“Nat, don’t wake us up until seven, okay? That’s the earliest,” her mom warned as she tucked her into bed.
Natalie looked at her funny.
Her mom repeated, “I mean it. Not 5:30. Not 6:00. Seven o’clock. Got it?”
“Okay, Mommy,” she said after a big sigh. “Love you.”
“Love you, too. Christmas will be here before you know it. It’s just a dream away.”
A dream away. That’s what Natalie thought about as she drifted off to sleep. She dreamt of presents piled high under the tree. She dreamt of Barbie dolls and Easy Bake Ovens. She dreamt of singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus as she shared a big piece of cake with Him. Before she knew it, a little sun had peeked in through her window. It was morning. She shot straight up and checked the clock.
Too early. It was too early. Natalie lay back down. She fiddled with her blankie until it was in several knots. She sat up and flopped back down. She thought about what it would be like to have a brother or sister to wait with. Surely that would be much more fun.
Natalie sat at the edge of her bed. Her bare feet hung down, almost touching her fuzzy pink bunny slippers. She eyed the alarm clock with disdain as she thought about the conversation with her mom just the night before.
She knew she would be in trouble if she went even a minute before seven o’clock but waiting was so very hard for a five-year-old.
She got up from her bed and peeked out the window. Her footed PJ’s kept her warm as she watched soft white snow flakes fall from the sky. The first snow of the season is a perfect Christmas present straight from God to her and every other child in the city. She pressed her nose to the cool window. This made her shiver.
She scooted back into bed and got under the covers. She eyed the clock again. It was not much later than all the other times she looked. She sighed. She twirled her hair. She unknotted her blanket.
Natalie began the Christmas countdown the beginning of December. It seemed to go so slow she could hardly stand it. But this – this was so much worse. This countdown to seven was a killer.
She sat up and took a good long look at the clock again. Surely it must be time… but no, only another minute had passed. Wrapped up in her blanket, she closed her eyes and started talking to Jesus.
“Happy birthday, Jesus. I’m excited it’s finally here. Mommy won’t let me wake her up yet. Jesus? I need to ask You something. Is it the same if I get up but don’t wake my parents?” Natalie sat quietly. She listened to see if Jesus happened to answer her.
She lay back down. She sat up. She looked again. Frowned…lay back down…got back up. This time she went to the door and opened it just a bit. She listened. All she could hear were snores coming from her Daddy. She turned around and looked at the clock again and gave it a cross-eyed stare. She looked up, as if giving Jesus a last chance to chime in with His answer. Hearing none, she opened the door wider and slipped out.
The hallway was darker than she expected. She wasn’t used to being up this early by herself. She tip-toed past her parent’s room; listened, and then crept on by. She set her mind on her goal… the Christmas tree. She stood in wide-eyed wonder as she looked at the decorated room. A pink bike sat in the corner. She ran over to it and felt the smooth seat. She itched to ring the bell but didn’t.
The old cuckoo clock started to chirp and scared her spit less. She stopped in her tracks and counted. One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… Seven. It was seven o’clock! She ran back down the hallway and rushed into her parent’s room without even bothering to knock.
“Mommy! Daddy! It’s seven o’clock. She jumped onto the bed and made a big splash, and almost spilled her Daddy out of the water bed.
“Merry Christmas, Nat,” her daddy croaked with his deep morning voice.
“Oh Daddy. I’ve been up forever. I didn’t think it would ever get to be seven. I’ve been up since 6-5-0.”
“6-5-0 huh? That is a long time. Merry Christmas, NatNat.”
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