I’ve been explaining monsters out of our house for years. To emphasize they’re not there, I get a flashlight and shine it underneath their beds, and always, always, close their closet doors. Tight. After the monsters come the questions about robbers and murderers. How, they ask, do we know we will be safe? Oh babe, we live in a VERY safe community, we have an alarm system, and I wake up when a pin drops.
Don’t worry; you’re safe. It’s my job to keep you safe. Sleep tight.
When I heard the breaking news about a gunman in Connecticut in an elementary school, I did what most people did. I turned off the news, and have been careful not to listen to it since in the company of my children.
Because some monsters can’t be explained, and some crimes are so heinous they can’t be considered.
I know I can’t shelter them forever, someday they will learn about this unfathomable tragedy, but every day that goes by that they are naive to these monsters is another day of innocence, another day of childhood the way it should be, wherein I just need to explain the monsters underneath the bed, and not the ones that walk into elementary schools with semi-automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, I’m piecing together my response for the day they hear of this tragedy, the response that is supposed to alleviate both their fears and mine. The one wherein I explain our country’s laws against handguns, and the resulting lower murder rates, and the distance we are from Connecticut, and so on. The response where I emphasize that this will never happen to them.
Or so I hope.
Because of course it could.
So as I sat in my daughter’s Christmas concert yesterday, the one where she dressed up as a penguin who encounters Santa Clause after his sleigh has crash landed, the only thing I could think about was how lucky I was. The only thing she worried about before going to sleep the previous night was forgetting her lines.
Another day of innocence.
When the inflatable Santa appeared on my neighbour’s lawn on November 1st, eclipsing even the towering Douglas Fir behind it, I knew it was coming. For not I, the Grinch, Hurricane Sandy, or the war-torn Middle East could stop Christmas from rolling into town and dominating the lives of those that celebrate it.
There’s much to say about this season in the snow, people love it or abhor it, everyone has a shopping tip, drunk staff Christmas party story, or recipe to share. But in the same way my hunger instantly disappears when faced with an All-You-Can-Eat buffet, I’m stymied; am I in the love or hate camp? I’m not sure. On any given day, at different moments, I could be either.
I love the idea of giving my kids something they will be over the moon excited about, but hate the fact that this dream necessitates me tearing around the city and stalking malls everyday of December. (I know, I shop online too, but still need to grab most of the stuff in person. Call me traditional, but I’m saving a fortune in shipping fees.)
It’s a Wonderful Life. Elf. Christmas Vacation. Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Yeeeeeesssssss! Frosty the Snowman. Santa Buddies. Nooooooooooo!
Invite me to a party and I will be there – I happen to be gifted at merrymaking. The constant low-grade headache I have throughout December is another matter.
The memories of my childhood eyes seeing Santa through the crack of light in my door are precious; the ghosts of boyfriends past I could live without.
I hate the rain that is inevitably present in our city, but the snow on our mountains? Sign. Me. Up.
My joy of giving starts out strong early in the season, but by the time I’ve found a box of chocolates for the piano teacher, my daughter’s other best friend, and the barista that occasionally remembers my name, it snaps from joyful to snarly.
I held back tears of pride at my oldest daughters’ first Christmas concert; ten years and two kids later they are tears of boredom, and frustration that the tallest father in the school sits in front of me every year.
My children are not sure if they will return from school to a mother baking shortbread while cheerfully singing the incorrect lyrics to Santa Baby, or one savagely Gorilla-gluing the gingerbread house together (because why, for the love of god, does my roof always cave in?) When it comes to Christmas, I’m fifty shades of grey, fifty shades of red and green.
Love it, hate it, or Switzerland – what’s your verdict on Christmas?
writing prompt: flawed