Sunday, November 22
My husband and I went out with friends and family last night, so our son stayed with my in-laws.
I give them a call, a little after eight-thirty, to see where and when they want to meet for breakfast. But, before my mother in-law and I can even get that far, I hear Briggs begging for the phone.
I laugh. “No, Briggs, it’s Mumma.”
“Mum, guess what!?!”
“JACK IS HERE!”
Up until a few days ago, Briggs wasn’t really aware of Elf on the Shelf. Neither his father nor I grew up with one.
But, about a month ago, when I talked to my father, Todd for the first time in a little more than four years, he asked if Briggs had an Elf. When I told him he didn’t, he asked if it would be okay to send one. I said that would be lovely, but that I would tell Briggs it came from Santa. He was okay with that.
Things are still complicated with Todd, and there’s an awful lot of stuff there – but that stuff isn’t what I want to write about. Not now.
What I do want to write about is Todd’s second wife (the one after my mother) – I’ll call her, Leanne.
Leanne and I never really clicked for an array of extremely good reasons. For the most part I found her cold, vacant, and primarily unstable. Though, like anything, there were shimmers of good that would occasionally catch light.
Like the time I was 14, sometime in mid-November, when she watching a Christmas special on my father’s insulated three-season porch, while eating Chef Boyardee beef raviolis straight from the can.
Somehow, she and I got talking about the show and Santa. In all of my early teen wisdom I quickly put her straight:
“Look, if you think I still believe, I don’t. I know he’s not real.”
She put her fork in the can, and the can on a coaster laying on top of the end table to her right.
“Do you think your father and I have a lot of money?” she asked.
“Well, you’re eating Chef Boyardee for lunch…” I snarked.
“Exactly. And your Mom and Bob – are they well off?”
I didn’t like her talking about my Mom. So, instead of giving her an answer, I just kind of opened my eyes wide and shrugged a bit.
“Right,” she went on, “so, nobody’s got any money. We’re eating Chef Boyardee for lunch, and yet somehow, to no fail, every single Christmas that space under BOTH your trees is stuffed to the gills. How do you think that happens?”
I didn’t answer for awhile and she didn’t let me off the hook.
“I don’t know,” I finally mustered, “you guys all work hard?”
“Yeah, but, that’s not it. Look, you want me to tell you that there’s a fat man in a sleigh with flying reindeers, you got me, congratulations, there’s not. But how do we make Christmas happen? I can’t tell you that either. I don’t know how it happens. How we can struggle all year to cover groceries and electric, and then, something always comes through. There are few things I can count on, but making Christmas out of nothing isn’t one of them. You better believe that’s Santa. Believe in that magic. Because it’s real and it’s been happening to you your whole life.”
I’m pretty sure that this was the only heartfelt conversation I ever had with Leanne. Obviously it stuck. Because I’m recalling it more than fifteen years after her marriage to my father came unglued.
Regardless of anything (and everything) else that transpired between Leanne and my family, that moment of front porch wisdom was a gift, and I’m thankful for it.
It was the first thing I thought of when Todd asked me about Briggs and Elf on the Shelf. Regardless of anything (and everything) that’s transpired between us, this was a simple gift that I would kindly accept on behalf of my child.
And, when I hear the pure joy in Briggs’s voice, relaying the story of discovering Jack high up on the shelf – at Nana and Pup’s even – right next to the picture of him on the train at Canobie Lake Park, I am grateful…
For, I still believe…in Santa.