Oh, it's that magical time of year again, when my chest tightens, my temper shortens, my nerves frazzle, and my children await, with great anticipation, all the wonders that Christmas can bring.
Santa, nevertheless, will scar my offspring far worse than I could ever aspire.
In December, he haunts every public niche and cranny, understandably rendering my children, who normally revel in devilish displays of disregard for fellow shoppers, a bit jittery. And, of course, these same tots want to wiggle around on each Santa's knee and recite gift wishes loudly into his worn out elderly ears.
Last Christmas, uncertainty about Santa's authenticity began to sprout in my 7 year-old son's heart. After visiting the red clad fat guy at Lowe's, and two days later at Publix, my boy became befuddled when the jolly old elf at Walmart didn't demonstrate any recognition of him, didn't remember his name, or recall what he requested for Christmas. This situation perplexed my youngster. He looked deep into St. Nick's fearful eyes and boldly and systematically questioned the old guy's sanity, to which the bearded benefactor replied, "Ho, ho, ho. Next."
All parties involved felt deep, unspoken dread, like that which accompanies watching the unsecured Christmas tree fall to the floor, crushing the silver-painted wishbone from great aunt Eulene's 1945 Christmas goose.
If Claus can't remember yuletide wishes for even two days, how will he ever remember all the way to Christmas Eve? "What if," my son pondered, "I'm on the naughty list and Santa is trying not to hurt my feelings?"
And verification came, that, yes, Virginia, Santa Claus really does know who is naughty and who is nice. When my smallest son awoke Christmas morning, he raced downstairs and found the living room void of toys. Upon further inspection of every crevice and corner, he discovered that the polar express had built up steam and skipped our house entirely.
As my husband and I lay in bed somewhere between sleep and early morning irritation, a faraway, grieving wail drew closer and closer to our bolted bedroom door. Wham! It flung open, and there on the threshold stood a small youth with red face, swollen eyes and tears running into the neck of his pajamas. "He didn't come! He didn't come! I tried to be good. Santa said he was coming! But he didn't!"
While we struggled to register his words, he turned to his sleepy eyed sister, awakened by the commotion, and rallied her to arms with, "The Grinch stole our Christmas."
We attempted to explain that the lad looked for Christmas one day too early.
"Uh-uh, the snowman calendar says today is the day. You're wrong. And I wasted last week being good."
Life has a cruel, but miraculous, way of causing mischief makers to work harder at improving. An additional day to prove himself worthy seemed a gift box filled with both the blessing and burden of opportunity.
Then that night, at 10pm on the real Christmas Eve, panic struck the suspicious, but not gambling, older sibling. "Mama, I forgot to write my Christmas list!"
"Well, honey you saw Santa several times. I'm sure he'll remember what to bring."
"But Mama, I only told him that I want a remote control dinosaur. Is that all I'm gonna get," he cried.
"I doubt it," I replied, knowingly.
The next morning, sitting amongst piles of presents, my child disappointedly inquired, "Why do you think he didn't bring it?"
Poor old Santa - a day late and a dinosaur short and nothing to show for it but an ulcer.