The Last Times

The older I get, the fewer "first times" I seem to have and more "last times" come my way. It's not a bad thing, mind you. Just a growth thing. Think of all the lasts in your life. There's the last time you're pregnant. The last time your kids use a stroller. The last time for the car seat, the baby furniture, and all the little-person toys scattered across the basement floor. Our children grow up and their needs become more specific. We teach them how to drive. How credit cards and checking accounts work. Again, not a bad thing. But when you're nostalgic like I am, some of the "last times" can leave their marks on your heart.

I'm afraid this is the last believing Christmas for my twins, Bobby and Christopher. They already have their suspicions about Santa and his workshop, just as they question how the tooth fairy gets into our house without setting off the alarm. Friends and older cousins have told them the truth time and again and they've asked Joe and me if Santa is real. The best I can offer is, "What do you think, honey?" and that usually quiets the conversation for another few days.

(Bobby's Christmas Wish List note to Sidney, our Elf on the Shelf)

But these days are the last, precious ones, I know. The boys turn 10 next June, and that's about the time my friend Debbie broke the spirit-crushing news to me on a sunny afternoon after school in southern California. You never forget where you were or how it felt when you found out The Truth. I remember that day as well as I do the afternoon Ronald Reagan was shot, or Karen Carpenter died, or the Twin Towers fell. I don't just remember them. I know I'll never forget.

Still, there is a delicious little game my family plays each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve that will likely continue well after my boys are grown and gone. They'll come home from college and scour my house for Sidney, our Elf on the Shelf. Sidney hides in a different spot every night of those five glorious weeks, and each year his hiding places become a bit more difficult to figure out. My Littles will run all over the house the minute they wake up to find Sidney first and then hold it over their brothers' heads that THEY know where he is and they don't. Sidney causes fights, sure, but he makes me smile inside like you won't believe.

And now is when I return to my original point in telling you this. The days are numbered for my True Believers. Soon, I will receive my last note, like the two seen above, scribbled on a Penn Hills Chamber of Commerce notepad that sits in a kitchen drawer, penned by a little boy who still dreams that Santa is real and that Sidney is his Pittsburgh helper. Notes like this one, written by Bobby. I showed it to Joe last night after we tucked the boys into bed. My sweet husband turned his face and looked at the wall, but I could see his eyes were already wet.

Here's to these sweet, simple moments. To the delicious joys of childhood that, before we know it, turn into memories. Here's to enjoying them while we have them. To slowing down time just the slightest bit before the sands in the hourglass slip all the way through. And here's to the magic of Christmas, celebrated by our children, that reminds us how very, very lucky we all are.

Peace, my friends.

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