This year she gets it. This is the big one. I have a feeling it may also the last one, so I'm taking in every second. For the last couple of years she has looked forward to Christmas, and she's been excited for Santa and presents, but never like this year. She has never had that special shyness when meeting Santa, she's never woken up on the 24th saying "Merry Christmas Eve!", and she's never had trouble going to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Tonight was magic. We kept our eye on the NORAD Santa Tracker, we made sure to get to bed on time, and we panicked and jumped out of bed when we realized we had forgotten to leave snacks out. She was giddy like a...well, like a 5 year old at Christmas during her bath, while brushing her teeth, and she positively couldn't sit still during story time, joining in as dad read How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
And then, just as we were lying down and tucking in...there arose such a clatter. First, jingle bells. Right outside the window! Then, a booming HO!HO!HO! Merry Christmas! Away to the window I flew like a flash...but saw nothing. After a few moments, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof...and the unmistakeable scraping of what could only be a sleigh, landing on the roof! And again, jingling and HO!HO!HO! Elle was beside herself, and I was mystified. "Is Santa here? Is he here at this house right now??!" she asked me. "It sounds like it!" was all I could reply. "Quick! Go to sleep!" she pleaded, and threw herself under the covers. Then she realized that everyone was still awake downstairs. Up she leapt and ran to the stairs. "Everyone! Santa is here! Go to sleep! EVERYONE GET INTO BED RIGHT NOW!!!" She didn't try to go and see if there were presents. She didn't try to catch a glimpse of him. She just ran around frantically trying to persuade everyone, including a guest who had recently arrived for a visit, to drop everything and go to sleep. Eventually Jeff and I coaxed her back upstairs and lay down in the room with her, but she knew that the folks downstairs would stop Santa from coming down the chimney. We assured her that he was doing a first pass to get all the houses where everyone was already asleep, and then he would circle back to get the rest of us later.
It seemed to work. Because here we are, ten minutes to midnight, and she is sawing logs. I think I see sugarplums. A few weeks ago she decided that it would be amazing to wake up Christmas morning to see her room filled with balloons. So Santa is bringing a balloon bouquet that he'll put at the end of her bed for her to wake up to. Between that and the pile of gifts downstairs, along with Papa's genius Santa App and the trusty NORAD Santa tracker, I think we've got her hook, line and sinker for at least one more year. Tonight, perhaps more than ever before, I believe in the magic of Christmas.