Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas - Part 3 - Santa

When I was little, I never understood why my father always suggested we leave a pastrami sandwich and a beer for Santa. Everyone else I knew left cookies for Santa and carrots for Rudolph. But in our house, Santa always asked for pastrami and beer. At the young, tender age of 5, and it being the 60's, the idea of drinking and driving never crossed my mind. I just wondered why Santa always wanted pastrami at our house. Was it better in Brookfield, Illinois? Did pastrami not exist in the North Pole?  Why us? Why did everyone else leave cookies? It wasn't until I was older that I realized why Santa wanted my father's favorite sandwich and a beer.

Soon thereafter I informed my mother that Santa wasn't real. Possibly because I put together the Santa/Daddy pastrami and beer puzzle? I remember stating my case matter of factly in the kitchen as she washed dishes. Being the youngest child, I think she wanted to prolong the fantasy for a few more years. Neither Mike, nor Mark, ruined the fantasy. To me it just seemed too impossible and I just "knew" Santa wasn't real. My mom didn't argue. She really didn't say anything.

When Kat and Adam were 6 and 3, a neighbor's daughter posed the Santa question to her mom. The girl's mom told her "the truth" and the child subsequently told her 3 year old brother, plus Trina and Adam. Admittedly, I was a bit crabby over the subject. I never understood the idea behind telling a child Santa wasn't real. It takes some of the magic out of the season. Therefore, from that moment on, I started a "We Believe" campaign at our house. I bought pillows that stated we believe in Santa. To answer the question as to how Santa enters our house when we don't have a chimney and fireplace, I bought a "magic key" that hangs on our door knob from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until the Christmas decorations are taken down. There is a magic to Christmas which embodies the whole Santa concept. Starting at the moment that the kids first came to me questioning Santa, I became and still am Santa's best PR rep.

Santa always vistited their pre-school on a Saturday. The pre-schoolers and their siblings gathered together, made Christmas ornaments and waited in line to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Santa always gave the kids a bag of reindeer food so Santa could easily find their house. The reindeer food consisted of oatmeal and glitter that we sprinkled on the lawn. Every Christmas Eve we put on our coats and boots, trudged into the snow and sprinkled tons of reindeer food on our lawn. The glitter always looked rather sparkly and shiny on the snow. Yet I always wondered if it was safe for the raccoons, deer and squirrels that may also dine on 'reindeer food". Is glitter poisonous if eaten in copious amounts? It didn't stop me from putting it out every year, but I still wonder how many animals we may have poisoned in McHenry. Obviously, Santa's reindeer are special, so we didn't worry about them.

One year when the kids were about 4 and 7, they decided their father needed to go to the pre-school Christmas party with us. So, Kevin arrived and helped them with ornaments and stood in line with us to talk to Santa. We looked like any normal family, except we were the only divorced couple there. With the divorce rate well over 50%, there wasn't one other divorced couple at that preschool, or yet in our neighborhood! Excuse me, where were all the divorced, dysfunctional parents in McHenry county!? The kids loved having their father there with us and it was fairly Norman Rockwellish until Adam announced with Santa and a million moms standing around us, "Mom, did you know Becky lives in Daddy's house?" Kat then chimed in, "The cat is out of the bag now!" It was apparent that although the kids knew their father and Becky were living together, they were sworn to secrecy by their father. Every mom within ear shot could not wait to see my reaction and what Kevin had to say.

Yes, another dysfunctional family moment I will always cherish.

So, I picked Adam up and countered the question with a question (a skill I learned going through our divorce. If you don't want to answer a question, answer with a question.), "Do you like Becky?" Adam's response was yes. I turned to ask Kat the same question. Her response was the same. I didn't even look at Kevin. There were some very unChristmas like thoughts going through my head and I knew who was getting coal that year! It wasn't that I disapproved of Becky. I actually liked her. What bothered me more than anything was that their father swore the kids to secrecy.  He was teaching them it was OK to not be honest and forthright. 

