A Santa-less Christmas

A Santa-less Christmas

Spoiler alert: the following may cause some to doubt the existence of a certain yearly visitor who travels by sleigh and eats all your cookies.

Now, you’ve been warned.

No one warned me, though.

But suddenly, there was no mention of Santa.

The potential threat of telling my child Santa knew when he was sleeping, when he was awake, when he’d been bad or good no longer carried the weight it once had.

Maybe I should have known when my child stated that was “creepy” one year that something was changing.

In his younger years, I had a list to give Santa before the Halloween candy was gone.

Once, he found the note in the floorboard of my car, where it had fallen out of my bag. He was maybe four at the time and worried if he would get presents or not.

“But you didn’t mail it,” he said forlornly. “How will Santa know what I want?”

 “The magic of Christmas,” I said. “He knows already; he’s been watching, remember?”
Cole accepted this as truth, thinking there was indeed a Santa-vision screen in the North Pole, keeping the jolly old elf up to date on what everyone wanted.

One year, he wrote his list and gave it to the Santa on the square, not saying a word to anyone about what he wanted.

“What are we going to do?” I whispered to Lamar.

“I have no idea,” he said. “He said he was only telling the Big Guy what he wanted and no body else.”

When December 25th rolled around, Cole surveyed his loot and shook his head.
“Santa’s slipping; he didn’t get anything I asked for.”

We never knew what the child requested, but I think this may have been the beginning of the end.

“What happens to kids if they stop believing in Santa?” he asked randomly one summer.

It was 190 degrees and my hair was sweating. Why was my child worried about Christmas?

“They get underwear,” I told him.

“Oh,” was all he said.

A few days later, he brought the conversation back up.
“So, you really get underwear if you stop believing in Santa?” he asked.


He nodded, slowly, thinking this through. He was wrestling with a decision or a plot and didn’t like the outcome of either.

“I think I will believe a little bit more,” he said.

Christmas came and went, and he seemed to still enjoy the moments of suspended disbelief, but I wondered if it was true or just for my sake.

Was it selfish for me to want him to continue to believe a little bit longer?

For him to be caught up in the magic of Christmas and the hope that miracles can and do exist – was it wrong for me to want him to hold on to that?

“Do you still believe?” he asked me one day a couple of years later.

“In what?”


The question had caught me off guard as it was yet again, no where near Christmas.

I thought sincerely about his question, knowing this was it. This was probably when he was giving up the world of make-believe.

“Yes, I do,” I said.

“You really believe in Santa?”


He eyed me cautiously. “They say Santa was a real person that went around throwing toys in the windows of poor peoples homes, so their children could have Christmas,” he said. “But he doesn’t do that now, does he?”

“Maybe not him personally,” I said,choosing my words carefully. “But maybe it is someone carrying on the tradition. And I believe in the hope and magic of the season, where people do good for other people. I think that is what Santa,or Saint Nick, was supposed to be about.”

He considered this for a moment.

“If I stop believing, am I going to get underwear this year?” he asked.


He nodded.
And just like that, a few years ago, we shifted from talk of Santa to the practicality of present buying. Gone are the days of writing letters to Santa or leaving out milk and cookies, with carrots for the reindeer. It made me sad to think the days of magic and make-believe were behind us.

“What are you getting the baby for Christmas?” Mama asked.
Even though he is 14, he is and will always be, the baby.

“He needs a computer,” I said. “And underwear. Lots and lots of underwear.”

The Abbreviated Summer (8/24/2016)

Summer won’t be officially over until September 5, when we put all our white shoes and linen pants away.

But, summer was really over a week or so ago when school started.

“Summer’s over?” my child said, exasperated one Sunday evening when he was told he had to start the next day. “I literally just got out!”

It sure felt like it. Compared to the summers of my youth, his were over in a blink of an eye.

When I was his age, summer seemed eternal.

Somethings I didn’t like. I wasn’t a fan of the heat, we never went on vacation and with Mama working nights, my mornings were spent poking her multiple times until she woke up.

But somethings were so simple, I realize now how perfect they were.

A big deal for me was Mama taking a friend and me to the movies every summer, sitting a safe distance away so as to give us an air of independence while keeping a watchful eye.

Somehow, Mama always fell just trying to get up from her seat.

She claimed it was because she had a hard time adjusting to the light after sitting in the dark for two hours; I always replied her feet and the ability to move them had nothing to do with the lighting.

More than likely, it had something to do with the fact she was a tad bit clutzy. But picking Mama up from the popcorn shrapnel and sticky stuff we hoped was only Mellow Yellow was as much as a tradition as the summer blockbuster.

There were evenings sitting in the living room with the back door opened, listening to the crickets while we snapped peas.

