It’s the holiday season. But and also (to paraphrase David Foster Wallace) you are 46 months old today.
On this night, the longest night of the year, you are fully expecting Santa to pay us a visit. Santa is tricky for me, as a parent. He reveals certain weaknesses in my ontology. How do we relate to and understand mythical beings? On the one hand, Santa is fun, and a good story. On the other hand, the very way we define “real” vs. “imaginary” in our culture seems a little messed up. It doesn’t leave room for myth and other ways of being that are, perhaps, somewhere in-between, or something else entirely. I’m still thinking through this. Tonight I told you a story, inspired by my old friend Brad Wilhelm, about a man who played Santa and visited a family in need. The point, I think, is that Santa is a spirit we can all enter, a spirit which can enter into any of us. In other words: Thou art Santa.
On a related note: One month ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving. This is a holiday which has troubled me for years, but this time round we offset that by delivering meals to people in need, on behalf of the West Jefferson YMCA. Your mother even got in to the act. I’m not trying to imply that we saved the world, but I do hope we did some good, and I hope we’ve taken a first step toward something more meaningful.
Also on Thanksgiving, you saw the 610 Stompers in the Macy’s parade on television. A few days later you put on a headband and said, “I’m gonna be a Stomper, aren’t you?”
Forthwith, a random sampling of memories from the past month. I’m sorry if this seems a little scattered. It’s the holidays, and my mental fabric inevitably gets frayed.
You had your first taste of mustard. You liked it so much, you swore off ketchup – forever!
Here’s something I never wanted to hear my daughter say: “Dada, can you shave your butt?” That one took me by surprise. “Can you put shaving cream on it?” Upon further investigation, I learned you were repeating something you’d heard on the radio, some morning drive-time shock jockery.
One night you drew a picture for your mama. “These are ornaments for our mind.”
Your friend Lily had fake snow at her fifth birthday party. It was so bizarre to me to see kids (and adults) have to be taught how to make a snow angel. That’s just something I take for granted, having grown up some 800 miles north of here. Kids love snow, and I sometimes feel bad that you will grow up with a snow deficit. Nevertheless on cold days here lately you have said, “I don’t like winter. I can’t wait for summer.” You take after me that way.
You spent a few perplexed minutes one evening trying to look at your teeth without a mirror.
I am reading you The Magician’s Nephew, chapter by chapter, as a bedtime story. I tried The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe about half a year ago, I think, but it was over your head, and we gave up after just one chapter. I wasn’t really sure you were ready for this now, but you seem to understand just enough to stay interested. Now we’re more than halfway through.
You’re almost finished with your Halloween candy. I think your favorites have been Dum-Dum suckers, Sour Patch gummies, and small boxes of Nerds. Your parents are not such big fans of these last, because a lot of them inevitably end up scattered across the floor. Upon eating your last box the other night you offered the following statement: “The Nerds are dancing in my mouth. It’s like there’s a fairy in there. Every Nerd has a fairy inside, and if you drop it on the floor it dies.
And then tonight just before bed you asked: “Dada, can I call you Big Goofy Face?” Uh, OK.
Finally, here is my solstice present to you and your mother and myself — a family portrait from the incredibly weird imagination of Matthew Allison.