“The children were nestled all snug in their beds …”

It’s close to midnight. The kids are sleeping. Santa Claus ate his cookies and drank his milk while filling the stockings and watching the mournful ending of John Huston’s film of James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead.”

Earlier, after the day’s external chores where finished, I baked cookies (some of which the wife and kids took to some neighbors). We each opened a present (as is our family Christmas Eve tradition). My son picked the smallest, most rattly present. It only only had a note (along with a nickel and a cough drop, which made the sound); it took him to other notes around the living room, which led to a wooden shoe in which was buried the clipped rental tag from his cello–his eyes grew wide as he understood, and then, without words, he ran over and gave me a long firm hug. Aimee’s package was a shirt; Joy’s a cookie jar from a friend; mine, a photo album from my brother Jim with pictures of this fall’s canoe trip.

We had a supper of homemade tomato-basil soup (with the last leaves of our basil plants that were untouched by this week’s frost) and crackers and cheese (Morbier, Comte, and some garden variety Swiss). We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” while sipping some Mexican hot chocolate.

The kids then went to bed without complaint, making sure to leave cookies and milk for Santa. Sure, they haven’t believed in him for many years. But that doesn’t stop them from putting the care into the treats they know will be eaten while the stockings are filled.