Here’s my Christmas problem. I love it, never fear that I’m about to be curmudgeonly about the hoopla and the food and the family. I like creating and sending cards, and I send a lot through the mail, regardless of who reciprocates. I love the tree and the music and the lights. Especially the lights. What is it about twinkling lights in the dark cold night that creates warmth? It does it for me, every time, every year.
So, the problem. It’s the gifts, dummy. I don’t have to buy a lot (God bless my family’s elaborate Secret Santa System), and I won’t get a lot, so again, what’s the problem? It’s the fact that what I want, I can’t necessarily have. It’s the fact that what I want to give to my kids, I can’t.
But what it comes down to is this: None of us really want all that much of anything, but we want to want, and sometimes that’s a problem.
Last night, I asked my boys — on this first year since they acknowledged that Santa isn’t real — to make up a quick list of their wishes, both for me and their dad, and for any other givers asking what they want this year. James, my 10-year-old immediately ran for a notepad; ironically, a Christmas themed one that he got in his stocking last year) and wrote:
- Mario Kart 7 for Wii.
- New York Peppermint Pattys.
I explained that it was just York, not NEW York, and blessed him for asking for what is, hands down, my favorite chocolate candy. Then I turned to 12-year-old Daniel. On his list:
- Permission to lie on the couch for all of the holiday break.
I explained that neither item was currently available and asked him to start again.
What’s interesting is that, then, they asked me what I wanted, and both of them got their pens and pads ready. What ensued — this was at the dinner table last night — was the kind of hilarity that left our stomachs aching and my little guy, literally, on the floor he was laughing so hard.
I said, starting slowly and admittedly lamely, that I could use a new vacuum, as well as a new hairdryer. They wrote this down, with their own creative spelling (James) and nearly indecipherable scrawl (Daniel).
Then I said I wanted:
- Peace on earth.
- Goodwill toward men. And women (they added “and cats and dogs”).
- People to stop killing elephants for ivory.
- A secret magic fairy something or other who’ll pay off my credit card bills.
- A patio.
- A million-dollar book deal for the novel I haven’t finished yet.
- Jennifer Garner’s production company to buy the movie rights to the novel I haven’t finished yet.
- The Property Brothers to come and renovate my house, and stay until I’ve decided they’re finished.
- Ina Garten to whip up meals in her glorious East Hampton kitchen to deliver to us (with hand-folded napkins, natch) during the time the Property Brothers have my kitchen in a mess.
- Jennifer Garner to pay for my kids’ college educations (she seems nice, why not?)
- A scarf. Any color.
My kids have no idea who Jennifer Garner is, and I have no idea why I pulled her name, of all others, from the actresses who have production companies and/or seem like nice people I wouldn’t mind playing my unfinished novel’s main character (for example, I wouldn’t have chosen Reese Witherspoon, though in retrospect I wonder why I didn’t pick Tina Fey, who is already my imaginary best friend).
What my kids did have an idea of: what makes us all laugh, and hard. This is not unusual for us, me and my husband and our boys. If you don’t see what’s gut-bustingly funny about the list, I could say you had to be there, and maybe you did. Or maybe you have to be us. This is our gift, we’ll laugh about this for weeks, add it to the memory-file of things we can pull out and laugh about. After we finished wiping tears from our eyes, the boys both posted their versions of my list on the fridge and cleaned up the dishes.
See what we did there? We were making memories, and writing them down.
That, and the lights, and a stocking full of Peppermint Pattys, and I think I’m good. But if someone wants to get me a scarf, remember: Any color.