This Christmas a small, meticulously wrapped box peeked out of each of the six Christmas stockings that hung by our chimney with care. (And by ‘care‘, I mean that a variety of cuss words were liberally tossed around as the ‘elves’ struggled against gravity to fasten each busting-at-the-seams stocking in place. Although we’ve lived in the house for over six years, we fail each year to design or invest in a satisfactory system to hang the stockings. These over-sized socks reside low on the list of holiday priorities in our house. As a result, each one is hooked into the fireplace screen with a large, twisted paper clip. Last minute broken clips require creative fixes or desperate last minute desk drawer plunges. If visions of ‘elves’ backing slowly away from the fireplace stricken by a fear of exhaling are conjured up, then indeed you have caught a glimpse of a common, late-night, December 24th moment in our chaotic abode.) Luckily our poised camera and video camera captured the kids’ surprised, delighted faces on film as they discovered the ticket to Disney World in his/her stocking. Part of the success of the moment hinged on our offspring following our implicit, spontaneity-inhibiting instructions to open the matching boxes simultaneously. Fortunately, no one questioned our ready-set-go orders, our point and shoot readiness, or our happy-face, plastic expressions.
If the bearded, red suited guy were THAT good, and actually gifted our kids with a legitimate, all-expense paid trip to Disney World, Coach and I would have been celebrating right along with the PJ clad clan gathered on the family room floor squealing at our feet. Feeling like we won the Santa lottery, these sleepy parents would have demonstrated legendary leaps of joy that would have impressed our young, resident Irish dancers. We cherished the exciting memories granted by this amazing gift (that we planned), despite the absence of a monetary reward from a fat stranger that bore no impact on our budget. I love surprises, thus the perfectly arranged stocking-topper boxes containing tickets to visit Disney.
Let's face it, Santa always gets the acclaim for the top notch presents. Coach and I are seasoned parents. We've given gifts to the children while supplying credit to Mr. C. for 16 years now. The only credit we get involves a plastic card that gets more than a workout in December. I remember Christmas back in the late 90's. I recall feeling a bit hesitant to write a name, other than my own, on the 'WOW' gift. Of course after a few more years of Santa worship, a parent accepts the elf role and continues to identify the best gift hiding spots, the most creative ways to shop (even with a child perched in the shopping cart), and how to transform a sleepy expression into one of shock on Christmas morning when the youngster displays the awesome gift that mysteriously arrived from the North Pole, wink, wink, nudge.
Initially I remember being excited to be a part of the club, 'Yeah, we're parents now. We'll be staying up late on Christmas Eve. How late do you usually stay up?' The busier life has become, the harder it is to keep up the charade. There are plenty of cover stories to create for the many Santa-helper mishaps. Never mind lousy hiding spots, how about forgetting visible items in the trunk until it is too late? I usually toss out a comment like, 'Oh, I forgot I left the cousin gifts out here. I better get them up to my room and labeled before I forget whose is whose.' Labeling isn't always fool proof either. Have you ever had to explain why Santa wrote a baby sister's name on a pirate Lego box? Oops. Santa's glasses were probably to blame.
No matter how difficult or entertaining it is to keep up the charade, most parents don't want the loud-mouthed, bubble-busting brat on the school bus to be the one to blow Santa's cover. Fortunately for us, Laddie never believed the older kids on the bus. When kids on the bus were asking who still believed in Santa, he assured them that Santa was real. Their gibberish didn't faze him. He knew that there was no way his parents would ever buy him toys. Being practical parents tripping over the toys littering the floor of every room, we often swore that any additional toys would be unwelcome in our crammed home. Not to mention, I was never the mom that allowed my kids to pick out a new matchbox car with every grocery store visit, so Laddie's belief in Santa grew as strong as the real whiskers on Santa's chin.
I must admit that once Curly caves on the whole legend of Santa, I will be sad. Of course by then all of our kids might realize that Santa wasn't really THAT good . . . it was the parents that worked to make him look amazing!