The idea of Christmas is still a bit nebulous in the minds of the junior members of our household. In contrast, they’ve got Halloween down: dress up, trick-or-treat, eat candy. But Christmas? I am still in the position of talking it up a bit. “Should we go out looking for a Christmas tree today?” I asked the kids last Monday, and was met with such a resounding round of disinterest that it didn’t happen until Friday.
We are working our way there. Their grandpa gave them a Lego advent calendar, which has been utterly brilliant, because not only did they get to open a present initially, but every two days they each get a little Lego thing to put together. (We tried doing it every day, but the notion that only one of them got to open something each day was not a happy one.) They love the Legos, and Nathan may even recognize that it’s counting down to Christmas.
Ryan’s notions are a bit hazier. He has an indelible association of Christmas with snow, which clearly has nothing to do with his real-life experience. Whenever we’ve gotten a snow flurry or a particularly heavy frost, he decides it’s Christmas. Explanations using a calendar, or even the advent calendar, can’t shake his underlying conviction. I’ve also decided that there’s a downside to the fact that we’ve never pretended Santa Claus exists: since Ryan knows full well that I’m the one who fills the stockings, he sees no reason to wait. “I want you to fill the stockings now,” he’s told me half a dozen times since I put them up, his tone peremptory.
Nathan, though, may be getting into the swing of things. When I gave them some glittery stickers to make cards, Nathan was the one who really ran with the project. Ryan did exactly one and declared himself done, but Nathan turned out cards for half a dozen people, wrote some text in them and dictated other text to me, and made sure that I addressed the envelopes correctly to send them out. I made a conscious effort to let him be in full charge of the project this time; maybe that helped. Or maybe he is, as always, as inscrutable as the sea.
And we did finally get a Christmas tree. I bribed them to go out with me by going to Coldstone Creamery for ice cream first, courtesy of Aunt Marybeth, which helped them work up some enthusiasm for the project. I wanted them enthusiastic, because I was afraid it might take us some time to find the right tree. I’m not all that particular, I don’t think, except in one specific thing: it must be unsheared. I’ve done sheared trees, and feel that they contribute little to Christmas other than a nice piney smell. This year I was determined not to put up another solid cone of tree.
But it didn’t take long. There was a little family-run tree farm near us, where a kind older gentleman had been growing unsheared trees for decades (he agreed with me completely on the shearing issue). It claimed to be U-cut, but he came out with a chainsaw and made our lives even easier. I was very happy. The kids appeared to be mildly interested in the proceedings up until the chainsaw came out; that was clearly the best part of the adventure.
And decorating the tree with Nathan — that felt like Christmas. Ryan declined to help and went off to play without a backward glance. Maybe next year…