By the way, what's up with Hasbro changing the Scrabble tiles? When we were rattin' around in Toys R Us, I spotted the game and pictured hours of entertainment and learning for AAries. What I found when I opened the box were tiles made of the lightest wood known to mankind that were not lacquered like before. When playing the game, the tiles were so light they moved all over the place. It sucked the fun right out of it. I'm now on a mission to find an old version of the game with the original tiles. What's this world coming to?
Anyhoo, Christmas in the Auburn household is kind of a big deal. Not big in the sense that there's a lot of pomp and circumstance. But big in the she-still-believes-in-Santa kind of way. In order to make things as real as possible, I enlist the help of friends. For instance, I brought in a package of self adhesive gift tags and had Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven write her name and "Santa" on each tag. HTTO went one step further and wrote little messages on some of the tags. "To a pretty girl," "You've been a very good girl" and "I love you" -- things of that nature.
In addition, I enlisted the help of an ex-girlfriend (I've never spoken of this particular girlfriend in my blog before). Let's just say for the sake of argument her name is Grouchy Girl. GG and I were together three years. We connected when Auburn Aries was three years old, so GG was instrumental in my planning at Christmas. Each year "Santa" would leave a note propped up in the Christmas tree. GG wrote the note and I signed it. I have every letter he's left her. This year was no different. I composed the letter and brought in the red construction paper on which the note was to be written and GG worked her magic.
The letter read:
You have been such a good girl this year, you deserve every present I’ve given you! This year you have grown even more pretty. Sometimes I know it’s hard to be taller than everyone else or to have different hair than everyone else. Look at me, I’m Santa – I’m different than everybody. We are each special in our own way. The other kids will catch up to you as they get older. Don’t you worry.
You’ve done so well in school this year. I know that you have tried hard and it shows in all your work. You are very smart and read so well. You should be very proud of yourself. I know me and your Mom and your Dad are all very proud of you.
You have so much love in your heart and such a kind spirit. You make people laugh and that is so important. You will do great in everything you do so keep up the good work. Keep your room clean and keep up on your schoolwork. I’ll see you next year!
Knowing the struggles little Aries has had this past year, it makes me cry each time I read it.
Santa also wraps his gifts in only one type of paper. It's paper that Mom doesn't use. (Mental note to self: Get rid of the rest of that roll of wrapping paper because if she sees it, I'm busted).
We bought a kit especially for making Santa's cookies this year and made cookies on Christmas eve. Unfortunately for me, the damn things rocked and I could hardly stay out of them. We put the cookies on a festive Christmas plate accompanied by a glass of milk and left them on the hearth for The Big Guy. I noticed that AAries had pulled shut the chain curtain-thing in front of the fireplace after she put the cookies down. Apparently she needed some form of verification that he did, indeed, come down the chimney.
After AAries went to bed, I put all of Santa's gifts around a tree already bursting with gifts from Mom (can you say hello credit card debt). I gently propped the letter at her eye level. I took both of the cookies and nibbled bites out of each, leaving crumbs in the half drank glass of milk because Santa is a dunker. I then took the delicately folded napkin AAries leaves by the plate each year and left icing marks on it so she'd continue to believe that "Santa doesn't get messy...Ever." And...I pushed open the chains to the fireplace.
I then went onto the deck and grabbed a handful of fallen pine needs, a few leaves and a couple of twigs and scattered them from the fireplace to the tree - whereever he would have left boot marks. The final touch was to leave a gift from Santa under the Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree we put in her room every year. I know, she's spoiled.
Everything was in place.
On Christmas morning, I awoke at 6 a.m. tired from being up so late the night before. It didn't matter how tired I was, I could not go back to sleep. "Wake up" I kept thinking. Try as I might I could not successfully send her the Christmas morning vibe. I went ahead and turned on the lights on the tree (another of Santa's duties) and finally at 7 a.m. she woke up. She ran in and crawled in bed with me.
