Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Truth and Santa - Read at Your Own Risk

I never thought too hard about what it would be like when the truth came out.  I only hoped that it wouldn't be traumatic.  Well, it happened... in the Momvan at approximately 5:35 pm, in the YMCA parking lot, last night.
Joseph: Mom, I have something I need to ask you.  It's really stressing me out.
Mom: Go ahead.
Joseph: It's really weird.. I mean how do you get to know Santa Claus' phone number?  And... is there really a Santa Claus?
Mom: Well... what do you think?
We've been through and around and under this question for the last couple of years now.  I have always skirted the issue because I really wanted the "magic" to last as long as possible.  But then there comes a time, when you are in the Y parking lot, and your ten and a half year old son is staring you down, asking:
"Are you just lying to us? (that hurt)  Is he really a guy or what?  I just need to know."
What would you do?  Do I start telling more elaborate "lies" to cover up the last ten years of stories I told about this wonder guy who flies around the world overnight, delivering Hot Wheels and Barbie campers to all the good little boys and girls?  Conflicted.  That's what I was.  Here's a kid who so badly wanted to believe... as you will soon find out.
Mom: Okay.  Do you really want to know the truth?  And if I tell you, you have to promise not to tell your sister.  Do you understand?
Joseph: (Anxious and nervous) Yes...  I understand.
Mom: Are you reeeeeeeally sure? (Taking a tremendous deep breath)
Joseph: MOM!  Just tell me!
I then proceeded to unload the awful truth. When I was finished, he just looked down at his feet and didn't say anything.
Mom: Are you okay?
Joseph: Yeah.  I'm just disappointed.  I mean... for ten and a half years... that's a really long time... I totally believed in that guy.  Of course you know his phone number... wow... I guess I know it too now... because it's our phone number.  This is big, Mom... I really wanted to meet him and stuff.  I just feel sad.  I kind of want to cry.  Do you think there's a guy that lives in the North Pole anyway?  Was Santa Claus ever living?  When did he die?  How did you get those emails sent to me from the PNP (Portable North Pole website)?  I suppose there's and app for that (very glumly).  I mean, how did you get that reindeer to walk by the window? (hoof prints I made with a play dough cookie cutter in the snow six years ago) What about when the elves dropped off a present, and I saw you and dad putting it together... because... Santa... didn't... have time... oh man, this is big.  I'm just really blown away. (I must have done a pretty good job with my Santa stories)  Mom, I think I'm going to have to write a paragraph about this. (Whaddyuknow?) When did you find out about all of this?
Mom: Well, Nana and Papa told me when I was in 3rd grade.
Joseph: Wow... that must have stinked for you.
Mom: The word is "stunk" and yeah it did... but I kind of already knew.  Did you kind of suspect it was us?
At this point, my heart is being ripped from my chest, and I am welling up with tears.  I wanted to take it all back and say, "Just kidding!  He's a real guy!"  But I knew I couldn't go back.  It had been done.  It was out there.  My mind was spinning, trying to figure out how to make this all better, so I launched into my "It's the Spirit of Santa We Want To Keep Believing In" story.  I dug deep for that one.  We talked about generosity and caring and how the story of Santa teaches us how important those personal characteristics are... but it was too late.  He was just staring off into the night.  I had to sweeten the pot.
Mom: Okay, here's the deal.  I didn't want to tell you this right away, but you are now officially a member of the Secret Santa Circle. (Where do I get this stuff?)
Joseph: What?
Mom: Well, now that you know the secret, you get to help mom and dad make it really special for your sister.
Joseph: Like, do I have to wear a Santa Suit?  I don't really want to do that. That looks too hot and mustache-y.
Mom: No, you, my friend, get to... wait for it...get to eat-
Joseph: ... EAT THE COOKIES????? YES! I knew it!  And can I make clues like a scavenger hunt for Maya so she has to find her presents??  And maybe I can hide something extra special... like a cool ornament in the tree?  And can I drink the milk before it gets warm?  Are you going to wake me up at midnight?  Do we do this with the lights on or off?  I think we should turn at least one on right?  So we don't trip over stuff.  I want to be in the Secret Santa Circle... it sounds fun... but, man, that was some heavy stuff. .. hard news to hear tonight.  Let's not talk about the Easter Bunny, okay?  I don't think I can take it.
Mom: Fine by me.
We finally left the car and walked into the Y to work out for a bit.  Periodically, he'd stop his work on the elliptical, look at me and just shake his head.  He took this news far harder than I thought he would.  It was a tough night.  When we got home, we quietly ate supper and then I had to take few phone calls.  He asked if he could watch "Home Alone" on ON DEMAND.  I don't usually let the kids watch a movie on a school night, but I could see he needed to work through this Santa thing.  When I put the kids to bed, and went downstairs to catch the news, I noticed the DVR blinking.  Upon further investigation, I found that Joseph had set up the DVR to record all the Tim Allen "Santa Claus" movies and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  This must be I Can't Believe There's No Santa therapy.
I was feeling sad.  I knew the magic of Santa had come to an end for Joseph.  But as I was going through the events of the night, I realized something.  For the last ten years, he's been all in... not a shred of unbelief.  It was a good, magical ride.

