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.

“Yes.”

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?”

“Santa.”

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?”

“Yeah.”

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.

“Maybe.”

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.”

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All the December babies

All the December babies

It never fails.

On the first day of December, my husband starts reminding “someone’s got a birthday coming up.”

I cringe.

The someone is me.

I cringe, not because I dread getting older.

That part doesn’t really bother me; I am now at the stage of life where I am looking forward to becoming that crazy old Southern woman that shocks people.

No, the part that bothers me is that my birthday is the week before Christmas.

You folks with birthdays in other months just do not understand this pain.  

The only good thing about having a birthday the week before Christmas was that it was usually the day school got out for the break.

But celebration wise, to quote Seuss, it stink, stank, stunk.

“We’re having the Christmas party at church on the 17th,” Granny would say. “Consider that your party.”

“But, that’s not my birthday and it is the Christmas party,” was my response.

“Well, your mother’s working and I ain’t got time to throw you a party. You think you too good to celebrate on the day we celebrate Baby Jesus?”

I shook my head. The old gal knew just how to shame me.

“Well, good. And any gifts you get at church is for your birthday.”

You know what I got?
I got socks and books.

No underwear, thankfully, as that is not proper to be given at church, even if wrapped in red, shiny paper.

“So, this is my birthday presents?” I asked as we drove home afterwards.

“You may have another special one under the tree at the house,” Granny said.

A special one under the tree. Hmmm…I wonder what that could be?
Had the old gal felt pity on me for getting socks and a new Garfield comic book as my birthday?

“You gotta wait until your birthday though,” she said. “But it will be worth it.”

I was so excited. I knew I had two sleeps until I could wake up and get something awesome, something incredible, something Granny herself had described as special.

The day of my actual birthday, I woke up early even though I didn’t have to go to school. I ran down the hall, hoping Granny would let me have the gift before she went to work.

“You’re up early!” she exclaimed when she saw me. “Couldn’t wait to be one year older, could you?”

I shook my head. Would she give it to me now? Did I need to go wake Mama? I hated waking her but if this was special, she should see it, too.

“Eat some breakfast and then I will let you get your gift.”

She shoved a plate of biscuits and sausage in front of me because she did not believe cereal was a proper meal.

I was almost too excited to eat. I saw a big box under the tree, and knew it had my name on it.

Pop had already checked it out and was disappointed it wasn’t his.

“You got the biggest one under the tree,” he told me. “She better not have me a tie or something. I only wear that stuff on Sundays; it ain’t getting worn out.”

Granny was about to leave and hadn’t given me my gift yet. Had she forgotten?

“Granny?” I began.

“Yeah?”

“Are you forgetting something?”

“Oh! You are waiting on your birthday gift. No, I didn’t forget,” she began. She sat her purse down. “Go get that gift over there.”

She was pointing to the big box.

 “The big one?” I asked, just to be sure.

She nodded.

Oh, sweet son of a biscuit eater. Whatever this was, was going to be good.

I ran to it, eager to tear the paper off. I knew Granny had probably re-used the bows from the last seven Christmases, so I wasn’t worried about being careful with them.

I opened the large, white box, full of anticipation.

And found a long, brushed flannel granny gown with a pink ribbon at the neckline.

“It was so big, I didn’t think I’d ever find a box to put it in. It’s going to get cold the next few weeks; you’ll need it before Christmas.”

And with that, the old gal, headed out the door to work.

A flannel gown. My big, special birthday gift was a flannel gown.

A few years before it had been footy pajamas, so perhaps this was a step up.

“I’m the only child that gets a granny gown for their birthday,” I muttered.

“No, you aren’t,” my grandfather said.
“Name me one more.”
Pop chewed his biscuit as he thought.

“I don’t know their names. But it’s all them other December babies. That’s who.”

The Christmas Pony

There was one thing that was always on the top of my Christmas list for several years that I never got: a pony.

Granny put her foot down adamantly about that pony.

