My kid's writing a letter to Santa, stops and says, "If
Santa's a fake and I'm sitting here writing a letter to
him, I'm going to feel pretty stupid."
I say, "Don't use the word stupid."
He's got a big old list. There are some kind of gloves
that play music when you move your hand around. He asked
for a skateboard because he knows I'll say, No, but Santa
usually comes through. He wants fishing hooks and equipment
for tying flies. He's six and doesn't think about what a
slob he is and how bad it's going to hurt when he steps
on one of those hooks.
I tell him to write "new sheets" and "undershirts" on his
list, but he doesn't. I guess he'll be surprised.
We write "Santa, North Pole" on the envelope, stamp it,
and that's that.
Most of my childhood Christmasses, I don't remember. I
just remember the ongoing argument between me and my brother—that
the other one was spoiled and getting better stuff.
Being the "winner"—i.e. having some concrete assurance
that you were loved despite your behavior that year—was
far more memorable than any actual gift. With one exception.
My brother was the all-time champion, reigning in the number
one present of our combined childhoods. My grandpa from
Montana had sent us two packages. We put the them under
the tree. But sometime well before Christmas, my brother's
present started to smell so my mom said he could open it
early, and better do it outside, over the trash can.
His gift: roadkill. A porcupine—the whole thing—and
there was a note stuck to it that said, Keep the quills.
My mom said I could go ahead and open mine, too. It still
stings, remembering getting under the wrapping paper and
seeing the enormous lack of effort shown in his choice for
me that year: a nature puzzle.
I take my kid's hand as we walk back from the mailbox.
He's wearing his rain boots for no reason and has a goofy
skip-bounce to his walk. He says, "Mommy, how do you know
if you've been naughty or nice?"
I'm sorry it's set up like that in his mind—that
the years we aren't able to save much (and this is one of
those years), he's going to think he was naughty. I'm wishing
as hard as he is that he'll get the things he asked for
on his list.
I wonder who will open my kids' letter. I'm thinking of
the box of candy that sits on top of our piano—the
one he sells for Tiger Cubs. There's a good bit of money
in the box.