"I'm going to get up for a bit," I say to my wife.
"I'm going to get up. I need to write something down, a dream. It's funny." It wasn't.
"Won't you remember it?"
I can barely remember the children's names at this time of night. "No, I'll forget." I add, "I won't be long."
My wife sleeps cat-sleep. I can wake her, tell her something, and then she will return to sleep immediately, like there is an on-off switch. Once I woke her three times in six minutes, just to ask her what dream she had, and each time she described a different dream. It's a gift.
I shuffle down the hallway, lit by my awakened cell phone, and settle into the chair by the window overlooking the drive. I prop the phone on the edge of the desk, take a pad of paper and pen, and scratch out a few words to capture my dream. This is what I wrote:
I was standing in front of the congregation of my church. I had volunteered for a reading of a portion of the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat to be exact, and I had practiced reading it aloud to myself earlier in the day. I printed it in 16 point font to make sure I could see it. I looked out over a church body swelled by Chreasters, those folks that come only on Christmas and Easter.
I began well enough but then stumble over a word, began again, and then the words blurred. Phrases seemed to be missing. "I'm sorry," I said, and I was aware that I had begun to ad lib, to fill in the gaps, at one point waxing on about the virgin birth. I looked up, noticed the pastor looking at me, quizzically. I was horrified. Worse, Rhett, one-half of the YouTube sensation of Rhett and Link, was in the audience, his stack of hair sailing over the congregation. I looked down. "I'm sorry," I said, and I turned to walk off the stage. A few muffled claps followed. I gathered my wife and and we made a hasty exit as the next hymn began.
"Hey, that was great. Thanks."
It was Gerald. "What?"
"That was great. Really."
"Gerald, that was terrible. It was like I fell down on the way here, lost half the printed text, bumped my head, and lost my mind."
"Happens to me all the time."
"I doubt that."
Then I woke up.
And that's it. I got up just to write that down. The literary community will thank me one day for my discipline, for suffering for art and all that.
I looked out the window. Every house was dark but one, the one with small children, the one where a weary dad was likely assembling a bicycle, or some other toy with obtuse, 9-point font instructions. Not a creature was stirring in the circle of light cast by the streetlight. I put the pen down, and stood to return to bed. Then, I heard a guffaw from the downstairs. I listened, heard some shuffling about. I walked to the landing of the back stairs and cocked my head, listening again. It sounded like someone was down there. I started down the stairs, paused and grabbed a hand weight for protection. Protection from what, I wondered.
I started down, carefully so as not to make the step creak. Half way down I heard a creak behind me, turned, and saw my traditionally built cat two steps behind me, her eyes lit by the moonlight. I leaned down, whispered, "What part of 'not a creature was stirring' did you not get?" She had that hurt expression. "Ok, you can come, but put a lid on it."
A sense of deja vu swept over me.
Rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairs, I said, "You go that way, through the playroom, and I'll go the other." She did the opposite, heading for the food bowl, seeking sustenance before taking on the intruder. I continued on, muttering something about "dog next time."
Rounding the corner of the playroom, I saw him. Santa. Seriously. Again. He was smoking a cigar. We don't allow smoking in the house, but I let it go. It was Santa. He was just humming to himself, satisfied, pulling presents out of a bag. Finishing, he glanced around, hands on hips. I had a few questions.
"Hey Santa, how's it going?" Lame.
"Couldn't be better. Left a few things for you. You've been good, right?"
"Well, you see. . ."
"Santa believes in grace. Don't sweat it."
"That's a relief." He seemed harmless. I put the hand weight down, my hand sweaty from gripping it. "Santa, I got a few questions."
"Well, for one, how do you get all those presents in that bag?"
"Elementary physics. Ask your son."
"Right. Well, and how do you make it to all the houses you need to get to, I mean, excluding those of non-believers, all in one night?"
"Time is malleable."
"I thought you'd say that."
"Ever had to wait a long time for something when you had nothing else to do? Feels like time stands still, right?
"Yeah." My mind floated back to fourth grade and Mrs. Hedrick's class, me watching the second hand on the big clock on the wall ticking down the seconds, like eternity, until the 3:30 bell. "Yeah, I know what you mean."
"I thought you would."
That summed up my inquiries. But I didn't want him to leave. He took a long drag on the cigar. "Uh, how's Mrs. Claus?"
"Better than ever. A looker, that one."
"Right. I mean. . ."
"Don't worry about it. She's my type, rotund and sassy."
"Well look, you don't have to leave via the chimney. I haven't had it cleaned lately."
"Don't need it. We've modernized. Teleportation. But look, give my best to your family. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night, you know, and all that."
And with that, he vanished. I turned and made my way through the kitchen, turned the corner, and began up the stairs, aware of the cat dogging my steps. I leaned down, whispered, "Did you see that?" She nodded. "I hope you've been good." She nodded.
At the landing I heard the sleepy voice of my 24-year old son: "Dad, did Santa come?"
"He said he was."
"Yep. I have some questions for you in the morning."
"I've been good, mostly."
"No, not about that. About quantum physics, time, stuff like that."
"Sure. Go back to sleep."
I settled back into bed.
"Did you see Santa? My wife. On.
"That's what you said last year."
"I know. Except this time we were talking about quantum physics, time, and stuff like that."
All was silent. Off. She was asleep. I lay there. The furnace came on, humming. 'Twas the night before Christmas, I thought, all through the house, and no one believes me. I don't even know if I believe me.
I'm going to stop reading at lessons and carols services. It messes you up.