“Where you think we’re gonna put a pony? What are you going to do with a pony? Do you have any idea how much it costs to feed and take care of a horse?” she asked.

“Not a horse. Pony,” I reminded her.

“You know a pony is the puppy version of a horse, don’t you?”

“I don’t want a full-grown horse, I want to get it as a pony.”

I never got the pony, of course. And that is fine.

The pony was the ultimate bargaining chip, my bluff.

I could be quite convincing to everyone that I wanted a pony.

I overheard Granny and Pop discussing it, with my grandfather saying he had already put out feelers to find me one.

“She’ll want it inside, Bob. I ain’t gonna have a pony in this house. And you know she will. That crazy child will be a-saying she’s gotta cuddle it and sleep with it.”

My uncle was the one who should have been worried; it would have been him who had to feed it.

I would ask daily about the pony.

The kicker was me writing P-O-N-Y in great big letters across the top of my Christmas list every year.

“Why don’t you put some other things on there you’d like, too?” Mama suggested.

“All I want is a pony.  If I can’t have a pony, I don’t want anything.”

“Well, humor Santa and put some other stuff on there in case he can’t carry a pony on his sleigh.”

So, I did.

I put all the things I really wanted.

The Lite-Brite, all the Little House on the Prairie books, Jordache jeans, an Atari, and all the other gifts I wanted, way more than a pony.

I knew there was no way I would get a pony and while I love horses, they terrify me.

Mama was so grateful to see I had something more reasonable on my Christmas list that she got me everything.

Granny, however, caught on after a few years.

“Don’t you even start with this pony mess this year, littl’ un,” she said. “I know your game.”

“What game, Granny? Monopoly?”

She gave me a hard glare through her glasses. “Not Monopoly. Sudie’s pony game. You start around November wanting a pony and carry on and carry on. You know good and well we ain’t getting you a pony, but you also know we’ll feel bad enough about it to get you everything else.”

How did she figure this out? What kind of grandmotherly voodoo powers did she have?

I denied this fact and effectively launched the pony request once again, until the following year, Granny had me declare at the dinner table I had given up on the pony. Or else.

“You try this again and there won’t be nothing on your list under the tree. It will be footy pajamas and underwear.”

The thought of footy pajamas and underwear was enough to make me stop asking for the pony. No kid wants to go back to school after the break and tell their friends they got that for Christmas.

Given my shopping procrastination, I start asking Cole for his list around the beginning of November.

This year, the only thing he mentioned was a Playstation 4 Slim Golden Version.

“That’s all I want, Mama,” he said.

I thought one video console couldn’t be that bad.

Could it?
“Six hundred dollars!” I exclaimed when I saw the price. For one video game console? Was this console able to communicate with the Space Station?

I thought that was excessive but at the same time, felt bad. It was the only thing he wants.

“Is there anything else you would like?” I asked.
He thoughtfully pondered this for a moment. “Hmmm…no, not really. I think I have everything else I want. That’s it.”

I wasn’t exactly sure how I would pull that off. We try to not focus on the price or the gifts but on the meaning of the season.
Still, I stressed and agonized over this.
I looked around online for cheaper ones.

Nope.

“I can’t wait to play the Playstation 4,” Cole said every day. “Thank you so much for getting it for me.”

I cringed inside.

“Cole, what if they are sold out?”

“Oh, they are priced where they won’t be. Don’t worry about that, Mama.”

I groaned.

A few days later, Cole handed me a list.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Just in case they are sold out, Mama. Or you can’t find one or you think it’s too expensive. You know, there’s a lot of reasons why you may not be able to get one for me.”

Sweet, sweet son of a biscuit eater.

My child had beat me at my own game.

His pony was just in the form of a Playstation 4.

Catching Santa (12/16/15)

My child had a plan.

It was an intricate plan, complete with several diagrams and involved string.

I watched him furiously make his plans one evening, drawing everything out, measuring distance and re-evaluating the steps needed.

I am guessing it was close to watching Einstein at work.