"I looked in the livingroom and Santa was here last night."
"He turned the tree on so I could see the gifts. He left gifts!" (Auburn Aries was convinced she was going to get a lump of coal this year).
"Did he leave gifts just in the livingroom or did he leave gifts under your tree as well?"
"I didn't even look" and she was out the door like a shot.
I followed her into her room. She was sitting criss-cross-applesauce (the new pc term for indian style), holding a small gift. She didn't know what it was but studied the tag carefully. "Auburn Aries, you have been a good girl this year. Merry Christmas. Santa." She then continued, "See Mom, now this tag was written by Santa. See how he makes that big S in his name. It's all fancy. Daddy says Santa leaves gifts at his house but I know Dad's fast handwriting and it's nothing like Santas. I compare every year - Dad doesn't know that I do."
Good gawd, how smart CAN a seven and a half year old be?
Carefully she opened the gift. I had to explain to her the it was a gift card to Build-a-Bear Workshop. She started to cry and clutched it to her chest. "Oh Momma, Santa really does love me. He gave me exactly what I wanted. I got a Build-a-Bear Workshop credit card." All I could do was try to fight back tears as I watched joy consume her. I hugged her, "Of course Santa loves you, baby." Content, she just sat there studying the card. I had to remind her there was another tree with gifts under it just waiting for her.
This was going to be the kicker right here. Was all of my work going to pay off? After hearing the Dad-writing-Santa's-name story, was she going to inspect HTTO's tags as well? I crossed my fingers and watched her as she took it all in.
First she checked out the cookie situation. Yep, he ate 'em. Yep, he still dunks. Yep, he used the napkin. "I'm so glad we leave him a napkin" she stated while holding the napkin by one tiny corner so she wouldn't get anything on her.
I approached the fireplace slowly, looking at my hardwood floor. "What's this?!" I pointed to the floor. "That dirty bastard tracked pine needles all over my clean floor." I tried to sound as displeased as humanly possible without laughing. "Mom," she replied smugly "you can't call Santa a dirty bastard..." I had to turn my body away from her so she wouldn't see me laughing.
With total excitement I pointed out the letter. "Hey, you got another letter from Santa!"
"I did?!! Oh Momma, I did." She walked toward the light eminating from the kitchen and began to read the letter aloud. She traced beneath each word with her right index finger. Her little hands were trembling. As she started reading "Sometimes I know it’s hard to be taller than everyone else or to have different hair than everyone else" her voice started to tremble and the tears started welling up. And through those tears she continued, "Look at me, I’m Santa – I’m different than everybody. We are each special in our own way. The other kids will catch up to you as they get older -- Momma, I'm gonna be alright. It's okay that I'm different. The other kids will catch up. Santa says I'm fine." I held her briefly and told her that I loved her through tears of my own.
She immediately went back to the letter and didn't break until she had completed it. She read that letter through trembling hands, tears, and her voice shaking. It was as though Santa had made everything alright and all of her fears and hurt and uncertainty were gone, even if just for this one day.
It broke my heart on the one hand to realize how much pain she's carried inside. I don't think I had full grasp the depth of her self-esteem issues. On the other hand, I knew that a solution could be found if she was this receptive to "Santa's" words.
Time for presents. We both sat on the floor as she began opening Santa's gifts. I held my breath on the first tag she read. "To Auburn Aries, Love Santa. See Mommy, THIS is Santa's signature right here. See how that S matches the S in the letter? I *know* Santa's handwriting."
Apparently Hot Toddy IS the real Santa Claus. So any of you who need something...special, let me know, I can hook you up. Santa and I are tight!
Needless to say, I was relieved my efforts were not going to be revealed. Not this year anyway. She inspected every tag; she beamed with pride with each personal note Santa left her.
I could never have pulled it off if it weren't for Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven and Grouchy Girl. They both allowed my daughter to hold on to the magic of Christmas for one more year.