One of the best present-giving moments is when you are giving exactly the right gift to exactly the right person AND they didn’t even know that such a thing existed! I love it when that happens. It’s easier to do when you are dealing with small kids because there are so very many things that they don’t know exist. I could give them a conservative pollster (so much less cool than it sounds) or watercress or teflon tape. None of those things would be great gifts of course, but it is funny to think about.
One year, the girls were little–J was in 2nd and M in Kindergarden–and they asked for something, can’t remember what. Whatever it was, they got that for Christmas but also Santa gave them cameras. Bulbous, plastic-encased, picture-shooting, video-taking, game-playing cameras. Now, they knew that cameras existed but they were devices clearly meant for adults and adults only. The moment when they realized that they had cameras was indescribable. But Santa gets the credit. No one tells you how annoying that is! Or rather, I never thought about it or I would have figured it out on my own, I suppose.
So the next year, J is in 3rd grade. Jim comes downstairs from putting her to bed one night and says to me “J wants to know if there is a Santa”. Alarmed, I say, “What did you tell her?” He says, “I asked her what she thought.” Well trained. Or just channeling millions of parents in many places and times. [My classes groaned when I told them what he, and later I, said back to her. Clearly, they had heard it before.] So I figure she’ll be asleep when I go upstairs and we’ll just address the issue another time.
9:15 I go upstairs to bed. A piping voice sounds from the other room. “Mom! I’ve been waiting for hours! Didn’t Dad tell you? I want to know if there is really a Santa Claus!” Cornered, I go into her room, sit on the edge of the bed and get down to business. “What do you think?” She closes her eyes briefly, drawing on patience and inwardly rolling her eyes at the stupidity of her parents. “I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.” I hem. I haw. I talk about the spirit of Christmas, etc, all just to try to find out whether she really wants to know or not. But it seems to me she does. So I say, “if you mean, is Santa real the way you and I are real, then no, he’s not real.”
Long pause. Small voice, small hitch. “Mom?”
Thanks for the camera.