“What are you doing?” I finally asked when he began getting the Border collie involved.

“I’m working on a project,” was his reply.

He continued with his diagram, erasing and redrawing lines when he found something didn’t work.

The Border Collie wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but remained steadfast in the endeavor.

“Cole, you’ve got twine around Pumpkin. What are you doing?”

“I’m going to catch him,” he said.

“Catch who?” I asked.

“Santa.”

Oh, boy.

“Really? How are you going to do that?”

He stood up and surveyed the preliminary execution of his plans.

“Well, I am still working on it, but I am going to leave him a note saying there’s milk in the fridge, when he opens the fridge, it will trip this string, which is supposed to pull this down and take a picture,” he took a breath. “I’m trying to get this little camcorder to work, but not sure how I can when it only records for a few minutes. It needs to be running a while. As you can see, I am still working on this.”

“I see.”

He continued: “I am going to get proof Santa’s real, Mama. You know? I am going to get video and photographic evidence! He is real, right?”

Ah, so that’s what it was. I wondered when this day would come, I just never expected my child to come up with a plan involving video and fifth grade engineering to be involved.

“He is,” I answered. “But, he stops coming when you stop believing in him.”

“I know that,” Cole said softly. “I still believe Mama, but I hear a lot of other kids saying he’s not real. I want to prove them wrong.”

Being homeschooled, I am not quite sure which kids he is referring to, other than maybe something he heard before at school. He had started questioning then but wanted to believe so he didn’t pursue the issue when I told him Santa was very much real.

Now, it’s me wanting him to believe just a little bit longer, to hold on to that magic that we only get to have when we are children and can believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other things we lose in a less sparkly and too harshly real adulthood.

I wanted him to believe in the magic of a chubby elf bringing presents and spreading goodwill, instead of the scary world we live in, where our worst fears are becoming too real.

I wanted him to hold on to this last bit of childhood as long as he could.

I can’t remember when Santa stopped coming for me.

I had asked Mama if he was real, and her reply was the same as mine: “When you stop believing, he stops coming.” There was no declaration of not believing, no disavowing Santa, just one year, there was no Santa.

And from then on, things were so different.

My behavior – whether good or bad-didn’t determine my gifts. There was no, “You better behave if you want Santa to come.”

I had to behave because it was expected of someone my age. You know, that responsible behavior befitting someone Santa didn’t come visit anymore.

I missed those days, the sense of wonder, the feeling that somehow, miracles could and would happen. I tried to hold on to that feeling, but when you are an adult, it can be hard to cling to hope.

I wanted my child to hold on, and to believe as long as he could.

“You know, I think you may have some flaws in your plan,” I suggested.

He scratched his head. “How so?” He had even ran through a trial run with his dad acting as Santa.

“Well, for one thing, Santa is magic.”

“Yeah?”

“You can’t capture him on film. He won’t show up.”

Cole squinted his eyes as he pondered this. “You mean like a vampire or ghost?”

“Kinda. He won’t show up though. And, if he can see you when you are sleeping and watches you throughout the year, he knows you are plotting this right now. He may not come if he thinks you are questioning he is not real.”

“You’re killing my dreams, Mama!” Cole cried. “You’re killing my dreams!”

“I am not trying to kill your dreams; I am trying to make sure Santa brings you presents this year!”

He dropped his head. “It’s not that I don’t believe, Mama, I want to prove to everyone else he is real. I believe. I do. But not everyone else does.”

I kissed the top of his head, which now comes up to my chin. “And, sometimes, sweet boy, just the faith of one, can keep it alive for others.”

Santa is scheduled to arrive this year, but the string and cameras will be put away. It may be the last year he visits our home, but I am going to try to keep the spirit alive as long as I can.

Consider this a PSA for December birthdays (12/9/2015)

Like many others, I am a December baby.

My original due date was supposed to be in January, but the only time I decided to arrive early to anything was when I made my grand entrance in the world.

