To the brink

Jack stared at the closed bedroom door before letting out a breath. The ringing words still echoed in his head.

“I hate you,” his youngest, Anna, had screamed.

Now what? Race in there and either throttle or lecture her? He knew the books said not to do that — but to be so disrespected by his own child, dug nails into his already fragmented pride. He had to pull back, separate, and get his wits about him. The danger he knew was that entering the domain of the ‘bitch’ meant that she had won — he would be on her turf — not his own.

So slowly he turned away, and stepped back down the stairs to the dining room. God bless it — I wish I had some wine — or at least a hard drink to fall back on. But he knew better than to get inebriated when dealing with the she-demon. Impaired judgement was bad enough when having to battle wills with a precocious terror.

Instead he slipped into a chair and stared out the window, hoping his anxiety would drain away like the sunlight already had.

The Irrepressible St. Nick

I murdered Santa Claus shortly after Thanksgiving. It was not premeditated nor a crime of passion, and without malice aforethought, but done deliberately and with surgical precision, like lancing a boil, or ripping off a bandage. Truth be told, he was on life support anyway, the victim of youthful peer balloon poppers, who maliciously target those with resilient hopes and dreams, and feel motivated to discourage others to match their own flaccid attitudes.

So as, Santa lay there, on life support, pulse steadily weakening, I was asked for a prognosis. Seeing the end as inevitable and maybe even a little giddy over having a Santa-less Christmas, I leaned over and yanked the plug.

With a look of dismay on her face and even a gasp, I watched as my daughter’s belief in a mythical generous gift giver vanished into the mists of youthful beliefs. As I looked into the widening eyes of my daughter, I expected to see recognition, comprehension and most hopefully of all — acceptance. Instead, I found confusion, tinged with traces of despair.

Just to make sure the corpse would not rise off the table, and reach for my wallet, I decided to give the great nocturnal chimney flosser’s body a swift kick.

“You do understand, he was never real,” I said with as much solemnity as I could muster. “We bought, wrapped, and placed your presents under the tree.”

Then I recalled not so fond memories of late night hours trying to build a rocking horse, using instructions written in what passes for English in China, and with pictures whose meaning rivaled hieroglyphics.

“But, but,” she stammered, eyes tearing up. “What about the reindeer bells and written notes, the half-eaten cookies, and the pictures taken under the tree?”

“All me,” I said with a smile, quite proud of the all the covert Saint Nicking I had done to preserve the deception.

But instead of glorious revelation, my pronouncement met with a sullen glare. “Oh,” she said, and that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

A couple weeks later, as she perused the glossy adverts in the newspaper, I heard her say, “I wish Santa would get this for me.” She pushed the advert under my gaze and looked up hopefully. Apparently, you can take Santa out of Christmas, but not out of little girls.

“Honey,” I said. “Remember what I said. I’m Santa — or was Santa.”

She smiled and looked me square in the eye. “No, you’re not.”

With a furrowed brow, I stared. Denial is not just a river.

“So,” I said, my mind spinning quickly to come up with a response that might make sense. “You still want Santa to bring you presents?”

“Yes,” she answered emphatically, “and not just from him, Rudolph, Frosty and Buddy too.”

Buddy? “Buddy?”

“You know,” she looked side-ways, a knowing look on her face, “From the movie Elf.”

Ah, now we have ventured off the garden path into pink unicorn land. Without thinking too hard about it, I just nodded and smiled and gave my default answer to deranged fallopians, “Yes, dear.”

When I encountered my wife a short time later, I said, “She’s still wanting presents from Santa. Did she start on medication I am not aware of, or is she just psychotic?”

“She just does not want to let go of her imagination. Do we truly want her to abandon believing in what she can’t see?”

I hadn’t actually thought it through to the natural conclusion that so many of us adults come to, that such entertaining but childish ideas should be tossed into the landfill of childhood memories in favor of hard, cold and uncomfortable truths, which fence in and define the path of adulthood, taking children further and further away from the idyllic, warm, but intangible world of dreams and fantasies. Escapist and delusional it may be, but purposely grounding – no – chaining a child’s life to what adults believe is necessary, may be the real crime here. A child will let go of such thoughts and notions when they are ready. Do we need to rip them out of their hands and stomp upon them unmercifully? She has her entire adult life to experience having dreams and expectations shattered and dashed upon the hard rocks of reality. Why should I expedite the process?

Later I found her looking up at the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

“So, Miss Rachel,” I said with a wistful grin. “Have you been good this year?”

“Oh yes,” she replied. “Santa knows that too.”

“Indeed he does; Indeed he does.”