Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bittersweet Chocolate for Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Childhood is often described by adults as ideal. I cannot speak to this except to say perhaps they do not remember it clearly. Most of childhood involved the learning process that occurred after one got a skinned knee. Crawling did not get one where one wanted to go. Walking followed. Followed by falling. The world, one soon discovered, was not padded for one’s protection. Yet, we progressed onward, gaining a few calluses and coping techniques along the way that indicated our preferred method of problem solving, fight or flight.

Just as we became talking, walking, self sufficient individuals, the adults around us would pack us into a singular cage of similarly limited in accomplishment children and ask us to sit and stand on cue as we had never once done at home, for eight hours, five days a week.

Welcome to school, the real world. Surrounded by strangers that may or may not come to love us, who are indifferent to our success or failure, and who might eat our lunches, it was and remains for some of us, a time of trial we tried to forget. I concede, as a parent, I had forgotten.

Around six pm, my middle son, the one who is sly and clever and yet shockingly innocent, said very flatly, “I’ve had a bad day.” He had been picking on everyone since he got in the car but something in his voice said now was not the time to launch into a “If you treated your brother and sisters nicer…” type rant. “What’s up?”

He called me into the kitchen closet. It was a tad cramped and the quarters became less hospitable as three toddlers who knew this was where their two greatest treasures in life were, Mom and food, began trying to break down the door. I signaled we needed a better meeting space. Opening the door, the toddlers rushed in and I handed each of them a cookie and directed their oldest sister to put on a Christmas video. Her emotional antenna must have sensed something too, as she willingly complied and didn’t complain that she didn’t also merit a cookie. I brought him to my room and then to be doubly secure, I locked the door and sat against it.

“Two kids at school told me about where the presents come at Christmas. “ He looked at me and his face was holding the broken grief of childhood prematurely spoiled in one of the smallest of ways, but keenly felt nevertheless. My mom persona felt herself divided into three. The comforter wanted to hold and rock and sing and sooth. The sentimentalist wanted either to lie or to mourn the loss. The Klingon warrior wanted to hunt down those fools and their fool parents and flay them where they stood.

We talked about the real meaning of Christmas; about the miracle of the story that has been told and retold and retold and retold and how it continues to beguile and yet hold generation after generation. The story of Saint Nicholas has come to bring more people to Christ than could possibly be imagined by any of those who thought the story merely a slice of silly pop culture that pushed consumerism. We talked about how important it was to be wise with knowledge, and that the child that told him and others was neither kind nor wise, though he had the opportunity to be both.

My son picked up his new knowledge like a soldier. He let me hold him. I let him decide not to cry but that his eyes bothered him a bit. I told him, “Me too.” That was about all the time we had for a heart to heart before the toddlers, having burned through two more cookies each, decided it was time to find Mom again. My son gave me a brave smile and went out to talk to his younger brother about hanging stockings. He gave me a knowing look as his brother’s eyes lit up like sparklers. “Come on Johnny, we have to find everyone’s stockings!” he announced and the two were off on a brother treasure hunt Christmas style.

It was hard to make dinner now but I plowed through it. Everyone ate. The little ones got bathed and read to and tucked into bed. A song came on the radio, a Christmas song from the Polar Express, and suddenly, the very real feeling of the belief that had just evaporated hurt so hard for me, I felt angry for feeling this intense. My son had resolved the issue better than me I thought. I went upstairs to do the final check of lights out. My son was still up, sitting in the dark not crying. I rubbed his feet and he asked for extra hugs. Some of them felt like he was afraid to let go, for fear some other pillar of childhood might get kicked out from under him if he wasn’t careful.

“I talked to your father about what happened.”
“What did he say?”

“He said to tell you, “He still believes, and so should you.” The squeeze I got back was glorious. “I know what that really means Mom.” He said.

The euphoria of the moment was somewhat interrupted when I spied three drawings on the floor. My son is an artist, always making comic books. Here, graphically illustrated, Boba Fett and several Star Wars Jedi my untrained eyes could not identify, have locked two boys on the island of Misfit Toys. “You have spread bad stories about Santa Claus. Here you will stay and cause no more trouble.” While another jedi, possibly my son, stands by with a thought bubble “Heh heh heh.” The spotted elephant and Charlie the Clown don’t look very friendly to the prisoners. The King of the Toys growls at them.

Justice kid style. I feel better. “Can I keep these?” I ask.
“Sure Mom.”

One more strong squeeze.
“Merry Christmas Son.”

1 comment:

MightyMom said...


I dread that day.

Mostly because I still believe too!

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!