You know that tingling sensation you get when you lick a fresh 9-volt Duracell? Imagine that feeling in your stomach. That's how waiting for Christmas felt like when I was a kid.
I don't know if I ever got any sleep on Christmas Eve. Back in the days before insomnia, I could count on two sleepless nights a year: the night before the first day of school and Christmas Eve. The difference: Christmas Eve usually didn't involve a lot of thinking, "Oh God, what are they going to do to me this year?"
Instead, it was all about potential; the unknown. When you're a kid, you don't think about budgets or supply and demand; it's all about the magical list you penned faster than any homework assignment could ever be done, even at gunpoint. It's the time that you simply ask for what you want without thinking about how much things cost or how unlikely it is that you'd get it.
It was almost like magic.
Well, magic fueled by a week of Christmas specials on CBS, with the bongo-fueled special presentation intro.
My brother and I -- when we shared a room -- would talk about what we thought we were going to get until we finally fell asleep despite all the kid-adrenaline. And after a few hours of sleep, we were wide awake again, eager to head out into the living room to see what Santa brought us.
In what we assumed was a cost-saving move to offset the expenses of toy production, Santa always wrapped our presents in layers of tissue paper. You could just see through it just enough to have an idea of what the present was.
Our stockings would be bulging with candy, socks and for some reason I never quite understood, a tiny bottle of after-shave. Maybe Santa was trying to tell us that we stunk. I don't know.
My brother was always trying to get out there before anyone else.
"I'm gonna go see what we got!" he'd whisper.
Then I'd remind him that our parents wouldn't be up for another 2 or 3 hours and he'd scowl at me.
I still remember the year we got the Hall of Justice from the Super Powers Collection. It was the one toy we wanted the most. We had most of the Super Powers figures already, and now we'd have a cool playset for them to hang out in.
When opened, the Hall of Justice had a jail cell (with a trap door) for any villains who meandered by, a meeting table for four (you know Superman always got first dibs on a chair) and an elevator that led to a landing pad for the Supermobile (or if you had a good imagination, Wonder Woman's invisible jet).
And if that wasn't cool enough, when we opened the box, out came the last three figures we needed.
A Christmas miracle.
So now I'm gearing up to celebrate Christmas with my own family, which means one non-TNT viewing of "A Christmas Story," complaining that they showed all the Christmas specials too early again and some serious eating.
But the thing I'm looking most forward to is watching my son open his presents. I can't wait to see his face when he sees what he got.
In fact, I probably won't be able to sleep on Christmas Eve because of it.