The Christmas season is a time when billions of people across the globe faithfully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our savior the arrival of Santa Clause and eight tiny reindeer. A time when families, many traveling vast distances, assemble to share the holiday in the tender embrace of their magnanimous families—wring hands, gritting teeth, and resurrecting erstwhile quarrels about who got Grammy’s good silver or Grandpa’s treasured pocket watch. So, too, it’s a time when assorted come-callers and well-wishers descend upon your hacienda and your holiday merriment, presumptuous and open-mouthed, to eat up all your plum pudding and mincemeat pie. Ah yes, what a wonderful time of the year.
But, even more so, for the children, it’s a time when their imaginations are fired by thoughts of sleighs, elves, toys, and magic. A time when their promising frontal lobes are smack-dab with daydreams of Christmas cheer and holiday spirits. So jolly are the wee-ones this yuletide season as they dash about, hither and thither, nattering on about playthings aplenty, that they’re hardly able to contemplate much else. Indeed, it is something to behold, watching the kidos as they work themselves into such a frothy readiness, again, this Christmas season.
On the other hand, the grown-ups, itching to be so enthused, are a bit green-eyed. As these days we seem to have little to get keen about—distracted as we are by our essential pursuits, dull obligations, the wholly wretched legislative body in Washington D.C., and of course, the demise of the Hostess Twinkie. Alas, life as a grown-up hasn’t spawned the freedom or yielded the mirth this one-time adolescent foolishly assumed it might. Still, I do thank my Maker for two robust daughters (though I wish they wouldn’t bicker so much), the occasional good night’s sleep and a mostly glad colon—these are the things adults get excited about. Who knew?
And so, for this reason, Christmastime takes on a special significance—a time when the hearts of adults, otherwise weary, heavy and cantankerous, are buoyed by the breathless anticipation of the little people closest them.
Yet, this year is different. Unlike the mysteries surrounding crop circles or who ate the last piece of Grandma’s succulent pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, the question of how the Razor scooters, the Hula Hoops and the Tinker Toys make their way from the Pole up north to a place resting beneath our tree, henceforth, is no longer a secret to my oldest daughter, Emma, 10. She cracked the code on the puzzle surrounding Santa Clause just this past year. And, though she now understands Santa is a tall tale told, she still gets entirely tickled at the sight of him. My wife says she has one foot stuck on both sides of the fantasy: those of the believers, like her younger sister, where she has spent most of her life, and those living in the belly of the beast—like the adults, skeptical, circumspect, enduring the shopping malls, shucking the cash, and generally suffering the grotesque commercialization of the entire holiday season—who make it all happen.
Sadly though, now that she’s happened upon the cheerless knowledge that Santa is utter folklore, her mother and I are suddenly accountable where we hadn’t been before. Until now, it had always been Santa’s fault she hadn’t taken delivery of those uniquely special gifts, not ours. “Maybe he just forgot your super-duper, double-cute, quadruple-sparkly, uranium-driven, extra-cool, cost-prohibitive thingamajig,” I’d declare, “write to him and complain…I would.” No longer can her mother and I hide behind the fat man in the red suit; she knows who is to blame.
So, this season, armed with this new set of truths, employing a sort of shock-and-awe persistence, she began harassing us daily and depositing mountains of post-it notes, all reading more or less the same thing: “Emma needs a phone!”, high and low, far and wide, all over the hacienda, each one designed to flag our attention and to secure the foremost thing on her list, a phone.
Only problem is, unfortunately for her, she won’t be getting one. Following a cost benefit review, her mother and I both agree, for our purposes the costs are much greater than the benefit. With the rest of her life ahead of her, she’ll have ample time to use her own phone, to stride around, heads-down, bumping into walls, generally ignoring others while she fixates on her cellphone, there’s no need to hasten that process along. We make this decision knowing full well it will undoubtedly downgrade our child-rearing approval ranking to that of a “three decker sour kraut and toad stool sandwich with arsenic sauce.”
Even so, you needn’t worry, as she’ll be unwrapping many terrific gifts this Christmas season including socks, underwear, pencils, erasures, DVDs, fingernail polish, and my personal favorite, the crown jewel of her 2012 Christmas gifts, an 80 page hardcover entitled “Master Geometry during your next summer break.”
As for my youngest, Mackenzie, 7, her feet are planted right where they should be, a confident believer who still asks questions like, “Dad, why does everyone get me Christmas presents except for you and mom?” and “Why didn’t the Elf on the Shelf move last night?” All she wants this year is a Furby—and so she shall have one since it doesn’t dial, text, chime or ring.
Yes, it’s the little people that make the holiday special, that give it meaning, as we celebrate the arrival of Santa Clause and his eight tiny reindeer.