Somewhere around 3 am, I heard someone breathing by me, and I woke up with a startle to see Joseph standing by my bed, looking very urgent and concerned.

Joseph: (whispering) One more question.
Mom: Yes.
Joseph: Would you have ever really given me coal?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lessons I Don't Really Miss

I miss a lot of stuff.  Not like things I've lost.  No, just stuff that I either don't get to do anymore because I'm too big, too old, too busy, too fearful, or just too uncoordinated.  My mom and I were having a short conversation about this very topic as my seven year old was cartwheeling back and forth in between us.  My mom said, "Don't you wish you could just fly around a room like that without a worry about hurting yourself?"
I said, "Yeah." But I really didn't think about it too much ... until now.  I don't really want to do cartwheels, but I'm pretty sure if I tried to do one now, there's a solid chance that I would crack more than my knuckles.  So here's the list for the day:
Things I Miss...  Sort Of
1. My swing set. Ours had a glider bench thing on it.  It was made of metal and the poles that held it up were hollow.  So I could stand on the footrest of the glider, hang on to the top part of the A- frame brace, swing the lower half of my body back and forth, and yell, "TOOT, TOOT, ALL ABOARD?!" through the hollow, pole at the top that held the swing set together.  Good times... until the summer a wasp made its home in that same hollow pole.

2. Rolling down the ditch in our front yard.  That used to be fun.  Now I have to take a Dramamine just to push my daughter on the tire swing at the park.  What's up with that?  I used to run in circles in the living room during the snappy musical numbers on the Lawrence Welk Show - all for the sole purpose of getting dizzy.  That was all fun and games until I smacked my temple on the corner of the piano bench.

3. Slugging down two Ding-Dongs and an Orange Crush - without the slightest concern of consuming too much sugar in one sitting.  I'd walk to my Grandparent's house following an afternoon of swimming at the town pool and simply have a snack of my choice.  They had good snacks.  However, having that particular snack and THEN going swimming had its drawbacks.

4. Ice skating on the frozen creek by our home with my sister.  We'd glide and bump over the same bad patch of "skatable" ice over and over again.  We would walk about an eighth of a mile down the frozen gravel road with our ice skates already strapped on to our feet.  That's dedication... or stupidity.  Eventually we figured out how to put on our ice skates AT the creek, and that if we brought a shovel, we could clear a much bigger area.

As I am making this list, I am realizing that it's really not that bad having to grow up.  I had a pretty great childhood that I do miss some days.  But really, when it comes down to it, being a kid isn't that easy either.  Many lessons get learned the hard way - right in the middle of what seemed to be a really great time.  A wasp sting on my upper lip, the shiny goose egg on my forehead, the embarrassing result of an unsettled stomach mixed with sixteen cannonballs off the low dive, and twisted, frozen ankles - all proof that it's okay to grow up.

