I was awake at 2:30 am on Christmas morning when Ted and Amber finally arrived from Appleton. They did exactly what Eileen and I did: spent Christmas Eve with the Non-Storm family, and then left around midnight for the Storm house. The Christmas morning tradition is to wake up really early (like 5:30 or 6:00), go downstairs to see what Santa brought, and then go back to bed for a few hours. When we were kids, we pretty much skipped step three of the process. This year, my sister was concerned that if we woke up after 5:30, her son Sam would also end up staying awake for the day. So we had to make a decision to either wake up in three hours, or forego the tradition. I polled my siblings and found only one — Angie — intent on sticking with the tradition. The others said it was up to me. So I set the alarm for 5:21 and tried to make the most of the next three hours of sleep I would get.
I woke up at 7:00. Neither Eileen nor I heard an alarm go off, which is pretty odd. I checked it; everything was set correctly. I was disappointed for about 10 minutes, then I decided it was an act of God, and I tried to go back to sleep.
At 8:00, still awake, I heard a toilet flush, so I got up. It was Sam. He and I went downstairs and discovered a Lego Millenium Falcon for him and an LCD TV for me and Eileen. We didn’t even try to go back to sleep.
Other people woke up gradually. By 10:00, everyone was awake and downstairs. We had the traditional debate about whether to eat breakfast or open presents first. I came down on the eat-breakfast-first side, but as usual, I was outnumbered. I did, however, succeed in petitioning for some of those buttery Pillsbury Grands to be made as an “appetizer” before the gift-opening. And so several of us were mingling in the kitchen for 14 to 17 minutes, while the Grands baked.
At this time, I thought it would be funny to start a rumour that Ted was going to propose to Amber that very day. We’ve been waiting for years for him to do so, and ever since last spring, when Ted informed us over iChat that he was just working on the ring, we figured it could happen any day now. So I was just doing my part to prod them on. I forget who I told. I think I told Jamie and Mom, maybe Angie too. I don’t think Ted or Amber heard the rumour, which kinda defeated its purpose.
After the Grands got out, we took the present-opening slow. I won’t detail it here. It was a great show. And in its aftermath, as we were cleaning miscellaneous wrapping paper off the ground and investigating gifts more closely, we heard Amber exclaim “Oh my God!”
Ted said, “so, I guess I’ll do this formally,” and he got down on one knee and presented a ring box he had carved out of wood. It’s probably not by business to relate exactly what was written on the letter that had provoked the exclamation from Amber, but the short story is that the wooden box, housing a wooden ring, was not the official engagement ring. We were, however, witnessing the official engagement.
For my part, I could do nothing more than stare open-mouthed at the two of them and then at the people to whom I had whispered my rumour. I felt like a jackass, albeit, a very happy jackass.