Sunday, November 21, 2010


Sitting at my desk on a sunny late-November afternoon with a steaming gingerbread latte in my hand and Christmas music playing in the background,  I decided to pretend that it's not seventy degrees outside.  Instead, I turned on the ceiling fan and donned summer clothes in an attempt to conjure a little seasonal chill.  (Unfortunately, the only chill happening was down my spine as I listened to Angela Lansbury brutally murder "We Need a Little Christmas".) It seems that I have a borderline psychotic love for all things Christmas.  I love decking not only the halls, but the bushes, my cubicle, the dogs. I can't wait to watch Charlie Brown every other day until we can quote the script from beginning to end.  I get a thrill out of answering my phone at work with, "Buddy the Elf. What's your favorite color?"  (Why do my co-workers not find that hilarious?)  I force my family to watch "A Christmas Story" in July, and secretly tune in to the year-round holiday music station when everyone else is groaning about how we haven't even finished with Halloween yet.  So, when my fifth grade son tried to step on my Christmas buzz by telling me he doesn't believe in Santa Claus, I had to put my foot down. You don't mess with Santa, not in my house.

 Yesterday at lunch I casually asked my kids what they would like for Christmas.  There was a time in my life (a wonderful time) when asking the children what they wanted was never even an issue.  I decided their loot a good ten months in advance and had it all wrapped and ready to go by Labor Day.  I would brainwash them over the course of the year into believing that whatever I had purchased was EXACTLY what they must have.  It worked quite well until they discovered the world outside of commercial-free television.  Now, I wait until the last minute because they will inevitably change their minds with each new Nickelodeon ad campaign.

My son was running through his expansive list of Items He Cannot Live Without, and each time I would poo-poo one of his requests, he would make quotations with his fingers while saying, "Santa can get it for me."   Oh, really?  "Santa", huh?  I had to stop him right there and school him in the protocol of Christmas giving.  First of all, by virtue of the blasphemous act of denying Santa's existence, it's a given that his name automatically went straight to the Naughty List.  Secondly, everyone knows that Santa only brings toys and not stick-built, adult-sized army bunkers for Nerf Gun War Games in the backyard.  And, lastly, I have it on good authority that the elves aren't mass producing commercial video equipment, and if they were, I'm sure there would be age and education requirements which he would not meet.

It's not that I don't understand where he's coming from.  He's a boy who is approaching his middle school years.  Making a wish list for Santa is strictly prohibited under the Unspoken Laws of Pre-teen Coolness.  I remember very clearly the Christmas when I was ten years old.  My family had an unusual tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve.  After supper, the kids and my mom would pile into the car to drive around town and view the light displays.  It always somehow worked out that Santa would stop by the house while we were out.  (Looking back, I don't understand why I never asked my Dad what he and Santa talked about during his visits - probably Old Milwaukee and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom - these were a few of his favorite things.)  That year, my fourteen-year-old brother decided to stay at the house with my father, just in case Santa Claus needed help unloading.  It seemed plausible because I had asked for a large, free-standing chalkboard, and an aging Kris Kringle could always use an extra hand.  When we returned, the porch light was on, indicating that the gifts had been safely delivered.  I burst in to find the chalkboard by the tree.  Written on the board was a message to me from The Man himself: "Merry Christmas!  Love, Santa".  That was awesome, except it was in my brother's handwriting.

Epic. Christmas. Fail.

I told my son that it's perfectly fine if he doesn't believe, but that means  he will only have gifts from us under the tree, and on Christmas morning, he will have to sit back and watch as his little sister bounds down the stairs to find all the goodies Santa left for her overnight.  I also happened to mention that The Big Man would probably leave her extra presents since he wasn't getting any.  Oh, and I imparted a tiny nugget of wisdom known to all adults: once you stop believing in Santa, your gifts are mostly practical, like shirts and socks.

He's keeping his hands in his pockets now when referring to Santa Claus. The finger quotations have disappeared.  I caught him at his desk making a wish list, too.  He's not letting on whether he has decided if Santa is real or not, but personally, this Mom hopes he never stops believing.

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