santa letter breakfast
by jove, someone once declared, i think it’s working.
yes, as i struggle here in the little box i call home, as i try in every way to teach my boys an odd way of living, a way in which any breakfast offers chance for falderal and hoopla, it seems the little one has picked up a thing or two.
and thus it was the other morn that he declared a new tradition had been born.
twas santa letter breakfast, he informed, to be marked ever after on the friday morning following the big gold bird’s disgorging from the oven. you know, the feast that oddly marks pilgrim survival and what mighta been billed the first american potluck by picking on the poor dear turkey, pitiable creature that he surely is, with or sans his dusty dirty feathers.
ah, well, back to the birthing of said tradition–the letter-writing one, not the one with all the thanks and stuffing.
while i frittered away the middle-morning hours dissecting clementines, flicking pomegranate seeds here and there in bloody splattering, seems the young one was hard at work inventing his tradition.
we do these things on the fly around here, so i barely noticed when suddenly he was snipping pages from a pad of neatly-lined papers, and laying down one per placemat, along with requisite pen.
ah, but then came the announcement. “we’re having santa letter breakfast,” was precisely how he put it.
“come sit down and have the tradition,” he hollered to the four nearest creatures, including, of course, the cat, who was spared neither page nor pen.
and with that, there splurted the SPLAT in my heart–no, not from pomegranate pellet–that signaled to my brain that told my mouth to let out a sigh.
thusly, i did as ordered: ohhhhhhhhhhh, sighed i.
young lad was promptly rewarded with pluck of puckered lips smack dab on top of pointy sweatshirt hood (we are saving on heating bills around here and have taken to forced layering to fend off pneumonias and other pulmonary ailments, in case you question our sartorial, um, lumpiness).
i tell you, before we could pull out chairs, the young one was deep in what we dubbed the preamble to the list. he got all chatty, yes he did, that pen rambling right along. reintroduced himself first off, lest the big guy forgot him o’er the summer months. politely, he inquired about each and every reindeer. asked what the elf’s name was. and only then did he get into the raison d’etre behind it all: the list, i tell you, the santa list.
(poor child, he never really got too far, as his mama cut him off at a mere three requests, popping this year’s christmas bubble with some diatribe about recessions and the standard, annual, let’s-not-be-greedy–as if ol’ santa ever had a penpal who had to entertain such sobering equations.)
of course, i too penned a missive to the old polar elf, somehow turning mine into a tragic treatise on how squishy the north pole is these days and then wound into how i didn’t want a thing because–sigh–we have everything we could want or dream of. (in my p.s. i added that maybe a dumptruck load of birdseed might not be a bad thing.)
and, soon as he’d wiped his lips of the last of the egg and cheese, the high schooler unspooled a good dose of his droll 15-year-old wit.
exhibit A, for instance: “well, i dunno, what exactly i might want, you know? it’s really tough when your 7-year-old brother spontaneously declares that it’s whole-family-write-santa-letters-all-at-once day….maybe i’ll get back to you…”
once we’d all penned and read aloud our santa letters, i happened to opine that it felt not unlike writing letters to God, this sitting down for our seasonal tete-a-tete with santa dearest.
that somehow made the droll one nearly tumble off his chair in fits of tears and laughter. as he choked i thought i heard him mumble something about how that line would now be immortalized for years and years to come. at my expense, of course.
even so, it made me think how fine a thing it is that somehow we’ve corralled these kiddies into thinking tradition is a fine way to mark the days and weeks that string together to make a year, and not long after, a well-lived life.
we’ve traditions sprinkled throughout so many days, why you need a day-minder to keep it all straight. there is the trail of paper hearts one cold february morn. and the annual rolling pinecones-in-pb-and-seeds for feed-the-birds day, the saturday before christmas. there’s get-up-at-3-a.-m.-for-soup-kitchen on christmas eve, so you can spend the long day bleary eyed as you stir the soup that santa just might slurp.
and now, it seems, there is the annual penning of the santa politeness-as-preamble-to-wishing list while dodging pomegranates.
splendid is it not?
truly it is, to see the twinkle there in the eye of the child. to feel the pride in his heart that he now is old enough, and certain enough of his place on the planet and in our little domestic society that he too can make proclamations and set the agenda for the marking of time and moment.
it’s not a bad thing to imbue an ordinary morning-after breakfast with something meant to put heft to the occasion.