I don’t remember my first birthday, but have seen pictures of myself sticking fingers in a decadent chocolate cake that my Uncle Bobby got me from the Black Forest Bakery in Athens, hailed to have been the premier bakery in the ‘70s.

After that, my birthday was a flop for a while.

There was no big parties – who had time to worry about coordinating a birthday party during the month of December, let alone, the week before Christmas.

No, usually, Mama and Granny had the swell idea of just bringing cake and a bucket of chicken to school for me to have a party with my class. It gave the teachers a brief respite and then, Mama usually sprung me out a little bit early.

When it came time for my present, Granny would instruct me to go pick out a gift from under the tree.

“Not that one. No, put that one back. Uh uh. No. That’s an early Santa gift; he dropped that one off when you was at school. No – get that one back there with the green bow on it.”

A green bow that was probably older than me as it clung to life on the box with layers of clear tape (because Granny was not about to throw anything away – she could get a dozen Christmases out of that bow) was my symbolic green light to my birthday present.

I eagerly tore the paper off and opened the box – careful not to rip it because Granny would re-use the boxes for decades, too – and found just what every kid hopes they never receive as a gift:

Footy pajamas.

Footy pajamas with some kind of horrible ‘70s design – maybe a Care Bear riding a unicorn – was not a good birthday present.

“I didn’t want footy pajamas,” I would say.

“You needed ‘em,” Granny would declare.

“I didn’t want them, though.”

The old gal would snort.

“I didn’t ask you if you wanted them, I told you you needed ‘em – you done outgrown your other ones and these will keep you warmer than a gown. And lookie,” she began, pointing to the drop-seat flap in the back- just what every little girl wants to see on her jammies.

“Now you ain’t got to take ‘em all the way off to go potty.”

My sugar high from the school cake had worn off, so I didn’t attempt to argue with the woman. Disappointed, I went to my room, with my highly flammable – but with excellent traction -footy pajamas in hand.

I wondered if I could move my birthday. Perhaps having a birthday in July? No, the Fourth was then and it was hot. Plus, school was out; no way to have a party with my class. November? Thanksgiving.

What about September? Labor Day.

Was there any good month to be born? I surmised not.

I was the only child, only grandchild, and only niece – and the best they could manage was “Go pick out a present from under the tree?” To paraphrase Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,” don’t adults live for this stuff?

“Mama, something needs to change?” I said the day after.

“What do you mean, Kitten?”

“I got footy pajamas for my birthday.”

“And you looked adorable last night in them!”

That woman needed to cut back on the caffeine sometimes.

“No, Mama,” I began. “Don’t you think it’s wrong that I have to pick out my birthday present from under the tree? It’s like my birthday doesn’t get its own day. It’s not fair. My birthday should not be an afterthought. It’s not even in birthday paper – it’s in poinsettia paper.”

I may not have been quite as logical and eloquent in my delivery; I was 11 after all. But Mama understood.

From that year on, Mama decided to give my birthday gift either before December, or after – my choice. Instead of poinsettia paper, it’s usually still in the bag from the store she bought it, complete with the receipt in case I want to return it.

She even will call me when she is in a store and tell me what she is looking at or sends me a picture, asking me if it’s something I want. Needless to say, she’s gotten better at the birthday gifting thing over the last 30 years.

Granny wasn’t on board with the whole separate gift idea until Mama pointed out to the old gal, who’s birthday was May 13, that maybe she would be fine with a combo gift for Mother’s Day.

“Oh,” Mama said, in her genteel passive aggressive way. “So we can get you a pair of footy pajamas, too, then?”

“No, I was a-born a long time before I was a mother,” was her reply. “And I expect something nice for my birthday and something nice for Mother’s Day. And don’t you get me no footy pajamas – you get me anything to sleep in, it better be a gown.”

A gown. The old gal wanted a gown as one of her gifts.

Because no one wants footy pajamas for their birthday.

