I’m sitting here, listening to the quiet in front of my Christmas tree. This is my favorite part of Christmas, actually — the moments and hours right after it’s all over. The shrapnel of discarded wrapping paper. The smell of bacon wafting. In a minute, I’m going in to build monster omelets. My children are here, absorbed with what they scored from Santa this year.
My eldest, Jonathan, is reading collector’s item Sports Illustrated magazines containing the stories of the Green Bay Packers winning the first Super Bowl, the Ice Bowl (we can’t be friends if you don’t know what the Ice Bowl is), and the second Super Bowl, played some 23 years before he was born. He found a $100 bill in one of the magazines. Santa takes pity on starving, postadolescent dependents, it seems.
My second boy, Aaron, is still grinning at his snowboard and bindings. Santa himself doesn’t go snowboarding. Never once tried, what with the easy availability of flying reindeer. But Ray at Sports Chalet answered all of Santa’s questions about the various types of snowboards. Not that Santa had any intelligent questions. Santa basically just bought the board that Ray said was the best board, which of course also was the most expensive board. Santa’s motto is, “Whatever you don’t have in knowledge, you make up for with snobbery and elitism.” Anyway, Aaron is happy, and not the least dissuaded by Santa’s parting rejoinder, “If they take you to the hospital, you’re on your own.”
Little Joseph is in a Lego coma. Seriously. His metabolism actually slows when he’s building Legos. Breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature — everything drops like a hibernating black bear. He won’t leave this table to eat or pee until he’s done. You could set the house on fire and he wouldn’t look up. Santa brought him the Star Wars 10188 Death Star. More than 3,000 pieces. Santa predicts that 108 of those pieces will be in the vacuum cleaner by New Year’s Day. Other pieces will be saved from this fate only because Santa will step on them, barefoot. He tries to keep this out of the press, but, there are actually scenarios wherein Santa will curse. Like when he’s pulling Legos out of his heel.
Kelly the Wonder Dog is in the backyard with the huge ham bone Santa brought her, pretending she’s the subject of a National Geographic documentary. In her mind, she chased the speedy hamalope for miles before bringing it down for the kill. Now, her place secured at the top of the clan’s hierarchy, she settles in to feed.
Me? I’m thinking about last Christmas, which was the last Christmas for Joseph to buy a literal version of Santa. Yep, that all burned down this year. He was OK with Santa himself — elves, toys, chimneys, even living at the North Pole. But his advanced third-grade mind would no longer swallow the flying reindeer thing. The rest of the story fell from there like a house of cards.
But last year, as he stood in the doorway between childhood and boyhood, his voice wandered up from the back seat of my car, without segue or invitation: “Papa, I don’t understand Santa. You sit on his knee and tell him what you want for Christmas. And, he brings you some of what you ask for, but not everything you ask for. Then he brings you some really cool stuff you didn’t ask for! That’s the best part.”
So, I’m sitting here in front of the tree, listening to the quiet. I’m inventorying my gifts. The ones I asked for and the ones I didn’t ask for. All three of my sons are alive. Now that’s a gift. They all love me. Another gift. I have friends. I have a vocation. I sleep in a bed. I eat regularly. I’m forgiven. My buddy Pete gave me a bottle of really nice hooch, a wee dram of which I’ll enjoy on the rocks while I baby-sit the omelets.
OK, still on my list and not yet under my tree: It would be a blessing to reconcile with my father before he/I die. I would like to meet Carroll Dale, my boyhood hero from the ’60s Green Bay Packers. I would like to grow old in a thriving love affair.
But Santa never brings everything I ask for. Just some of the things. And some really cool stuff that I’m not smart enough to ask for!
That’s the best part.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@ reviewjournal.com.