Christmas in July

It happened in one quick moment. I was making the egg salad. My two youngest kids and I were chatting about the need to keep tabs on the dog who recently had taken to leaving “presents” throughout the house.

“I don’t want her leaving “presents” in the living room”, I said. “It’s just not good”.

“Yeah”, my 10 year-old son agreed. Always ready for a dose of potty humor, he added, “No presents unless you’re Santa Claus”. We laughed.

I paused before adding my signature dill. A parenting moment had popped up and was staring me in the face. It was actually waving its arms to get my attention. I tried to dismiss it, but knew it wouldn’t go away easily.

I never officially had “the Santa Claus” talk with my youngest two kids. I listened to my internal argument, “not now, you don’t won’t to steal their childhood”. I looked at my beautiful, blonde, almost 13 year-old daughter, and “I swear did he grow again” son and felt my mother’s denial lose its grip.

It’s July. I always addressed this issue during summer months with my older kids. It always seemed less traumatic six months out, rather than in the midst of the holidays. But surely they already know, I argued with the nagging prod logic to broach the subject. Should I even bother? My internal argument of denial revived, until I silenced it with one quick question.

“What do you guys think about Santa Claus”?

Silence.

I noticed my daughter steal a look at her brother.

“I mean, who do you think Santa really is?” I stirred in the dill imagining the despair of crushed fantasies.

Silence.

It was dreadfully awkward. My stupid question had lit a bomb in the kitchen and we were quietly waiting for it to blow. How could I allow the destruction of childhood fantasy to be served with a side of pasta salad and corn dog? I was an awful mother!

My dear, sweet, youngest son, ever conscious of my emotional state, stepped up and filled the void. He would throw himself on the bomb.

“I think…..” he said pausing just long enough to turn, face me, and produce a mischievous smile. “….it’s Mommy Claus and Daddy Claus.”

I began to relax. His sister, however, did not respond. She waited.

“And, what do you think?” I asked re-lighting the fuse, while she silently munched and stared at her plate. She is an artistic dreamer, a believer in fairy tales and fairies, the world is magic in her eyes. I felt the cruelness of pushing the issue, but I had to didn’t I? I looked away, afraid to watch the destruction of her child-like spirit. Waiting for the bomb to explode.

A bit of silence. She stared at her plate, I returned to the egg salad. I sensed a keen awareness of a unified, quiet dance around the truth. Were we both afraid to close the door on yet another landmark of child-like innocence? I had to take the lead.

“Sierra, who do you think Santa Claus is?”

“Well…. I don’t think he could possibly be one person”, she offered. I relaxed. She smiled at me. She knew.

I was so relieved. My conversation bomb was filled with feathers. Their pysche was intact.

“When did you guys figure out who Santa really was”?

“A few years ago”, admitted my son.

” I think it was the year that Santa’s presents were wrapped with the same wrapping paper that you used for Dad’s presents”, my daughter said.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked.

“Because it’s fun to believe”, she said. My son agreed.

We discussed logistics of Christmas presents. We discussed cultural traditions and the symbolism of Christ’s birth connected to St. Nicholas. We recalled the fun of “playing the Santa Claus game” as pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. We ate the rest of our lunch and planned out our day.

After lunch, we went outside to mow, rake, and collect grass trimmings for our massive yard. Yard work provides lots of time for thinking. As I worked in the hot sun, side by side with my youngest children, I had a small revelation.

My babies, the “little kids” weren’t really little any longer. Somehow, without me consciously realizing it, these two slipped from childhood into the lives of young adults. Thank goodness for Santa Claus. He showed up in our kitchen unexpectedly today, and dropped off one last gift for me. Well done.

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Sierra, Author age 12

My daughter, Sierra is 12. She is studying poetry at school.

I’ve been having a very bad week. Sierra is a quiet, pensive soul.  She knows me. She understands me.

Last night, Sierra worked quietly at our kitchen table while her younger brother and I chatted about his school science project. While we surveyed Pinterest with the help of my smarter-than-me phone, Sierra was writing.

Did you know you could make an a layered cake of the earth’s surface, or a model of the moon’s phases with Oreo cookies? Life is good when you can eat your Science project. Aidan shares my passion for over the top, crazy projects, so we filled up “Aidan’s Science Museum” board with one edible science project idea after another. We laughed at the absurdities. We watched crazy Youtube videos and plotted how to manage getting (and serving) similar projects to school. Sierra was thinking, writing and coloring on her paper. A quiet presence typical of a middle child used to waiting for opportunity to join dialogue of large family conversations.

And then, she spoke. “Do you want to hear a poem I wrote”.

“A poem?”

Her question interrupted our viewing and commenting of a Youtube video produced by a homeschool family. They were recreating the layers of the earth with M & M’s, Rice Krispie treats and chocolate Magic Shell ice cream topping. Perhaps the edible earth layer instruction could wait. We paused the video.

“Sure”, I said. “Read us your poem”.

My gentle-spirited, daily blossoming, nearly teenaged daughter lit up the room with words.

Colored Pencils
by Sierra

I stare at the splash of colors in a box
I run my fingers slowly over the tips of the pencils
I have to do it!
I pick one up
And I start coloring outside the lines

And there it was. The power of words. While Aidan and I were looking for inspiration, Sierra was creating it. While Aidan and I were entertained and distracted by video and hyperlinks, it was Sierra’s words that brought clarity to the moment.

“Sierra”, I said. “That is really beautiful”.

I studied her young face amazed at the depth behind her eyes. Her wide smile reflected a countenance of victory and accomplishment.

“Thanks” she said.

It was that moment when the hardness of my week began to melt away. For regardless of what the world was trying to teach me about broken relationships, unemployment, death, and violence, love and inspiration were still present.  At that moment, that fraction of time, I felt the reassurance that it is okay to be different than the world expects. Despite the negativity, despite the opposition, there is a place for the rogue traveler, the one who craves a better world than the one being presented.

My young son, his goofy sense of humor, and passion for the crazy, and my artistic, deep-thinking daughter with her poetic inspirations were sitting at my kitchen table with me in the midst of a terrible week. They were a clear reminder of a better tomorrow. Life can be hard. Life can be cruel. But, during these moments of discouragement and despair, it only takes a moment to re-focus and learn it’s okay to color outside the lines.