What do you sort of miss?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Can't Talk Right Now... I'm All Tied Up... Seriously

If you happen to be someone who needed a good laugh about an hour ago, I hope you were a motorist on a well-traveled road in my neighborhood today.  I delivered well.  My new friend, Henry the puppy/ bane of my existence, accompanied me on my walk today.  I don't always invite him - for good reason.  But given the rough start to our morning, I thought I owed him a little fun and exercise.  Before we even were out the door, I had to go on a search for my earphones - you know, the ones that used to be attached to my ipod before an unnamed child asked to borrow them for a "sound experiment" involving Tupperware, water, and a locked bathroom door. When I refused the inclusion of my earphones, they evidently went MIA.  After locating a rather stripped-down pair in the zippered seat back of the mom van, I was set for a walk with man's best friend.
We started down the cul-de-sac with spirited intentions of getting a brisk forty-five minute walk.  Just seconds into our mission, out of nowhere a speeding lawnmower came screaming down the walking path. I thought there was a special place for lawnmowers moving quickly - I mistakenly thought the name of that special place was "the lawn."  I stepped back to allow the heavy machinery to pass.  No problem.  Next up, two runners with matching, leashed, well-behaved Springer Spaniels came flouncing by.  Did I flinch or become rattled when Henry the Super Puppy proceeded to relieve himself in a rotating sprinkler fashion all over my shoes and the passing dogs?  Of course not.  I'm used to this lovely behavior.  I have learned to simply apologize and keep walking.
It wasn't until I noticed some rather threatening rain clouds racing toward us, that I decided it was time to put the walk back on the shelf (probably the "second shelf") for another day.  We turned and headed for home in a direct manner.  So direct, that I did not notice the ferocious Irish Setter in a neighboring yard bounding toward us at top speed barking like Cujo.  Henry and I both lost our composure at exactly the same time which resulted a bout of spontaneous, scared-puppy incontinence, followed up by jerky hopping that tangled four paws and two feet into a wet, leash knot that essentially caused the super puppy and its not so thrilled owner to fall sideways (fightin' it all the way down) on to the opposite side (closest to the road for better motorist viewing) of the walking path.  From my perspective on the ground, it probably looked much like a hog tying that went way wrong.
I quickly untangled the puppy from the soggy leash and my feet, scooped it up, and tried desperately to look like it was no big deal as I made a bee line to my garage.  Super Henry has since been sequestered in his crate for a few moments... for his personal safety.  I can only hope that at least one driver of the six cars that passed by during the entanglement show needed a good laugh.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Top Shelf for Me

"We're kind of second shelf people, aren't we Mom?'
That is what she asked me as we were perusing the display of dog tags at our local pet store.  I encouraged her to explain further - thinking she was about to define class society - at the tender age of seven.
"Well, you know how the really shiny tags are at the top? And how they are kind of too fancy for a dog that doesn't even know what accessorizing is? (I swear, I am quoting her verbatim) And how you and me like a little shiny, but not too much shiny?"
I nodded for her to continue.
"... and how the ones down here on the bottom are kind of dullish and cheapy looking?  And how you and me like a good deal, but not all fall-apart-y?"
"Well, I think that means the perfect ones are always right on the second shelf... you know, like Baby Bear: not too hot, not too cold... juuuust right."
I just stood there for a minute - a little stunned by her frank summation of my shopping habits - which I have unknowingly passed on to her.  But then I was also pleased with her practicality and sensibility - which surely came from me as well.
With that, she chose a blue, bone-shaped tag, waltzed over to the engraving machine, and promptly picked out the fanciest lettering offered.  Without missing a beat, she looked up at me and said, "Even Baby Bear likes a little bling."
I can't make this stuff up.  We'll see if she's still a "second-shelfer" when it comes to birthday shopping.. stay tuned.