What Mary knew (12/24/2014)

A teacher told me once she had never met a more inquisitive, curious child as mine. “He is just full of questions.” I am not sure if her implications meant that to be a good thing or not.

He does ask dozens of questions at all times. I think he constantly thinks up things to ask and when he doesn’t have one, he makes up a question.

I was the same way as a child, still am to a degree. Except instead of being told as I was, “To look it up,” and handed a dictionary or encyclopedia (Mama preferred the old Funk & Wagnall’s edition she and Granny got me with S&H green stamps), Cole will usually Google something.

Not everything finds a clear explanation on the Internet though.

“Mama, why did Jesus die?” was one question he asked.

I told him it was to pay for all of our sins.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/15891/

“Even the people who kill and do bad things? He paid for that, too?”

I told him he did. Grace is unearned.

This was a lot to process, which meant, many, many more questions.

“Is that fair?” he wanted to know.

I am not sure if it is. I told him that was something I couldn’t answer. It was something I had wondered about myself before.

“Why did those people beat him? Did that hurt?” was another question.

I told him I am sure it did. It was not something I liked thinking about at all.

“Did he know that was going to happen?”

Yes, he knew.

“Then why didn’t he run?”

I told him he knew that wasn’t part of the plan.

“I don’t understand how being crucified can kill someone…couldn’t he have lived?”

I explained, to the best of my rudimentary theological knowledge that being crucified caused him to suffocate. It was a painful, long-suffering, tedious way to die.

“Why did they laugh at him and make fun of him? Didn’t they know who he was?”

That’s why they made fun of him and ridiculed him.

“Did Mary see him die?”

She did.

“That had to upset her. Don’t you think that broke her heart?”

Oh, yes, it did. I think to say it was devastating is putting it mildly. I have no words to describe what that had to be like.

“Did she know he was going to die before then?”

I wasn’t sure. We can assume she did. There were things that happened – a prophet telling her that her son will divide Israel and would cause her great pain as well.

Maybe she had an inkling, a fear or worry from the circumstances in which he was born.

She knew he was destined for greatness, but did she know the great cost?

“Do you think she would have let him do the things he did if she knew it would mean he would die?”

That I don’t know. As a mother, I am selfish when it comes to my child. I can’t imagine how Mary felt, it brings my heart pain to think about it.

She knew she would name her baby Jesus, Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

I am sure she wanted to change places with her firstborn child that day, take his place on the cross, but that was not the way it was supposed to happen.

“So on Christmas, we celebrate his birth, but we know that baby was going to die?”

I know this was far too much for a child to understand; it’s hard for me to process, especially knowing Mary held her baby and swaddled him and watched him grow up, just to be crucified.

I used to lose it when I saw the crucifixion scene in movies, but now as a mother, my heart is softened towards this story of this baby, born of a virgin in a manger.

Did Mary know?

Deep down, I think she did and maybe despite that, she wouldn’t change a thing.

You see, it’s not about what’s under the tree, it’s about a gift far greater.

Hallogivingmas (10/9/2014)

“Mama, why do they have Christmas stuff out already?”

A good question, I thought. It was not even Halloween yet. Heck, this was a few weeks ago. But there among the leftover school supplies and Halloween candy were Christmas stockings and some tinsel.

“They are wanting to get customers into the spirit early I guess,” was my answer.

It seemed wrong to my child. He wanted to make himself have a toothache on Halloween and not feel bad about his gluttony; kind of hard to do if you have perpetual reminders Santa was watching.

“Does it work?” he wanted to know.

I doubted it. They had been moving Christmas up earlier and earlier each year and so far it hadn’t motivated me to shop any earlier. I still did my mad dash on Dec. 23.

The holidays had all become one mushed up rush of blurred lines where we are told to rush, rush, rush from one experience to the next instead of enjoying the memories that are being made during that occasion.

I had frowned when I saw the Halloween costumes being displayed before school started. How can I decide between a witch or fairy princess when it’s too dadblamed hot to even begin to think about putting something latex with faux suede on my thighs in 100-degree weather?

