Faux Tradition

It was Tuesday night, December 18; a week before Christmas. I never did manage to get a 12 Days of Christmas advent calendar going. And a 7-day calendar seemed just plain arbitrary. Still, I felt compelled to make something happen. Because even though the boys mention Christmas at least three times a day, it didn’t yet feel particularly Christmas-y chez nous.

The professor, in his six-hour retreat from us on Monday night, had purchased stocking ‘stuffers’ for the boys. There were three flashlights. Three Hotwheels cars. Candy. Maybe I didn’t have an advent calendar, but maybe I could parcel out the stocking stuffers; one a day, until Christmas? To generate some excitement and also to allow them a bit of time to savor these small gifts that tend to be forgotten in the chaos of gift unwrapping?

I mentioned it to the professor. He was less than thrilled. The man likes to do Christmas a certain way. He prefers to open gifts Christmas morning not, gasp, Christmas eve which is my custom. And he has very specific ideas about what sorts of things should go in stockings – candy, something utilitarian (like a flashlight) and something toy-ish (like a car). And maybe socks and underwear too, except our oldest boy-child still, as in yesterday, talks about how he got underwear from Santa last year (I don’t even remember this now) and how that must have meant he’d been bad.

So when I suggested spreading out the Christmas stocking cheer over the course of a week, the professor may have replied something to the effect of ‘why would we do that.’ But then, reminded of something he’d said the previous day about living in the past, he had a change of heart. ‘Let’s do it.’

And we plopped green flashlights in each of the boys’ stockings while they slept soundly.

The next morning the older boys realized there was something in their stockings. ‘I was really hoping to get a hand-powered flashlight,’ the Gort sighed at the sight of his green, battery-powered light, and I suddenly remembered he had actually asked for such a flashlight, ‘but this one’s pretty nice,’ he conceded semi-optimistically.

Success?

Wednesday night, I doled out rolls of mint Mentos. Because someone always want me to buy them things like gum and Mentos and I rarely do.

They woke up this morning – early – because it’s the last day of school before Christmas. ‘We got something else in our stockings!’ I heard the Gort exclaim and he urged Percy to return to his room to find his treasure. ‘Mentos!’ yelled the Gort. ‘Why do we always have to get the same stuff,’ the Hen wondered in a tone that seemed less than amused with the arrangement.

Which is ‘funny’ because we were purposely trying to prevent gift envy by keeping things ‘equal’.

‘Maybe it’s because we have the same hair,’ one of the older boys hypothesized. ‘Yes, we have the same hair!’ Percy agreed. ‘No we don’t,’ they set him straight, ‘we have blond hair, you have brown.’

A few hours later, I was walking the Hen home from school. ‘Who puts the presents in our stockings, is it Santa or is it you?’ ‘Who do you think it is?’ ‘I think it’s you.’

Fast forward a few more hours, to 8:30pm. I had organized the boy’s gifts from various family members and, since they were already asleep, decided to drop their ‘same, but different’ Hotwheels cars into their stockings. I walked into the older boys’ room, the clock showed 8:33. ‘I can’t believe they’re asleep already,’ I thought to myself, ‘no wonder they were so cranky by the end of the day – they were tired!’ Followed by, ‘maybe I should have waited until I go to bed to do this.’ And then I walked to Percy’s room, where he lay conked out on his stomach, in a corner on the floor. I dropped a car in his stocking and lifted him into his crib.

As I walked towards the kitchen, I heard the sound of a door opening. A bedroom door.

The Gort emerged into the hallway. ‘I just wanted to apologize for being so mean earlier,’ he began; my heart melting with every word, ‘annnnnnnnd I SAW WHAT YOU PUT IN OUR STOCKINGS!’ he crowed.

I’d been had.

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