Katie put together a special birthday party for Elliott this year. He’s a big fan of Rudolph and his friends and their ability to drag Santa around the globe in a single night. I have to believe Elliott gets funny looks from his friends when he enters Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer into discussions about famous superheroes. Superhero or not, the Rudolph party was a hit. And once the reindeer games began in our house, they were very slow to end.
With each passing Christmas, Katie and I try a bit harder to help the boys understand that Jesus is the only Superhero in the Christmas story. Some days I think we’re making great progress. Other days I wonder.
We were riding home from church on Christmas Eve. The boys were excited to show off some of their artwork from the birthday party they attended for Jesus while Katie and I were at the service. Ian reached his little hand up to us from the back seat, anxiously waving his masterpiece. I saw Katie look at it and promptly begin to smile and shake her head. When I asked about her reaction, she held the picture up for me to see.
One look at the picture and I joined Katie in head shaking and smiling. It wasn’t long before my whole body was shaking from laughter. I glanced back at Ian, and he looked pleased. Very pleased. He was clearly more aware that he had made us laugh than he was of the implications his assignment had on the history of Christianity. If you look closely, you too may notice and addition to the manger scene.
Some time later our drive home returned to a holiday season normal; Katie and I attempting to have a simple conversation over the raucous of Ian and Elliott singing and laughing while altering their favorite Christmas songs to include references to pooping or tooting or dirty underwear. I have to admit, I appreciate the creative genius in the idea that on the sixth day of Christmas my true love would give to me six geese a tooting. As such, I couldn’t help but laugh with them. For at least a second it is worth the glare I got from Katie; one begging to know how she ended up a single mother raising three little boys alone.
I attempted to restore peace when I let the boys know that it was inappropriate for them to force their fascination with bodily functions on the sanctity and tradition of Christmas carols. We should save that for regular songs.
Katie’s glare continued.
OK. OK. Boys, it’s really not of great character to find bodily functions fascinating.
The rest of our Christmas Eve went wonderful. We let the boys open the gifts that Katie and I got them, if for no other reason than to make sure they knew Christmas morning that Santa had once again out-gifted mom and dad.
We got them stuffed animals that responded with excited commentary when you read certain lines in the books that came with them. The boys loved it. As I was reading and listening to Elliott’s raccoon proclaim “never fear, Watson is here,” I couldn’t help but wonder why our stuffed animals suddenly needed to talk. I do love technology, but I wish some portions of childhood could be protected from it. Watson doesn’t support my wishes.
After reading them their stories and listening to their new pets (Ian got an equally chatty dog named Jingle), we put the boys to bed. To my surprise, there was no stirring. Ian and Elliott had been full of anticipation of Santa’s arrival this year, so I expected a few extra post-bedtime potty breaks and drinks of water before they closed their eyes for the night. But they both went right to sleep, and I’m almost certain Santa finished his work early at our house.
There is nothing like the excitement of two young boys staring under a tree and discovering that Santa came. To see eyes paint the picture of a mind that believes a fat man other than the one who already lives in our house squeezed down the tiny pipe of our gas fireplace with a bag full of gifts is magical. I know it won’t be long before Elliott’s hands will be reaching up that pipe with a tape measure, then wrapping the same tape around my waist, leading to the most puzzled look ever. Until then, I will enjoy the magic.
After the boys had opened their gifts, we momentarily lost them. Elliott was abducted by a DS3 gaming system; Ian rode into outer space on the wings of his new rocket. I wondered if we would see them again.
Then Aunt Wendy came with her gifts. Elliott was suddenly released by his captors; Ian re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. They both tore into their gifts like they were the first ones of the day. They opened their gifts, and for a moment, weren’t sure what they had. But I knew what they had. Each of them were holding in their hands their very own whoopie cushion. Once I explained to them that these were oversized balloons that, when sat on, made a sound that sounded very much like a toot or a poot. It was like video games and rockets became so yesterday in an instant. They began running around the house blowing up their cushions and sitting on them. Our Christmas kitchen sounded like the post game press conference at the World Chili Eating Championships. Our talk the evening before about bodily functions was as history as the video game and rocket. Oh how they love Aunt Wendy!
The boys and Katie were out of school the week after Christmas. The reindeer games appeared to be ending, but there was one more game to be played.
My dear friend Rachel wanted to give us a gift this Christmas that I tried to talk her out of. She threatened that if I didn’t cooperate with her in getting us this gift, we might have things show up at our door that we didn’t expect. Dogs and cats and giraffes, she joked. I didn’t take her too serious, which was a mistake. You must take Rachel serious. And if I had doubts, they ended when I came home from work one evening that week to find a very large stuffed addition to our family. I have since started cooperating with her.
And so another Christmas has passed. Left behind is another collection of memories and magic. I have to honor Katie for creating so much of that magic for the boys. Her endless energy and ideas and her own heart for magic in our kids’ lives adds so much to our holidays. She is a blessing to all three boys. Most important, she helps us all keep the Christ in Christmas.