It’s hard to choose what bags of candy to get for yourself and what to get for possible trick-or-treaters if you are trying to remember if all the lights worked on your Christmas tree.

For that matter, I was trying to remember where my little pink tree was. It seemed like Lamar had left it out – it took up precious real estate in the barn that houses bicycle paraphernalia – and I heard him murmur he had to toss it. Maybe I needed to go ahead and buy a new tree? They were already out on display.

I think it goes beyond retailers wanting to maximize shopping days in the fourth quarter. I think it has to do with our rush-rush-rush, instant gratification pace we have come accustomed to. Everything is smooshed together so we can multi-task.

Much like the way we have to stay connected on our phones, checking updates, emails and letting the world know what we are having for dinner – all while pretending to get in quality time with our families as we simultaneously work on something else.

I am guilty of this myself, which is why I know all too well the feeling of being overwhelmingly, hectically rushed.

“Did they have Santas out before Halloween when you were a little girl?” Cole wanted to know, holding a snow globe in one hand, a black cat in another.

No. Back in the olden days of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when life was wonderful despite the polyester and the shag carpet, we had separation of holidays.

Halloween was honored with black and orange taffy, candy corn and plastic masks we couldn’t breathe in.

Thanksgiving was weeks later and was basically the day of honoring football and feasts.

Christmas did not officially kick off until the gaudy green and red streamers were wrapped around the light poles in the Sears parking lot.

Around that same time, maybe a few weeks before, the Sears Wish Book was delivered, which let every child know to get their act together because Christmas was coming. Granny would give me the cherished catalog with instructions to circle the stuff I wanted for Christmas.

“And just because you circle it, don’t mean you gonna be getting it,” she would remind me.

Sometimes, things ran out or were on back order and either Granny picked something else off the list or she asked if I wanted to wait until it was available. Sometimes, I waited. Some things were worth the wait, even if they were for Christmas.

No Black Friday, no Cyber Monday. There wasn’t Amazon drones to deliver, it was real people you’d see bringing the boxes in to the counter. And dangit, it all started in December. We pretty much considered the days after Thanksgiving to be the days we digested – not the days we strove to see how much money we could save by spending oodles at ungodly hours while fighting strangers for Elmo dolls and things we didn’t need.

And somehow, despite the lack of early displays urging us to “believe” and “celebrate,” those memories were special. Simpler, and not memorialized on Instagram and heaven help – Granny didn’t even get a recipe off Pinterest – but they were far more meaningful.

family halloween pic“I want Halloween to be Halloween, and not crammed into Christmas,” Cole said, putting the snow globe back. “Halloween is about candy and magic; Christmas is about Baby Jesus and believing. I can’t keep my holidays straight if they have everything out at once. I want to remember Halloween for what it is, not get everything confused.”

I agreed.

“You don’t think they would lump them all together, do you?” Cole wondered.

“Nah,” I said. “Besides, it’s too long to put Happy Merry Hallogivingmas on a card. Hallmark would have a heck of a time marketing that.”

Unless they could lump Easter in there, then that may be another story.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/15608/

photo: The family celebrating Halloween, 2009. Cole was going as The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, complete with blue blankie and a Snoopy. 

The Spirit of Christmas (12/24/2013)

The Spirit of Christmas (12/24/2013)

I don’t remember when Santa quit bringing me presents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe – or was it? Had I let my tween angst and cynicism take over and without uttering a word, the internal shift had caused Santa to not show up one year.

I still had my presents. They were still under the tree, all shiny and new, adorned with ribbons and bows.

But something was missing.

I wanted Cole to keep believing in Santa each year, even though his questions made me wonder. What was his friends telling him? Did they still believe?

“Is Santa real?” he would ask out of the blue and usually at odd times, like in the middle of July.

“Do you believe he’s real?” I would ask back.

“Yes,” he would reply matter of factly. “Do you?”

