‘Best seat in the house’

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It’s a little scary up here. You should try balancing on a limb after lying on your back for eleven months against the nose of a reindeer. But, I must say, it’s quite the view.

Fifteen years I’ve been doing this. Fifteen years of watching the tops of people’s heads as they bounce by, hearing laughter and arguments, smelling baked cookies and burnt cookies.

By now, I know the routine. The first three days, I and all my friends below get a lot of attention. Like an 8-year-old being dressed in his new suit, everything must be just right. Facing outwards, spaced properly, complementing colors. But soon, the attention wanes as we snuggle in between the sofa and the chair toward anonymity. I get to sit up here and watch. And listen. And remember.

My, the things I’ve seen. “Scoot” (he likes to be called “Charles” now) knocking over the punch bowl and soaking all the presents. Jenny’s sweater had shrunk two sizes in the box by Christmas. That same boy — to this day — when all alone will unwrap his gift, inspect and rewrap it. He’s become quite the actor come Christmas.

You think Mr. and Mrs. Jones have a pleasant marriage. But let me tell you, the things they argue about. The house too hot, the soup too cold, mismatched clothes, too much spending, nose hairs, his mother and her weight. But let the doorbell ring and transformation takes place. Voices lower and smiles appear. “Honey” this and “Baby” that. My, if people only knew.

I’ve seen my share of tears. I don’t know what was said, but Mrs. Jones once got off the phone with her mom, sat on that couch, and cried and cried. I’ve seen little Charlie whack his sister with a left hook between bites of a cheeseburger. Sometimes Mr. Jones sits in his chair and stares forever out the window. I always wonder what he’s thinking.

I’ve seen good things, too. The look in everyone’s eyes when surrounded by good food and good music and good friends. Listening to them tell old stories, the same ones I heard last year and the year before. Laughter. Twinkling eyes. Smells from old recipes. The feeling of home.

And here we are again. Me up here watching and you down there living. Don’t mind me. I’ll just stand up here, try to look pretty and do my job.

But I know this can’t last forever. My dress will wear thin and the joints will stiffen. My wings will become brittle and the paint will peel from my cheek. Some young store-bought thing will usurp my place.

But that’s alright. I knew this couldn’t last forever. Then I’ll be old enough to retire. Take it easy. Devote my energies elsewhere. Why, I might just sit down and write a book.