The Best Part, a short story by LT Parrish at
Ralph Nas

The Best Part

The Best Part

written by: LT Parrish



For weeks it’s been a smorgasbord of sugar cookies, cartoons featuring elves, and TV specials, including an Elvis comeback, but these swirl of events serve only to hype up a young girl waiting on the main event.

Christmas morning when Santa fills my stocking and piles gifts beneath the tree.

While Apollo 8 orbited the moon and Santa and his reindeer circled the earth, I guided my little brother down carpeted stairs to glimpse what lay beneath the spruce tree, which had been bare the night before. For days, I had crouched beneath its branches and gathered pine needles, dried from hot bulbs that nested along a string of lights, and crumbled them between my fingertips.

Decorated with globs of gold and silver tinsel, metallic garland, and mismatched plastic and glass ornaments, the decor represented the kitsch tackiness of the times, yet like Linus and Charlie Brown, our tree was “the most beautiful” of them all.

At the sight of it, overflowing with gifts, we giggled and wriggled our way into the gold and teal living room, complete with tactile velvet wallpaper. When purplish skies peeked through the window, we knew sunrise was near and our parents soon awake. Their presence was necessary to open the boxes beneath the tree, but not the stocking. That was fair game.

Overnight, my stocking, stamped with a reindeer trimmed in gold, had evolved from its dormant state into something wondrous. I hesitated, savoring the moment before I reached inside. This was the best part of Christmas, the moment before surprises revealed and the opportunities endless. Everyone knew that. It’s why eyes danced brighter on the Christmas evening than the morning itself.

I was deliberate when selecting each papered and ribboned piece, like the last day of summer vacation, hoping to extend the experience as long as possible. My brother tossed crumpled paper aside with the voracity of Tasmanian Devil swirling in a vortex — rooting, and ransacking his stocking, until the fabric hung in slack folds.

Once my brother had emptied his, I puttered through an assortment of candies and walnuts until the hissing and sputtering noises of a coffee percolator alerted me that our parents were awake. Excited to share with them the treasures of Christmas daybreak, I called out.

“Mommy! Daddy! Look what Santa brought me!”

Fanned out laid a plastic game with an enclosed maze and ball that serpentined its way toward the finish line, a coloring book and Crayola crayons, whose sharp tips mesmerized as I inhaled their waxy scent. And rolls of Lifesavers, sandwiched together in a box resembling a book, knowing I would give my father the butterscotch flavor since I only liked the fruity ones.
Despite unopened gifts waiting beneath the tree, a bit of holiday magic vanished when I pushed aside the hollow stocking.

The best part was over.

Thirty-five years have passed, and it’s another Christmas morning of sneaking down steps, but this time, it’s to stuff stockings, not gobble up goodies like Hansel and Gretel snarfing down gingerbread.

The stairs creak and I wince, convinced our old home will give me away. If the kids wake up, that’s it. Game over.

Above me remains silent and I exhale, grateful that I’ve survived the gauntlet of sleeping kids, snoring hound, and squeaky floorboards. My children cannot hear “Pick up your toys!” yelled across the room, but if I unwrap that candy bar, chocolate stashed away for emergencies only, their ears lock in with the accuracy of a nuclear submarine sonar.

“Can I have a bite of your candy? Can I Mom?”

My mother purchased our stockings in Boston, constructed from commercial felt, but my children’s are crocheted and lack structure. The floppy pieces droop across my thighs as I shove taped and twisted objects into them; the sides enlarging and bulging like a python choking down its prey. This Santa thing takes longer than anticipated.

At least my kids sleep in. Even on Christmas morning.
In fact, I have to wake them up.

Faces creased from pillowcases and hair askew from skipped morning routines, my children quickly transition from a dozy state to full-blown excitement.

“Mommy! Daddy!” Each child exclaims, Santa’s first offerings separated into piles.

My daughter grins, curly wisps tucked behind each ear, while my son cheeses it up with a smile so deep, it scrunches the upper part of his face.

“Look at that,” I say.

Bold Crayola crayons, the tips still sharp, tropical cylindrical candy rolls (no butterscotch), stacked in Lifesaver Storybooks, and a miniature plastic maze with a rolling ball. Gifts meant to enthrall my children as they once captivated me.

“I love the stocking — it’s the best part,” my daughter says.

Like me, she appreciates these moments which sparkle as a fire’s ember drifting into the evening sky before it burns out. The moment when a stocking stuffed with trifles unleashes a day of wonder and joy.

However, despite the decorations, holiday hype, and presents, I appreciate the ultimate gift. My family and the opportunity to create new and celebrate old memories, and that is truly the best part.

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