I do, or thought I did. Maybe my faith, even in the spirit of Christmas, was not as strong as it once was. I had to admit, I had grown weary with the commercialism, the feeling that no matter what I did, it was not enough and I was not putting on SuperChristmas.

“Did you ever see Santa?” Cole asked. This time, it was last year, a few days before Christmas.

“Yes, I did,” I told him. And I did see Santa once. Not the department store Santa either, but I remembered just as clearly as if it was yesterday.

I was probably around Cole’s age at the time and had heard those rumors. Some kid at school had an older sibling and they came to school telling us that Santa was not real. He was a phony and a fake and some lie our parents made up to make us behave all year. I had started asking my own questions of Mama.

“All I know is, if you believe, he shows up. Once you stop…well,” she let her voice trail off as she went about her crossword puzzle.

I was too scared to question much more; I had put a lot of good stuff on the list that year and didn’t want to risk it.

Maybe I could set a Santa trap? I thought. No, Mama worked nights and may fall in it instead.

But she usually got home after Santa had already left.

“What time does Santa usually get here?” I asked Granny.

“He comes after you go to sleep,” she answered.

“How soon after I go to sleep?”

“I don’t know, I don’t set my clock by him. The sooner you go to sleep the better.”

Then I could pretend to be asleep and wait til I heard him, I thought.

I got up in the bed, snuggled down under the covers, feigning sleep. I heard Granny come in to check on me, tucking the quilt around me tightly. She went back to the kitchen, getting her turkey started for the next day.

I waited until I heard her steadily at work before I slipped out of my cocoon, lifting the curtain to peer out of the frosty glass. I pressed my nose to the window, trying to adjust my eyes to the darkness outside. Not getting a good view, I wiped the condensation off and re-pressed my nose to the glass, only to find a pair of eyes, shielded by a hand, peering back at me.

There was no time to scream. No time to run. I couldn’t tell Granny; she thought I was asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

But there, in all his glory, was Old Saint Nick peeking in on me.

I asked Granny the next day if anyone had been outside Christmas Eve. She said not that she knew of; she hadn’t even heard Santa when he arrived. Pop and Bobby had been asleep and Mama at work. And I had heard the old gal cooking until the wee hours.

I never told a soul until I told Cole last year. His eyes grew as big as saucers.

“I would love to see him!” he exclaimed.

“No, you wouldn’t,” I said. “It about scared the stuffings out of me.”

We made Santa some cookies and left the reindeer some carrots and a bowl of fresh water on the back deck.

Cole scurried off to bed extra early, determined he could re-create the mystery I had created so many years before. He just knew he could wake up and catch a peek at Santa. I promised to stay up and let him in so the dogs wouldn’t bite him.

Lamar and I put his toys out under the tree when we knew he was sound asleep. I wanted to stay up a little later, why, I don’t know, but drifted off in the recliner as I followed Santa’s sleigh on the news.

Roubaix woke me with a soft bark. Venus ventured off her corner of the couch to sniff at the door.

“What is it?” I asked them. They both gave me the shepherd head tilt but did not bark again.

They seemed almost in awe.

Then, I heard it. Bells. Tinkling, jingling bells. Almost like sleigh bells.

I ran to the bedroom where I dove under the covers and scared to believe what just happened, made myself go to sleep.

The next morning, the cookies were gone. Half-eaten carrots were found and the water bowl was empty.

Could it have been?

Was it?

Surely not…but maybe?

Mama texted, “Merry Christmas! Did Cole like what Santa brought him?”

I texted her back he did; then added. “Mama, I may be going crazy…but last night…I think I heard sleigh bells.”

It seemed like forever before she replied. “I believe you” was all she wrote.

“You do?”

“Yes. I heard them once too. When you were about Cole’s age.”

“What do you think it was?” I texted back.

Surely Mama, with her wisdom would have a logical, reasonable response.

“I know what it was,” her message read. “It was the spirit of Christmas.”

And maybe at a time we both needed to believe, more than a child, that Christmas was still very much alive.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/13630/