"Mo-om! Ixnay on the antasay," Thirteen said between clenched teeth.
I looked at The PhD who was looking up at me with what I thought was dread.
I repeated, "What would you like to see under the tree if you can't get an Xbox One?"
"Why?" he said, "Santa will bring it."
Thirteen spoke with her eyes. They said, "Are you really going to tell him there's no Santa Claus right now?"
"I thought he knew," I answered out loud. "Don't you know Santa is me?"
He shook his head. He was so disappointed in me. "I knew it. You've been lying to me the whole time."
I shrugged. "Oops! In any event, text me what you want for Christmas."
As I headed off to bed, I threw over my shoulder, "The Easter Bunny isn't real, either."
"Oh, I knew that," he said, keyboarding away at his video game. As if to say, I'm not that clueless.
* * *
I really thought he knew, ya'll.
From the disparate origin stories of the classic television special "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," to "The Santa Clause," and from "Arthur Christmas" to "The Polar Express," then throw in the improbability (even in a 12 year old's mind) of an old guy making it around the world in one night delivering gifts from a sleigh... well, I thought he knew.
He's a smart kid. His favorite classes are math and science. He likes order and logic, and things that can be neatly explained. While he gets really into his anime cartoons and Minecraft, he's not much for nonsense. He likes nuts and bolts, and really dislikes surprises and excess. He prefers the straight skinny.
Hence, I suppose, his utter disappointment in me. I know all of this about him and still didn't tell him the truth from the very beginning.
So, Christmas will be interesting this year. What of our traditional popcorn, hot chocolate, and screening of The Polar Express? To be honest, the wonder and awe of the climactic scene when The Big Guy rises up in the air and takes off in his sleigh, leaving twinkles and stardust in his wake, has ebbed over the years. The movie ends and it seems I'm the only one wishing they'll always hear the bell. What of the morning oohs and aahs and the annual proclamation of this being the best Christmas ever?
I'm old enough to know how this growing up thing happens while the tendency of youth is to not miss anything until it's long gone. And, already long gone are the days when they used to fuss over who got to sit next to me on movie night. I spent many hours not in the most comfortable spot in order to accommodate them both. One on each side. I eventually figured that if I spread out a blanket and pillows on the floor, I could also place one of their tiny tables within arm's length. There, I could put my wine glass. That way, I could weather Sleeping Beauty or Cars for the umpteenth time.
Now, they tend to chit-chat, tease, and laugh during the movie. They bring their little teenage we-were-laughing-about-this-into-the-night-when-we-were-supposed-to-be-asleep inside jokes to movie night and I'm the third wheel. I often don't get the jokes, but that's okay because I get to hear them laugh and to see them enjoy each other's company. If you're lucky, your siblings are your first friends.
I'm keenly aware that we won't have many more Christmases like this. Just the three of us. I love our little family-- just the three of us. Soon, they will be out doing their thing, as is right and just. I will be on my own, too-- in a little condo within walking distance of the beach (my dream scenario)-- but otherwise, traditionless. Maybe I'll get together with similarly situated parents who have also sent their broods out into the world. We'll sit around talking and drinking wine, all very grown up. Nobody to shoo away from too many cookies, or chocolates, or candy canes. No one trying to use their x-ray vision on the packages under the tree. No one to tell to get out of grown folks' conversations.
* * *
In With The New
Oh, they'll eventually send for me. I'll be invited to share the new traditions they create, but I so hope that they carry with them some of the old. Dozens of Aunt Lou's cookies for the people in our village, Its a Wonderful Life and The Bishop's Wife for me; I'll pass down some of their favorite ornaments; friends and family over for an early Christmas Eve supper. (We usually have to drop subtle hints-- like holding their coats by the door-- to get them on their way in time for us to get on our pjs, pop the popcorn, make the cocoa, and warm up the DVD player. We don't mind, though, because that means we gave a good party.) I'm sure I'll be okay with whatever they have going on. Hopefully, there will be a few grandchildren in the mix. Right? No rush, though.
In the meantime, Santa, er, that would be me-- Santa's got to get a move on. What in the world would a boy want in place of an Xbox One? This is an odd age when toys are slowly going by the wayside, but childhood lingers just a little longer. (I remember being there; I was twelve the last time I asked for a doll. And, when I was grown and came home for Christmas, there was always something under the tree for me from Santa Claus.) Thirteen is easy; she emails, texts, and talks too much for me to miss what she would like to find under the tree. Her toys are shoes and lip gloss, maybe a gift card to Forever 21. My son, though, as much as I can peg him, is still a bit of a mystery to me.
I'll figure it out and do my best to make another best Christmas ever which, surprisingly, I've managed to do up until now without having to increase my effort. I won't change a thing: movie, hot cocoa, goodnight you two, sneak out into the living room after they've fallen asleep, and creatively arrange the presents under the tree. The tags will say, "From Santa."
Yes. The jig is up and Santa is a wrap, but Mom still has a little magic left.