(A reprint of the story can be found below just in case you haven’t read it in a while!)
Captivated by the Stillness
My dad would read us this book every year on Christmas Eve just before we went to bed. I loved the rhythm, I loved that it felt calm and soothing even while it hosted lots of cool action and descriptive words, and I loved the depiction of Santa as so happy as he worked tirelessly to bring joy to the world.
And yet, I think some of the things of the story that I noticed were not things others noticed. I don’t presume to know why Clement Clarke Moore chose to emphasize that “not a creature was stirring,” but for me, it presented a picture of stillness.
As an autist, I loved this idea that everyone was home and yet there was a stillness.
That the “stockings were hung by the chimney with care,” told me that this was a home of love and compassion and that the night was full of importance. And that even on a night of so much meaning, all went still.
Enamored by Visions of Blankets
More than that, that the “children were nestled all snug in their beds” triggered in my little head visions of children buried under piles of magnificent blankets that provided a soothing amount of weight. Always asking for more blankets regardless of how hot I was, this line in the stanza meant to me that there were other children who achieved their most relaxed and restful sleep when they “nestled all snug in their beds” just as I loved to do.
Smitten at the Thought of Restful Sleep
And the concept of children sleeping without apparent difficulty – my deepest longing. I have read articles indicating that girls with autism have very active imaginations. I think (I am being semi-facetious here) their imaginations develop in an effort to chase away boredom in the hours it takes them to fall asleep.
Sleeping while your mind continues to run would be awesome, but having “settled brains,” whoosh, nothing could have stirred hope within me like this idea. There could be a time your mind rests…??? SIGN. ME. UP!!
Spellbound by Christmas Smells
And the house, not described in the story other than the reference to the stillness and the carefully hung stockings, in my mind, maybe as a result of the pictures in the book, smelled delicious. It had all of the smells of Christmas contained in that calm, soothing, and still atmosphere.
Yet, these smells did not occur in an overwhelming combination. I could picture walking through the house smelling and savoring the delightful scents one at a time, almost like in a scratch-and-sniff book–that one ends before the other begins.
The rest of the book, a perfect balance between description, action, and adventure, but in a soothing cadence and with the safety of knowing it was Santa as watched over by the father of the family who rested so unaware. So much description for that which appears to happen in just a quick second.
Children’s Stories Are for All Children
As a child, I also loved “The Princess and the Pea” (you can check out my post, “Lessons on Autism from the ‘Princess and the Pea'”), but this story, called by some “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” melted my heart. As “The Princess and the Pea” communicated to me that I could be different and accepted, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” gave me peace and hope.
I will say again, just like I did in my post mentioned above, none of the books I read as a child mentioned autism. I didn’t even know I was an autist. Yet, the books I read and the stories I was told spoke to me anyway. I naturally drew connections between the experiences of the characters in the books and what was going on in my little world.
And I didn’t have to always be reminded of my autism.
We Are Not So Very Different
My poor parents, I think, must read these accounts and wonder how in the world I was thinking such things while they were unaware, and yet, it never occurred to me that others weren’t looking or thinking exactly the same things that churned through my young mind.
My purpose in sharing my thoughts on this Christmas classic are simple: even as we see and experience the world differently, we can all derive joy from some of life’s simplest pleasures.
I was at church yesterday and the pastor said, “Do not get so wrapped up in religion that you miss God.” Just so, don’t get so wrapped up in “autism” that you miss the everyday things in life that can provide joy, everyday solutions to even crazy-hard problems, or that could bridge the gap between you and others who may see the world differently.
A beautiful story for a beautiful season. I wish you all the best and safest holiday season!
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”