Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yes Brandon, there is a Santa Claus

Just to be clear, what follows is a true 'Christmas" story:
Wow, am I out of practice talking to 9 year olds! If I was ever any good at it, I think it left me at about the same time as my 32 inch waist.
Everybody knows my current situation, housebound caregiver etc; Jacob lives with his dad most of the time and we get him Friday nights, which is the exact opposite of the old arrangement prior to Sheila's accident. Until now, that is, because school is out and neither us nor Jacob's dad can afford full day child care, so he stays with us full-time until 5 January. The other day he asked for a sleepover, which is inappropriate due to Sheila's situation, not just from a privacy point of view but because I can't give proper attention. But to be honest, I just don't want the responsibility of a overnighter with a strange kid. In the end I agreed to a "play date"lasting from 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM. That's how I met Brandon, Jake's best, 2nd, or 3rd best friend depending on the weather, or some other caprice. Brandon is big for his age, in a rotund way, but quiet, generally pleasant and impeccably polite. As happens, there was a fight between them in Jake's room over a nerf dart, and I tried to intervene but Jacob was already extremely upset and stormed off, ostensibly (I later found out) to walk to his dad's house 7 miles north in Wachesaw.
I asked Brandon why he was not cooperating with Jake over the dart, i.e., why would he let things escalate as they did. Well, there is no logic to escalation even when adults practice it, so that was a dead end. Since Jake was outside, and clearly not wanting to hang out with Brandon, I thought it best to have Brandon watch TV with me in the living room, lest he start having designs on the copper wiring in the wall sockets or something.
All was quiet for a while, but after a few minutes of Dexter's Lab, Brandon shifted uncomfortably on the floor and without looking at me, said "there's something I've been wanting to ask." I put down my magazine, and not knowing what to expect, I just said "ask away."
"I've been wondering if Santa claus is real," he said. "I asked my mom and she just said 'if you don't believe, you don't receive.'"
OK, that was a nifty retort from "mom" (I wish I'd thought of that years ago), but I was in wonder of what to say next to a stranger's kid on the cusp of the "real Santa dilemma."
In a split second, I thought of the old Virginia story, of telling an outright lie, and also if it would be wrong to be truthful; I decided it was best to say "well, I believe in Santa." I told myself it was true in that every time we give, we live the spirit of Santa. Fortunately it was enough, we then went on to why you can't be awake when santa comes, how he fell aleep in front of the tree one Christmas eve and woke up in bed, and so on.
Later it occured to me how isolated our kids have become when they resort to asking a relative stranger about something that troubles them so. Do they trust adults when they get dodgy stories about the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the Easter Bunny, do they come to know adults will lie to them about certain things?
I don't know if it's wrong to promulgate these things, I always thought not. I was aghast when I learned the Linnes (across the lake in Gwinn, MI) always told their kids the stuff under the tree was from mom and dad. I recall Bev Linne was downright adamant the kids would by God know she bought that stuff, and not some fat trespasser dressed in red. I only know it didn't hurt me when I found out, and I didn't hate my parents for stringing me along.
In any case, that question means we are probably having the last wonder and awe-filled Christmas in this house, and it is sad in its departure.
So, until the next round of rug rats in the unending cycle, we will put out the last plate of cookies tomorrow night, and hope it all goes well.
Merry Christmas!

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