I visited Christmas the year I turned twelve

A few months after Kori moved more than a thousand miles southwest, I learned algebra with my sixteen year old traveling babysitter (brother of a fellow skater), all the way to her new house, above clickety-clack, clickety-clack, one whole night and day.
One night, after dinner, we drove past luminarias, one after another for miles, resting on red stucco. We sang Away in a Manger, words never heard before. Sweetness gave me tears. We sang when I asked, please, I need to hear our voices rise again.
A tree I expected, gifts too, piled beneath. Each day before Christmas morning we wandered store aisles, seeking perfect generosity. I could not have known there would be so many on the awaited morning, or how they would appear to be bathed in magic.
Each night, a new adventure. Taco eating contest, singing along magic lights, skating on Los Alamos. I didn’t see the moon that trip, tall as a ten story, sitting at the end of their block, but now I know, if I had looked at just the right moment, I would see an enormous ball of light, one I might have walked to.
Children play wild. Most memories fade, grow hazy on the edges, file themselves deep in time gone. I slept in my friend’s room, ate with her family, won the taco eating contest, raced Kori in our scuffed white skates, jumping and spinning with floppy arms. Only a picture of luminarias, Jesus without a bed, my sadness for Him, my adoration of our mingled voices telling so two thousand years later, and waking to presents washed in a ray of dawn, many more than I remembered from the night before, my name written over and over beneath those pine needles, remain outlined in their reality.
Going home two weeks later, clickety-clack, with my first companions eighteen year old sister. Up all night in the dining car with a table full of barely adults. Intellectual debate for the first time, like only can happen with those on the brink, ready to tip out of childhood. I kept up, drinking in easy laughter as it gave way again and again to weighty matters, but always back to joy. We returned to our seat long after dawn.

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