Isaac and Marianne shuffled down the hallway, following Charlie. “It’s too early,” Marianne said.
“It’s Christmas,” Isaac said. “Of course we’re up too early.”
“Maybe when he’s older, he’ll want to sleep in,” Marianne said. “That would be nice.”
“I think we’ll miss this,” Isaac said. “It’s kind of fun.”
“Hurry up,” Charlie said from the living room. “Why are you still out in the hallway? The presents are in here.”
Marianne sighed. “We’re coming,” she called back.
They sat on the couch, next to their stockings and waited for Charlie to start emptying his own stocking out. But instead of hurrying over to the chair where his stocking was waiting, he darted over to the Christmas tree instead.
“Stockings first,” Marianne said.
But Charlie bent over and struggled to pick up something. “Is that a dresser drawer?” Isaac asked.
“That wasn’t under the tree before,” Marianne said.
“It’s from Charlie’s dresser. And look, it has a bow on it,” Isaac said.
Charlie walked over and handed the drawer to Isaac. “It’s for you,” he said.
“Um, thank you Charlie,” Isaac said. He looked down into the drawer as he took it from Charlie. A blanket looked like it had been scrunched up and shoved inside, and resting on the blanket was Marianne’s old baby doll.
Marianne looked at the doll and looked at Charlie. “Why did you give him my old baby doll? And your dresser drawer?”
Charlie grinned. “Dad’s always saying that he wishes we could act out the nativity like his family did growing up.”
Marianne nodded. “Yes, but there’s not enough of us, dear. We need lots of people to act out the nativity. Shepherds and angels and wise men and more.”
“But Mom,” Charlie said. “I thought if you and I dressed up, we could be Mary and Joseph. Dad could read the story and we could act out the important parts anyway. He could still read the rest too. See, there’s even a baby Jesus and a manger.”
Isaac smiled. “That’s a wonderful idea, Charlie. I’d really like that.”
“Right now?” Marianne asked. “Before stockings?”
Charlie laughed. “Come on. It’ll be fun. I have some ideas for the costumes.”
And so Marianne and Charlie left Isaac alone in the living room. The Christmas tree lights shone softly, and he looked down at the plastic baby doll, wrapped in an old fuzzy blanket and lying in a dresser drawer. He thought about another baby born a long time ago, and his own son born more recently, and he smiled.
Charlie and Marianne returned, dressed in bathrobes and wearing towels on their heads, secured there with Isaac’s neckties. Charlie handed him a Bible, and he read the Christmas story while they acted out their parts.
When Isaac was younger, he and his aunts and uncles and cousins and parents acted the Christmas story out while Grandfather read the story and Grandmother took pictures. It was noisy and chaotic and wonderful, even if Isaac was usually a sheep or a donkey. Once, he’d been a shepherd.
At Christmas time, he often missed having so much family around, even if he was grateful for his little family and wouldn’t trade them for anything. But this Christmas eased that small ache. The excitement and joy and wonder he felt as a child was back as he read the Christmas story for his family.
It was a wonderful Christmas. He couldn’t stop smiling.