Am I too old to build a fort in the living room, to pull the cushions off the couch to use as walls, to drape blankets over top to keep the light and peering eyes out, to use the end table as a secret hidden entrance that requires a special password to pass through, to drag the pillow from my bed to rest upon inside my very own space, my fort, my sanctuary. Are there rules about such things, rules about being too old for Santa, too old for pretend, too old for cap guns and putting on plays in the basement, too old for listening to Perry Como tell me the story of The Night Before Christmas, too old to crawl beneath the Christmas tree in the dark save the soft colour from the tree lights and wonder why Christmas makes me a little quiet and a little worried for those whose Christmas memories aren’t filled with love and laughter and sharing, to wonder why Christmas puts an ache in my heart for those who are gone or those who aren’t near.
Am I too old to run my finger around the edge of the mixing bowl to plop the proceeds of raw cookie batter into my mouth. Am I too old to give up on hanging the tinsel on the tree one strand at a time and instead tossing what’s left on the back side of the tree while hoping my mother doesn’t notice. Am I too old to jiggle and squeeze parcels with my name clearly printed after the word TO while I imagine the bounty and magic on the inside of the box. Am I too old to cut red and green construction paper into strips to glue into cylinders to make a Christmas chain for the doorways and around the window, too old to spray pretend snow onto the stencils on the living room and dining room window glass, too old to beg to stir the pot of cocoa on the stove for everyone who drops by with holiday hellos. Am I too old to want a wooden toboggan that will hold five or six of us as we zoom down the hill at the farm, over bumps and taking flight and landing in a heap at the bottom with snow up our sleeves and down our necks and laughing too hard to get our legs beneath us. Am I too old to sit on the top step with my sister while we wait for Christmas to officially begin and have permission to check to see if any surprises wait for us under the tree, too old to encourage my brother to finally get up while we jump up and down on his bed.
Am I too old to squeal when little girls crawl into bed with me on Christmas morning and run their ice-cold toes up and down my legs. Am I too old to sneak treats and a Christmas orange into Christmas stockings left hopefully by the tree. Am I too old to cry that I won’t see my little grandsons on Christmas morning and to fill myself up with their wonder and their childish confusion about presents and treats and too much food.
Am I too old to want Christmas to pause on Christmas Eve and never really turn over the clock to Christmas Day but to pause on the Eve when the tree lights come on and the candles are lit and all the goodness that Christmas brings out in each of us is in the room, is on our skin, is in our breath where we forget what we were arguing with our sister over, where we forget that we want to be older or younger or taller or thinner or blonder or all the things we long for the other days of the year.
Am I too old to slip my hand in my dad’s hand, to watch my fingers disappear into his paw and to climb up on his lap and know that I will never find a place safer in all the world than his knee. Am I too old for all of this?