New Year's Resolution
"Richie, you are being naughty," Johnny said.
"Who cares," Richie said. "Santa's already been here."
Ah, the spirit of Christmas in a young child's conniving brain. It's enough to bring a tear to my eye.
Luckily, Johnny knew the danger of that kind of thinking.
"He's watching us for next year!" he said. Thank goodness for Santa Claus.
This was the first year that Johnny asked me if I believed in Santa Claus.
"So does he work for Jesus?" he asked.
"Yeah, pretty much," I said.
"And he's a million years old?"
"I don't think he's that old."
"But he had to bring presents to the dinosaurs--oh wait," Johnny said remembering that humans didn't exist back then.
"He's about a thousand years old," I said.
"Then he must be a spirit--a ghost," Johnny said. "And he drives a ghost sleigh and has ghost reindeer."
That's what I love about Christmas. The spookiness.
This is actually my favorite age in terms of Santa. It's the time that kids divide into two camps: the believers and the non-believers. I love that, faced with the two options, most kids choose the most outlandish possibility.
I remember cafeteria table debates about the matter. It was like Democrats and Republicans--you never knew which side kids would come down on. You could ask the coolest, most grown-up kid in the glass if she believed.
"Yeah, I believe in Santa," she'd say.
But the kid who didn't appear to have a clue about anything suddenly knew everything from who really eats the cookies to where babies come from.
One year, a girl in our class flat out told us: "My mom and dad told me there was no Santa. I watched them put out the presents this year."
"Oh, really," another kid would counter to arguments like these. "Because I looked out my window and saw Santa fly by with eight tiny reindeer, so..."
We wound up feeling sorry for the nonbeliever. Anyone whose parents have to play Santa, well, let's just say, the family can cross charcoal off the grocery list.
But Christmas is behind us now. The boys are whiling away their school-free hours making snow ice-cream and playing gameboys--gifts from their aunts. Richie has a Transformers game. For him, the object of the game is to wipe all palm trees off the face of the earth. He figured out that the Transformer can even swing a palm tree round and round--a feat that Richie watches with a mixture of awe and uncontrollable laughter.
"Aren't you supposed to get the yellow things?" I ask.
"What? Oh yeah." He runs in the vicinity of the yellow thing, but gets sidetracked by his transformer's Singin' in the Rain on Steroids routine.
My policy on video games is: I don't even understand the question.
Johnny asks me, "Mom, how do I get the Chimchar to level 17 so I can capture Tortwig from the mystic forest and get the Piplup to the Kricketot?"
He lost me at Chimchar.
If he needs help winning the gold medal in downhill skiing on Atari, call me. Or Pitfall. I can offer pointers on both of these circa 1980 games.
Not that anybody held my hand as the alligator ate me time and again in Pitfall. It was just one of the "pitfalls" of running through the pretend jungle that I had to cope with.
But these new videogames are tough. The fact that kids learn them, as we did, by trial and error, gives me hope that children really are the future. Especially if, in the future, Decepticons invade planet Earth.
But enough about Christmas. Like many of you I'm plotting my New Year plan of attack. My resolutions are old standards: Triple my income. Start a new business. Write three novels. Not have 25 tardies on my kid's report card.
They are, for the most part, impossible. Except for the tardies, it's like I took all the crazy promises from the spam e-mails I received in 2007, multiplied them by three, and wrote "New Year's Resolutions" at the top.
But after Christmas, the luster of possibility hangs in the air--like Santa's sleigh. Maybe it's the sparkly snow still on the ground. Or the dying tree in our living room that is still so very green. Or the new toys that have occupied my children enough to keep them from fighting. Whatever it is, the New Year makes me a believer in things I can't see.
Most of all, I wish everybody health, happiness and that an anonymous person gives you $3 million and that all you have to do is send your social security and bank account numbers and break a few antiquated U.S. laws that most people don't even care about. No, that's the spam talking again. Let's just go with health and happiness.