Friday, December 10, 2010
We weren't even in the humongous box store five minutes when I felt a tug on my hoodie sleeve. I smiled down at my five-year-old son.
"Mom? The clues for the Easter basket scavenger hunt. They were made on a computer."
I raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"I don't think the Easter Bunny has a computer," he said. "Mom, are you the Easter Bunny? I mean-- You and Dad?"
I pulled him over into the bra and undie department. Squatted beside him. Put a hand down for balance. I looked at the ceiling. To lie or not to lie.
"You know how we taught you kids to always tell the truth, no matter what?"
I sighed. "You're right. We are. The Easter Bunny."
He grinned and put both thumbs up. "Yes! I knew it!"
I stood and started walking again. We turned the corner by the shoes. He let go of my hand. Here it comes. I turned to face him with my hands out, palms up.
He looked at me, one eye squinty. "So, does that mean-- Are you Santa too?"
I puffed air, and it lifted my bangs. "Yep."
He tapped his mouth with a pointer finger. "And the Tooth Fairy?"
I straightened his jean jacket collar and shook my head. "Dang, you're smart."
We strolled up an automotive aisle. I read windshield wiper packages. He sniffed air fresheners.
"Hey," I said. When he looked over at me, I pretended to zip my lip from left to right.
"Don't tell your big sisters."
He grinned. "I won't, Mom. I promise. They'll figure it out some day. When they're as smart as me."
Maybe they would. Maybe I'd have to tell 'em. To spare them embarrassment in middle school. Actually, I was pretty certain the oldest one knew. Surely she did. For crying out loud, she was almost 12. How old was I? When I stopped believing? Or should I say, when I stopped acting like I believed.
That one Christmas, I about gave my mom a conniption fit. I was probably 13. Maybe 14. Whatever the age is when you enjoy tormenting your mom.
At 8:30 on Christmas morning, I'd tiptoed out into the living room. No presents. Nada. Nothing. My upper lip twitched. Are you kidding me?
I crept back to my room. Flopped on my bed. Proceeded to have a hissy fit. A fake one, but still . . .
Mom pushed open my bedroom door. She came over and stood by my bed. Zipped her maroon velour robe. Reached a tentative hand toward me.
"Honey? What's wrong?"
I looked up at her. Those prickly rollers all over your head. And the old lady robe. They're what's wrong.
I sat up and sniffled. Wiped my nose on my jammy sleeve. I squished my face up for extra effect.
I fake hiccupped before I answered. "Santa didn't come," I said. "I must've been really, really bad this year. The boys too."
Mom's jaw dropped. Her eyes bulged.
"Um . . . That's not it. I mean-- Go back to bed. Who knows? Maybe a reindeer got sick."
She picked up a Girl's Life magazine off the floor. Pushed it at me.
"Here. Why don't you read for awhile?"
She backed out of the room and shut the door.
An hour later, she was back.
"Guess what?" Mom said. "He came. And he left this. Beside the fireplace."
She held out a piece of paper.
Dear Ward family:
Sorry I was late. I deliver alphabetically--first by country,
then by state. United States and West Virginia are at the
P.S. You all were very good this year. Keep up the good
I smiled at the paper then up at Mom. "Yay!"
"What are we going to do?" I said to my husband. I unfolded my tissue to find a dry spot. "I called every store around. There's no Baby Go Bye Bye within a 50-mile radius. Should I drive to Pittsburgh?"
My husband snorted. "No. So she doesn't get Baby Go Gaga for Christmas this year. She'll get over it."
I gasped. "Are you nuts? She's only three. This'll damage her for life. I mean, if you can't depend on Santa, who can you depend on?"
My husband rolled his eyes. "Oh, please. Will you stop with the drama?"
I wiped my nose on my tattered tissue. "I'm serious. My goal is to parent in such a way that our kids won't need counseling."
My husband snickered. "Let me know how that works out."
I huffed. "What? It can happen. Your family's normal. None of them ever needed shrunk."
He pointed to his chest. "My family's special."
I snapped my fingers. "Oh! Oh! I know what to do!"
I stood and walked around the kitchen, opening drawers as I went.
"I'll do what my mom did!"
My husband drummed his fingers on the counter and chuckled.
"This should be good."
I rooted through the mess in the drawer under the toaster oven. "Here we go."
I got out a pad of paper and a red magic marker. I sat at the kitchen table and wrote in block letters, instead of my usual fancy script.
I regret to inform you that your Baby Go Bye Bye doll fell
out of my sleigh over Alaska. I hope the Playschool kitchen
you originally asked for will suffice.
P.S. In the future, please make sure you get any and all
toy requests to me on or before November 15. After
that, I cannot guarantee any changes to your wish list,
especially those made on Christmas Eve.
P.P.S. You were very good this year. Keep up the good
My husband read over my shoulder. "The language is a little grown up, don't you think?"
I picked up the red marker and added another line.
P.P.P. S. If you don't understand any of this, ask your
daddy. He actually IS Santa.