Billy toed a piece of frozen ground into the sewer down the street from his house and thought the same thoughts he’d had for a week. Christmas was coming and he could think of nothing else. Soon, people would be putting lights on houses, electric Santa’s out front, and wreaths in the windows. The weather had turned cold and crisp and added to his excitement. There’d be snow for Santa. He didn’t know how the kids in Florida got their stuff, but Billy didn’t think much about that.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Billy was buzzing like lightning looking for ground. He was so wired with the waiting he was a nuisance to everyone around him.
“Dad. Why do we have to wait until Christmas Eve to put the tree up?”
“I’ve told you before, it’s a tradition in our family.”
“Jimmy’s family already has theirs up.”
Mom. “It’ll be dead in a week and Marge will be vacuuming needles until Christmas.”
Billy didn’t understand that reasoning at all.
“What about the stencils in the windows? We could do that now.”
“Billy!” they said together.
Later, up in his room Billy lay on his bed listening to his ‘close and play’ stereophonic record player with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” playing softly so Mom couldn’t hear it. She’d have a tumor if she knew he was playing Christmas music this early. He looked out at the frost covered moon moving through his window frame. He didn’t know what to do with himself; the waiting was making him crazy. He could do some homework, but it seemed better to lay here in squalid concern.
Did Mom and Dad get the hints about the Johnny Seven One Man Army? Would Gramma send socks again like every year? He didn’t think so because he’d used reverse logic this year asking her for socks. Ha, got her there. Will we get a big tree? Last year was kinda scrawny, and now Mom was actually talking about one of those silver monsters with all the same colored balls. Yuck.
Billy gazed back at the moon floating in space. Maybe a model of a spaceship, or some cool hockey stuff. The moon appeared to smile at him. What do you want little boy?
“I want Christmas to be here.” Billy smiled back, crawled into bed, and slept the slumber of the soldier waiting for battle.
In the night, Billy heard the clock downstairs announce three bells. He rolled over and pulled up the covers. The night was purple with the nightlight from the hallway and the entire house was silent except for the ticking of that clock. He was drifting off to treasure island when he felt a pair of cold feet, not his.
“Whwhaa what?!” He jumped up, out of the covers, and stood straight up on the bed.
In the purple light he could see a small man or a large child in the bed looking at him.
“Quiet fool, you’ll wake everyone!”
Somewhere in the back of Billy’s fevered mind he thought that was exactly what he should do, but the attention of little boys is so fleeting he forgot that. Hence the repeated warnings.
“Who..what are you? I’m getting my parents…”
“Don’t do that Billy.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Saints preserve me, when you make a wish and we send an elf, naturally we’d know your name.”
“What wish? Wait, an elf!?”
“Yeah. You got anything to eat downstairs?”
“You can’t go downstairs! Someone might see you!”
“No worries. Only you can see me.”
This last bit scared Billy badly. Somehow, being caught with an elf was better than talking to one that only he could see. An elf?
“Whoa boy, sit down there. You’re falling over.”
“I don’t feel so good.”
“Got any peanut butter sandwiches? Always make me feel better.”
“No, we don’t have no samiches for no elf! What are you doing here?”
The little gnome sighed and thought he’d check downstairs on his way out.
“Billy, I am here to grant your wish. And this is how you treat me.”
“What wish? I don’t know what you mean.”
“Your wish for Christmas to be here. Naturally.”
“What’s a nashurly? And I never…” Billy stopped and thought of the moon.
“Yeah, cool huh?”
“What’s your name?”
“Thought you’d never ask. Name’s George.”
“George the Elf?” Billy thought again about alerting his parents but he was curious about this wish.
“You can make Christmas come? Can you do it every year?”
“Boy you got greedy quick.”
Billy stood up again.
“I think you are just a dream or something I ate, like Mom always says.”
“Don’t talk about food.”
“So, George. Maybe you can stop scaring me and do the wish. I’m getting sleepy…”
Only little boys can fall asleep with an elf in their bed.
Billy woke up and he was in the living room downstairs under the lit Christmas tree, toys scattered around, and volcanoes of colored paper strewn about the room. His brother was playing with a Mighty Mo cannon. There were socks from Gramma under the tree. Dad was in his usual position with one leg thrown over his lounger, smoking a pipe, and staring into the tree. Billy could hear Mom in the kitchen fussing with something.
George had done it! Here, Billy was in the middle of the glory of Christmas. He looked around in wonder. But he thought it best to check.
“Dad! How did Christmas come so fast?”
“Fer crying out loud Billy you whine and moan like a sick cat for weeks and now it’s here. Enjoy it!”
“But when did we put up the tree, the decorations, the candy cane outside? And I never got you a present!”
“Sure you did. A tie like every year. And we put everything together over the last week as always. You OK? You look a little green.”
Billy was realizing that he had missed it all. The shopping, the decorating, the worrying, the anticipation. Walking through the lit neighborhood with the light from all the dining room windows spilling onto the snow and knowing Christmas was close! Coming down the stairs early Christmas morning and seeing the presents all wrapped and under the tree. Moving like a mouse in the gray dawn looking at whose presents were whose, careful to not wake Dad because he was always up late Christmas Eve doing something. Watching the clock on the old Westinghouse stove, his head barely over the stovetop waiting for 7AM when they could wake the house. Then, the bedlam of unwrapping presents and throwing colored paper everywhere.
From the kitchen Mom yelled “Who ate all the peanut butter?! Honestly guys, I just bought that jar last week.”
Everyone voiced innocence but Billy was too preoccupied with his predicament to care about peanut butter.
The gnome did grant his wish. But he awoke Christmas morning and it was all over. Billy had gotten a hard lesson from an obnoxious turdbucket named George. Billy settled back against the bean bag chair he’d apparently gotten from Aunt Midge; the tag was still on it. As he stared past his brother with the Might Mo, he spotted a box on the side of the tree. The Johnny Seven O.M.A!
As little boys want to change focus quicker than a frog spearing a fly, Billy was off and running, planning an army campaign with his brother. But as long as he lived, Billy never wished again for Christmas to come quick. He completely forgot about George, but he never forgot to savor the precious days that every year take us faster and faster to the glory of Christmas.