Monday, December 7, 2009

My Last Christmas List

It is amazing the lengths to which some of us parents will go to create and perpetuate the legend of Santa Claus for our children. Starting with Emily as a toddler, we eagerly filled her head with stories of Santa's midnight ride on Christmas Eve, the elves toiling away in his workshop and the importance of being a good girl. There were lots of presents under the tree the night before Christmas, but those were all from Mom and Dad, some for our family and some for extended family and friends. They were all carefully wrapped in several coordinating papers with curled ribbons and colorful gift tags. Santa's gifts, always wrapped in different paper after Emily noticed one year that he had the same gift wrap that we did, did not appear until after all the kids were asleep. Like most children, our kids had a hard time falling asleep as they were filled with anticipation for the next morning. Emily was especially restless because she was a bit freaked out by the thought that a fat man in a red suit was going to soon be shimmying down our chimney. We had not considered that side effect of our subterfuge. Once they were all finally asleep, we dragged out Santa's presents from their many hiding places. We would set out the plate of milk and cookies, making sure to spill a little milk on the plate and to leave bite marks in the cookies. Al drafted a letter from Santa to the kids, complimenting them on their accomplishments of the past year and thanking them for being so good. In one letter, Santa apologized for taking a banana for his hungry reindeer. Al threw the banana peel onto the roof as evidence of Santa's petty pilfering. The kids were absolutely mesmerized. When Joey was about 9 and beginning to doubt, Al showed him the NORAD website that tracks Santa's progress around the globe on radar. He was dumbfounded. If the US military believed in Santa, who was he to question his existence?

The Christmas list tradition began when Emily was about 6 or 7. She and Joey would scour the Toys 'r Us catalog from the Sunday paper. I told them that Santa would not bring them more than 4 things and had editorial discretion if their lists were longer than that. Furthermore, he would not bring anything of which we did not approve. Emily questioned how he would know. Without skipping a beat, I told her that I could write a letter to Santa just as easily as she could and that he and I communicated all the time. She was in awe of my inside track with the big guy at the North Pole. Joey and Jack have embraced the same rules of engagement and I have never received an unacceptable Christmas list.

The lists quickly evolved into an invaluable tool for this time strapped elf. The kids would cut out the pictures of the items they wanted and paste them to a sheet of paper. I taught them to include item numbers, prices and sale dates so Santa would know when was the best time to purchase that which he could not produce in his workshop. Christmas lists were due by December 1, leaving me plenty of time to go to and place my shipping-free order. As the years rolled on, the lists continued to evolve with the kids' improving usage of Word. I eventually was presented with full color laser printed lists, complete with clip art in lieu of cutouts. Last year, Emily did not make a list as she said there was nothing she really wanted. I still received lists from Joey and Jack. This year, I only have a list from Jack, age 11, and I am realizing that it will probably be the last one I receive. To a certain extent, I am ready to let go of the charade. It can be exhausting. But with its passing comes the realization that my kids are leaving behind childhood and one of its most memorable traditions. Intellectually, I am ready to move one, but it still very emotionally conflicting.

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