to help me check it out. They did not fall for it. The other one, well, she said she figured it out when all the presents were wrapped with the wrapping paper she had helped me pick out at the store the week before. Ah well, I gave it a try.
We've also been talking about the ornaments I have given them each year to celebrate a special accomplishment - learning to read, riding a two-wheeler for the first time, earning yellow belts in karate, tent camping, etc. This year's ornaments will be given out Christmas morning.
Yes, they are growing up. I hope they will remember some of the old traditions as we continue to make new ones.
Happy Holidays, everyone, and have a wonderful New Year.