I love Christmas. I’ll just keep chanting that to myself and it will be all better. How come we take festive occasions like Christmas and apply so much stress to them that we just want them to be over? Should be easy, right? Buy a few presents, put up a tree, perpetuate the myth of an all-knowing all-seeing entity who sits in judgement of our behavior from his compound where he oversees a group of elves in forced labor, roast a large quantity of protein and it’s Christmas, right? Not.
I was wrapping presents with my wife. I grabbed a present and some paper. “No honey,” she said softly. Calling me “honey” softly translates to “moron”. “That paper is for Eli.” She handed me another roll. “This is for Charlie.”
“I still don’t understand why we use different paper for each person.”
“Moron,” she said softly. I went ahead and popped in the translation for flow purposes here. “Different paper tells us which present belongs to whom.”
“As opposed to the tags we put on them?”
“Honey . . .”
Just a small example of how much harder we make the holidays. Just sayin’.
The kids are stoked of course. They ask us daily about Santa. We perpetuate the grand deception, of course. It’s our parental duty to keep the it going. I do it for semi-selfish reasons. I can cajole, empower, explain to or threaten the boys with severe punishment and they mostly just smile and say “Daddy . . . “, making it a three syllable word. This roughly translates to “honey” in wifespeak. However, if I bring Santa into the equation, stuff happens. If I ask them to clean their room for me . . . “Daddy . . . “. If I tell them Santa said they should clean their room, suddenly the vacuum appears. I will hold onto the Santa myth as long as I can.
Santa is maybe the most recognizable Christmas icon. The Santa we see is a product of work’s like Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and related illustrations. St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century bishop in present-day Turkey is the most-agreed upon inspiration for Santa Claus. (All thanks to Wikipedia) St. Basil of Cesarea is St. Nicholas’ counterpart in the Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian religions. St. Basil’s Day is celebrated January 1 and is the traditional day of gift-giving in those religions. (Again, thanks Wikipedia)
Charlie is very aware of the religious meaning of Christmas and he is helping teach Eli about Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. According to Charlie, Mary got pregnant riding a donkey and Joseph took her to town to have the baby. They didn’t have reservations so she had the baby in a barn with animals watching. Then wise men on camels gave him presents because he was the Son of God. Close enough for now. We’ll work on that, but at this point I am glad he has retained some religious sentiment toward the holiday.
It’s up to adults to make sure the religious meaning of Christmas is impressed on our children. For kids, however, Christmas means presents. Many of these presents will be from our boys respective lists. Well, at least from the last versions of the lists. With TV bombarding the kids with possibilities, the lists change frequently.
Eli’s list topper is a bit bizarre. He is absolutely in love with a game he saw on TV called “Pop The Pig”. The object is exactly as described in the title. The game consists of a toy pig in a chef’s coat and hat and a number of toy hamburgers with numbers on them. The players pick up a hamburger and look at the number. The burger is placed in the pigs mouth and the hat is pumped the number of times shown on the burger. At each pump, the pigs’ stomach distends. The process is repeated until the pig’s stomach explodes. Eli thinks that rocks. As an American classified as overweight I find it . . . OK, I think it’s funny as heck too, but I am in no way interested in meeting the person that thought this up.
Another popular game on the lists is another eating game. This one, “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” is a classic. If you aren’t familiar with this one, toy hippos with spring activated jaws are used to quickly gobble up marbles. I am seeing a theme with my kids game selections. Note to self: Polish up my table manners and portion sizes.
With the eating related games on my kids’ lists it was inevitable that a pooping game would show up. “Doggie Doo” claims to train your kids to be responsible pet owners. Apparently you walk and feed your dog. You squeeze his leash a predetermined number of times. This causes your dog to make a gassy sound that gets progressively louder until . . . you’re not going to make me say it are you . . . ok . . . until he poops. The game comes with little shovels and pails for poop scooping. The boys thought this was hilarious. I thought it was prosecutable. I have a feeling that the package containing “Doggie Doo” for Eli and Charlie is going to accidentally fall off the sleigh somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Hey stuff happens.
As a parent, I have direct control over what Santa brings. He and I are close. He won’t hose me. The same can’t be said for well-meaning friends and family over whom I have no control. These people are the ones who will give my children drums, symbols, wooden hammers (I haven’t forgotten that Mr. Cooper) and other noise-making toys like the dreaded and infamous Fisher-Price Popper thing. I don’t know the real name but it’s only purpose is to make a soul-wrenching popping racket as your child gleefully pushes it down the hallway. Apparently popping noises make children laugh maniacally, at least that’s what mine do when they push theirs around. These toys are especially popular with parents on New Year’s Day.
I look at my kids’ lists and I remember Christmases when I was a kid. I kind of remember them. I have partial recollections because many my presents came with concussions. When I was 7 I got boxing gloves because my Dad loved boxing. I got two sets because you can’t really have any fun with just one. After all the presents were opened Dad showed me how to use them. He taught me how to bring my left straight back to my chin after a jab. That keeps your opponent from dealing you a crushing right cross. I didn’t learn it right away. Dad explained it to me after I woke up and my mom stopped yelling at him
When I was 10 I got a Pitch-Back. I don’t know if they make these anymore, but they were designed to allow a young baseball player to practice pitching and fielding. It was a large squarish frame with a net inside and held by springs. You threw the ball against the net and the springs made sure the ball came back at you . . . quickly. After a few soft tosses after dinner I decided to try some pitching. I went into my wind up, delivered a fastball dead center in the net and watched as the ball came straight back into my forehead. It seems like my mom yelled a lot at Christmas.
When I was 13 I was football crazy and I wanted a “Mr. Quarterback”. This was a mechanism with a spring-loaded arm. The arm had a cradle on the end that held a special hard plastic football. You put the ball in the cradle and cocked the arm. You pushed a button and the arm swung forward with frightening speed and launched the ball downfield. The arm could also be set on a timer so you could run a pass route and with a soft “ding” The timer would go off and the ball would launch. I put my Mr. Quarterback in the back yard and tried a few practice passes. Then I set the timer and started my route. . . Nothing . . . I stood there at the end of the route and waited. Still no “ding”. I went over to take a look. It seemed ok. I stood directly in front of it and looked closely. I was thinking about finding the instructions. The last thing I remember was hearing “ding”.
Regardless of what the boys end up with we will try to keep concussions to a minimum. That is a general goal at our house. I suggested to my wife that perhaps the boys would like boxing gloves or martial arts gloves and foot pads.
“Honey,” she said softly.
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I apologize for the extended length of time since my last post. It got kind of busy here last week so I put it off being funny for a few days. Then on Friday, Dec. 14, it seemed inappropriate to try to be funny. A gunman (I won’t use the man’s name. I refuse to make him even a little more famous) walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and made life less funny forever.
I considered doing a blog entry regarding the shootings, but there was enough things being said by people with more eloquence and greater reach. My grandfather said “A man needs to know when to stay quiet.” I decided to just listen for a while. I heard an entire nation weeping. They were just babies.
I wanted to take this very small forum and tell the parents and families of Sandy Hook Elementary and Newtown Connecticut that my family stands with them and grieves with them. We will never begin to understand your pain, but we share in your grief. I won’t pretend to be able to speak for others, but I know that in the aftermath thousands of arms reached out to you and your loved ones. The little ones were, and will always remain your babies, but they have become “our” children. The teachers and staff were your family, but we hold them close to us as well. We will never forget them.
Thanks for reading.