as i’ve done every other year, when no one was looking i folded up the letters, slid them in a drawer.
some day, when he is grown, perhaps in need of child-sized inspiration, i’ll pull them out. so he can read, and remember, that once upon a time, he felt santa himself worthy of a family gathering ‘round, pouring out our hearts before asking for a single something.
merry almost christmas, indeed.
i’ve somehow managed to type this while fanning off a fever and shuttling back and forth between news that more layoffs are unfolding at the place where i work. if somehow this got jostled in the telling, please do understand. it wasn’t exactly a night for telling ho-ho tales, as i set out to do.
but long as we’re here, do tell, do you have traditions birthed by you or a little someone in your life? why do you think they matter, and what do they bring to the house that you call home?
just wanted to drop in and say, I love that Santa Claus is still alive and well in the hearts of children, what a fun breakfast table. Writing a Santa letter is like buying a lotto ticket……..a chance to dreamof the what ifs………..what fun !
I only know traditions if they come from someone else because I can’t recall what I have done from one year to the next for any holiday or season. Hence, it if were up to me, we’d be tradition-less.However, we do have a tradition in our family. For 30 years, my taciturn, “I will never babysit grandchildren”-saying, now 89-year-old immigrant mother-in-law, has been taking the whole family to a super-dooper brunch on New Year’s Day, because of her old world superstition “How the Year Begins, so it Goes.” So, for many, many a year, including when her grandbabies were just months old, we have traipsed royally, first to the Ritz Carleton in Chicago to their amazing New Year’s Day Brunches (where we have at various times seen Oprah, Conan O’Brien, and John Malkovich), and when that diningroom closed, we have tested out The Peninsula, The Drake and this year, wizened M-I-L with the watchful eye on restaurant reviews in Barb’s paper, asked me to make reservations at Donald Trump’s restaurant called “Sixteen” on the 16th floor of the new downtown Chicago Trump Tower, overlooking the Wrigley Building, Chicago River and Lake Michigan. These brunches cost about $100 per person. My mother-in-law lives in a three room house built in the 1880s–bedroom, kitchen, livingroom and bath–on an extremely fixed income. She has never had a credit card and rarely uses checks. Yet, each year, she treats us all to a day where we feel like royalty–in hopes that feeling can last the whole year. She puts on her glasses to pay the check with $100 bills she takes from her dress purse. This year there will be 11 of us–my M-I-L, my husband , me, our four children, two sons-in-law and one set of in-laws driving from northern Minnesota for the New Year’s Day Brunch Tradition. One of these year’s I expect we’ll break the bank of the grandma (soon to be great-grandma)–as our family includes more and more folks. At nearly 90, grandma’s presence each New Year is more precious than the last. And, when she is no more (maybe in 30 years or so!) the tradition will live on, along with memories of its creator.
carol, what a beautiful beautiful story. i love the image of the Grand-ma pulling the bills out of her fancy purse. and going home to her three-room abode to turn the memory over and over in her head. it just warmed me, that tradition did………
Grandma goes home after the brunch alright–and mulls it over in her head. But it us usually as a master restaurant critic, the type that could make or break a business, the kind that has the chef and maitre’d’s quaking in their boots. Then, as we plan for the next year, perhaps 10 months after the last outing, she is telling me in great detail what was wrong with the food or the decor or the heat or the waitstaff at our last brunch place–and which fancy new place she wants to try this year instead!
What a wonderful meander that was Carol….perhaps the Trib could use her!!! I also love your “elf at table” picture Bam. I want to pull up this cold winter morning. We are getting ready for St. Nicholas Day here….shoes out and few pieces of candy and a gift (video or book) show up in the shoe. In the olden days we then wrote letters to Santa that were placed by the fireplace before bed. That is because elves were out checking chimneys to make sure they were safe for Santa….they would find the letters and bring them back to the North Pole. I am thinking we should resurrect that tradition – almost grown kids can still dream I think. The season is picking up speed.
i love that elves check chimneys for safety. we too are big on st. nick. just home from gathering a few old world sorts of chocolates and candy cane treats. i have always been in love with the simple feast days that lead up to the other ones…..this year, in particular, the quiet little joys seem to shine so very bright and beautifully. more than ever, i feel–and relish–my role as the bringer of small beauties. not a bad life work, not at all……