As it turns out, Becky was terrific to Kat and Adam. She helped unlock Kat's artistic ability. She also received an emerald cut 1 carat diamond that was once promised to me. Rumor has it she bounced the ring off of Kevin's head at a bar when she broke the engagement. I always think of that broken engagement as why I am a firm believer in karma and as a delayed gift from Santa. I always liked that girl!

To this day, I still believe.

A few years ago, Kat walked in my room, very reminiscent of my confronting my mom over the whole Santa issue. She stated a very clear case. Every questions she posed, I countered with another question - a skill I continue to master.

Kat: "Mom, Santa's not real, right?"

Me: "Why do you ask?"

Kat: "It just doesn't seem possible that this old guy can fly through the air and deliver presents to everyone."

Me: "But isn't it fun to think that it could happen?"

Kat: "But it's not possible."

Me: "How do you know it's not possible? Wouldn't it be a very cool trick?"

The conversation continued something like that until she stormed off in frustration. (tee!  hee!)  A similar conversation occurred a year or two ago with Adam. He too gave up on convincing me that Santa is not real. He now starts every conversation about Santa with his fingers making the quotation sign. "Do you think (quote) SANTA (end-quote) will bring me an XBOX 360?"

The kids have now come around to my thinking. Prove to us Santa isn't real. We dare you. There is such a beautiful magic to this time of year. Everything is prettier, happier, shinier. We love this time of year.

In our house, Santa never wraps his gifts. His gifts were always under the tree ready to be played. Granted the years of the Barbie townhouse, tea cart and hot wheels racing sets were years that I stayed up until 2AM wondering WHY Santa couldn't wrap the #$#%$ gifts and let me deal with the batteries and assembly the next morning. One year Santa and I needed to swap gifts. I bought Adam a Kinex roller coaster that contained over 1,200 pieces and when assembled was 6 feet long and 3 feet tall.  It actually took 3 months to put together. I know, what was I thinking?! Once I realized all that was involved with the gift, Santa gave Adam something else (can't remember what) and I wrapped the roller coaster. But amid the chaos of Christmas morning, I knew why Santa's gifts were already assembled. As much as I love my kids, the idea of being bombarded with putting together "some assembly required gifts" without sleep and minimal coffee is not an activity I can handle on Christmas morning. Besides, this method gave them something to play with until Gramma woke up and we could exchange gifts.

This tradition never quite caught on with my mom. Considering we live in the same house and after years of telling her that Santa did not wrap gifts, she continues to wrap and write "From: Santa" on the kids presents. When they were old enough to questions why Santa wrapped some gifts with Gramma's handwriting, but did not wrap others, I just said that Gramma liked to pretend she was Santa. Her continued disregard always fueled the question of whether Santa was real. The kids had a great case about the Santa debate when there were already presents under the tree signed "Santa" in Gramma's handwriting.

After we moved into this house, Adam started sleeping on the couch in the living room right next to the Christmas tree hoping to spot Santa. He left notes in the tree asking Santa to wake him up and give him a sleigh ride. Adam became very crabby over never being woken up. One year, I found an ornament that is a tube where you can place a letter to Santa. It was used every year until this year. Hmmm...maybe I should put a letter in that this year. I sure could use a wish or two granted.

One year when Adam was asleep on the couch I dropped a present right by his head. If he woke up I was definitely caught in the act. There I was frozen in mid present delivery - completely conflicted on what to do next. Afraid to look to see if he awoke and equally afraid to look to see if the present that dropped was breakable. Thankfully, Adam sleeps like a rock!! (and the present was fine) Whew!!

Kat and Adam are now Santa's junior PR reps. The magic of potential and possibility is very real this time of year. If someone even suggests that Santa isn't real, there is a quiver of a lip, a sad face and a question raised in a very small voice, "You mean...Santa's not real?" It could be said by any one of us. As far as the three of us are concerned, Santa is real. To state otherwise is fightin' words.

We've seen the miracle of Christmas at work. My next entry will be about Alexis' Angels, which brings the true spirit of Christmas to light. Since it has to do with Kat's guardian angel, the two may be combined, or it will be a two parter. I haven't decided yet. Check back soon to see.
In the interim, have a very Merry Christmas!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

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