It just took a few moments for me and Granny to find a rhythm that matched the cadence of the bugs humming in the night.

It could be hot and miserable, but somehow sitting with Granny as we snapped and shucked corns and shelled peas, it didn’t bother us much.

Even though this was work – Granny often put most of our evening efforts into the freezer for the winter – to me, it was the best fun I could have.

Sometimes, she’d make homemade ice cream for us, or her sweetened milk, taking regular milk and adding sugar, vanilla and ice.

My days were spent at the big library in town, sometimes, I even poked Mama enough while she was asleep that we got there before they opened and I was one of the first to walk in and smell all the knowledge on the shelves. I’d check out books by the stacks and spend my days curled up in the chair with my cat reading.

Of course, maybe my favorite summer activity was just the little joy rides Mama and I would take.
They always started at The Store to get gas in her little blue Ford Escort and to get ice cold Cokes out of the chest freezer – in the glass bottle, thank you – and packs of peanuts.

We were cool before Barbara Mandrell claimed she was.

Off we’d go, through the backroads of Oconee County, riding into Morgan County and eventually Clarke County. Mama loved nothing more than finding some old country road, usually one lined with picket fences and thick trees and discovering where they went, so that was how we spent many dusky summer evenings.

And we didn’t go back until after Labor Day, not the beginning of August.

“Why is my summer so short?” Cole asked, wanting more time.

“I don’t know,” I replied. I really wasn’t sure. It made no sense to me and I would love for him to have the long breaks like I did.

But he’s already been back in school for two weeks now.

Good thing my summer was much longer; there wouldn’t have been enough time to enjoy it all.

The Birthday Party Blues (7/27/2016)

My child is already making his birthday list, putting a corgi at the top followed by Pokemon cards and DS games.

His birthday is months away, mind you.

But, he starts early. Real early. And that’s OK. It’s my way of making up for never having him a real, official birthday party.

Just hearing about friend’s planning parties for their own children is usually enough to give me hives.

All the elaborate stuff that goes into it – jump-jumps, petting zoos, themes.

What happened to just cake and ice cream?

I’m not knocking those who do the big deal birthday parties at all; they are just not something I would do and didn’t even want when I was a kid.

Nope, even when I was a kid, birthday parties kind of freaked me out.

Who in the world ever thought running around a bunch of chairs, with balloons on them nonetheless, to fight with other kids in a game of “Musical Chairs” was fun?
It was terrifying.

For one thing, the sound of a balloon popping is terrifying. Particularly if under your tater. Running around a bunch of chairs is not fun either.

It made me feel like a real life Jack in the Box toy, which also scared the stew out of me, except instead of popping up, we were popping down.

Then there was usually a pin the tail on the donkey thing. Yeah, give kids something with basically a needle and blindfold them. It made me question all the rules of safety I had been cautioned about. I mean, what was next – running with scissors?

The worst though was my own birthday party one year.

I was so excited about having my friends come over, but Mama probably chained smoked two packs of Virginia Slims while she got everything ready.

And nothing made Mama more scared than seeing a car pull up for someone to drop their child off at the party and peel away.
Mama watched the car drive away in a panic.

“Does your Mama know when the party’s over?” she asked as the child made her way inside. “She knows to come back and get you, right? Right? Where did she go? Some place close?”

I didn’t know why Mama was so upset but I think she wanted to cry. She asked me who the kid was and I told her I didn’t know. She came in toting a gift though; she couldn’t be too bad.

She wanted to sit on the couch with the other moms, but she couldn’t.

She had to make sure everything went smoothly, meaning someone wasn’t sticking their fingers in the cake.

We played the games – no musical chairs with the balloons or pin the tail on the donkey. I can’t remember what we played but it definitely wasn’t that.

As we settled in for cake and ice cream, Mama was ready to breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone knew cake and ice cream meant the party was wrapping up.

Just as Mama was thinking she had survived, she found two kids jumping on her bed.

I’m not sure how she got them down but she did and she didn’t even scream.

Maybe it was because she knew the party was about to be over.

Soon, mamas were grabbing up coats and gathering their children, thanking Mama for the party. Knowing my Mama, she was ready for them all to leave so she could chain smoke for the next two hours.

We still didn’t know if that kid’s mama was coming back or not.

Eventually, she did. It was about an hour or two after the party ended but she finally came back.

We still don’t know who that kid was.

That was the last birthday party I had at home.

“Mama, can I have a birthday party – a real one? Not at school?” Cole asked me years ago.

He had had all his parties at school which meant I brought something to the school to celebrate. One year, I even took a piñata to day care then realized that was about as bad as the pin the tail on the donkey thing.

