An icy cold floor greeted our warm feet, fresh out of bed on Christmas Eve morning. By the time we reached the breakfast table, there was no denying the bitter chill in the air. After a little investigating, we found that the furnace wasn’t working because our oil supply had run out. Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, I’d neglected to keep tabs on our fuel levels. I had no idea we were so low. (Or maybe on some subconscious level I did, but was secretly hoping I wouldn’t have to dish out that $3.03 per gallon until after the holidays.) I was relieved when the fuel company called to tell us they could get someone out to fill the tanks that afternoon. Until then, we put on socks and sweaters, lit the fireplace and went about our Christmas Eve business.

Julia and I watched Christmas shows and made some fudge.

Soon, a very merry oil delivery man arrived, filled the tanks and wished us a Happy Christmas as he was heading straight home for the holidays from here – his last stop of the day. We restarted the furnace and I stood above the hot air duct in the dining room to feel the shift in the air from cool to warm, but it never came. After even more investigating, button-pressing and mess-making, we found that our oil filter needed changed. It was jam-packed full of the yucky sludge that sits at the bottom of an oil tank. Since I’d let the oil run out, all that crud had been sucked into the filter. By the time we came to that realization, every oil furnace filter place in a 100 mile radius was closed for the holidays. So, we pulled out a few space heaters, cranked the fireplace up to a roar and decorated sugar cookies as we sang Christmas Carols.

Julia chose a few cookies to put out for Santa and I gave her a gift of Christmas pajamas to open. She took a bath, put on her new night-night clothes and headed for bed. She was so excited, I knew she wouldn’t fall asleep right away. So, I snuggled up next to her and we talked softly in the dark.

“What do you think Santa will bring you, Julia?”

“The baby that swims. I know he will, because he came to my house and I told him myself.”

“What else do you think he’ll bring?”

“Well, I think that’s all. Just the baby that swims. That’s all I asked for.”

I knew then that she was going to have a magnificent Christmas morning.

Once she drifted off to sleep, I got back up, and with the help of my mother, performed my elf duties. Two and a half views of A Christmas Story (or 5 hours) later, at 4 a.m., I was back in bed for, literally, a few winks of sleep. Before I could even dream, Julia was kissing my cheeks and saying, “Merry Christmas, Mommy!”

She woke the rest of the family and we all flew down the stairs. I grabbed my video camera just in time to get her reaction to the Christmas tree surrounded by presents. She bounced and shouted that Santa had come! Within moments of scanning the wrapped gifts, she pointed to one package and said, “There it is, Mom. That’s the baby that swims.” And she was right.

But, before she attempted to unwrap anything, she first located the gift she and my mom had made for Grandpa and insisted that he open that first – a gesture that was more of a gift than the thing she gave him. And then, only after she had delivered a gift to her Grandma, her Daddy and me, did she open her baby that swims – a toy she loves so much that she told me they are going to get married.

Julia in her Rose Petal Cottage

Peeking out of her new Rose Petal Cottage

I was so proud of that girl as she opened her presents. She asked me, before opening each one, who it was from and was more gracious than I knew a three-year old could be. She was genuinely thrilled by her gifts. If she opened a book, we had to read it straight away. If she unwrapped clothing, she had to put it right on. And when the unwrapping was done, she said, “I got so much more than I asked for! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

And then today, to really cement that idea of gratitude into her three-year old brain, we made thank you cards for the people who were generous enough to give her a present. In addition to adhering one thing to another, she wrote her name on each card.

Our Thank You Notes

And through it all, we managed to stay so warm and toasty, that I forgot to get a furnace filter today. Who needs heat when you’ve got the warmth of Christmas?