Multiple kids running around and needing to be watched and entertained, the dogs panicking and probably getting stuck under the bed while they hid, trying to make small talk with parents while I wanted to introvert…

“No. I think I am going to take a hard pass on that,” I said. “But, I will make it up to you. I promise.”

So he starts his birthday wish list in July.

He gets one really cool gift and some small other ones; I get to keep my sanity.




The guardian of Piglandia (11/19/2014)

“Once upon a time, in a small cabin nestled in the woods, on the side of a tiny mountain, was a wondrous and magical place, called Piglandia.

Piglandia was a great and wonderous place, beaing home to the finest pigs in the land. Not just the fine pigs of Piggie 1 and his twin, Piggie 2, but Piglandia also was home to all the other stuffed babies in this corner of the woods.

In Piglandia Unincorporated, there were some of the first stuffed babies, the ones that pre-dated even Piggie 1. Buster, the pug; Netty, who later became the sister to the pigs, and assorted other little magical, wonderful stuffed plushies.

Piglandia Proper was home to the brother Pigs, where they ruled as rotating kings and Big Bear, the ginormous, bigger than all the royal pigs put together, strummed his guitar. He was a really big bear and took up a lot of prime real estate in Piglandia Proper.

There was no crime in any of the areas of Piglandia because Sheriff Nennie was on patrol, keeping the inhabitants safe from 50 miles away.”

“Don’t forget her water pistol was full of Jell-O and her pockets were stuffed with biscuits,” Cole interjected sleepily.

I smiled. This was one of our rituals. The tale of Piglandia and all of its inhabitants. A place where the stuffed babies and Autobots lived side by side in harmony.

My child, with his tender heart and immense memory, remembers every single toy, who gave it to him, where he was, all the details surrounding it and cherishes each one as the sacred memory it is. They all become members of Piglandia.

“Daddy doesn’t respect the pigs,” Cole said one day. “He doesn’t think they are real. Do you think they are real?”

I nodded. I did and I do. To me, and this little boy with the huge blue eyes, they are real pigs indeed, through and through.

All the inhabitants of Piglandia are real and have meaning and spirits and value that goes beyond what the original price tag said. They all are special, in their own unique way.

When we watched “Toy Story 3” for the first time, seeing Andy’s toys being given away, we both broke into the Ugly Cry. I cried, thinking how Andy had grown up and as he headed off to college, he had outgrown his toys. I am not sure what made Cole cry so hard; maybe my “Ugly Cry” frightened him. But we sat on the couch and sobbed.

“Never, not ever, will I get rid of my babies,” he said. “I will have them for my children and my children’s children.”

He said this while wiping his face with the original pig, a pig that is so stained with tears, chocolate and doggie drool that it hasn’t been its original pinky beige color in years.

“Did you have a stuffed baby you loved, Mama?”

Oh, I did, I told him. Thumper, my lavender bunny that Granny got me one day at the old five and dime downtown. I chose it over a pair of shoes and never regretted it. I told Cole of all the memories I had with my bunny.

“What happened to Thumper?” Cole wanted to know.

I wasn’t sure, I told him honestly. I had put him in the top of my closet, thinking that I had outgrown him. I couldn’t remember if he was in a box I took when I moved or not; and if he was, I was quite sure over the course of time and several moves, he was gone.

Tears rolled down his cheeks. “You lost Thumper,” he said solemnly. “What if … am I going to lose Piggie?”

I promised him no, that he wouldn’t. That I would help him protect and cherish all of Piglandia forever.

“But … what if, Mama?” he squeezed the plushies close. “What if I get grown and think I don’t need the pigs anymore? I wouldn’t mean it. I wouldn’t.”

“I will take care of them,” I promised. “I will be the guardians of the pigs and all of Piglandia, should that ever happen. And I promise that I will not let anything happen to them.”

He was quiet for a few minutes then said, “Because you know what happened with Christopher Robin and Pooh.”

“Let’s don’t talk about that,” I said.

I didn’t want to think about my child growing up and not needing the pigs. It may mean that Piglandia would vanish and with it, the childlike magic of making wishes on stars and other whimsical things. Including me being his No. 1 “sweet girl” who can do no wrong.

What a precious, precarious balance life is, of trying to find our way as we grow. Wanting to hold on to the past, while we reach for the future. And we were holding on tightly to those precious plushy pigs.

He wiped his face with his pigs and looked up at me. “Mama, tell me my story one more time,” he said softly. “Please.”

I smiled. I’d tell it as many times as he’d let me.

And so I began, “Once upon a time, in a small cabin, nestled in the woods, on the side of a tiny mountain, was a wonderous and magical place, called Piglandia …”