Allyson and I were both looking forward to last Thursday. I was eagerly anticipating my book club meeting about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (which was phenomenal), and Allyson was waiting for the Nutcracker Suite, Santa, and a live reindeer at the library. As it turned out, one of us was bitterly disappointed. I was having car trouble that day, and I couldn't use Bill's truck because he had a hockey game. (For the record, I'm sure he would have let me take the truck, but I didn't want him to miss his game; you know how much hockey means to him.) That is how it happened that I went along to the library.
Remember how Allyson wanted to paint her nails purple for her last visit with Santa? Well, so did she. Since dinner was already ready, I decided to humor her. She sat perfectly still while I applied a sloppy, uneven coat. The polish either came out in thick globs that were impossible to smooth out on her tiny nails, or it was so thin it was nearly transparent. Since we had neither the time nor the patience for a second coat, her nails were decidedly un-glamorous. Do you think she minded?
"My nails are BEAUTIFUL!" she gushed, completely enraptured.
After a quick dinner, we all headed to the library to watch the ballet, Allyson's first. Over 100 people crowded into the folding chairs and sat cross-legged on the floor. People of all ages stood between the book stacks, craning to see the graceful young women in their gorgeous costumes.
As we pressed through the crowd to find a seat, a teenage ballerina brushed past us in her tutu and tiara. "A princess!!" Allyson breathed.
Wonder of wonders, I found a swivel chair at the end of a hodge-podge row of seats. I ducked into it thankfully. Allyson stood on my legs, her 42 pounds leaning against my neck. We were both enthralled by the music and the dancing.
"I'm gonna ask Santa for ballerina shoes," Allyson whispered excitedly. "And ballet lessons! I wanna be a ballerina!"
Just when the pain in my neck was getting pretty intense, Bill came in from the parking lot and swung Allyson onto his shoulders. Now I was pretty comfortable, except for the 17 children who made periodic trips back and forth across my knees. (Actually, I think it was only about six kids making multiple trips. I forgave them in the spirit of Christmas.)
When the dancers and the giant nutcracker had taken their bows, three-fourths of the audience rushed over to the Santa line, which stretched the full length of the library and curved along the back wall.
The rest of us walked reluctantly out into the cold to wait in the reindeer line. Allyson effortlessly pressed her way right up to the bars to catch a glimpse of Vixen.
Impervious to the stench and heedless of the antlers, Allyson couldn't seem to tear herself away. Each time Vixen rounded the small enclosure, she reached out to pet the closest available body part--often the rump. She also chattered endlessly to various strangers, some adults and some children. Occasionally I'd hear snatches of her conversations, mostly about purple nails and Barbie houses.
At last we convinced her to wash her hands with the "magic soap" (hand sanitizer), and then we went back inside to look for Ethan. We found him sorting through some old Johnny Cash CDs. By the time we managed to drag him away, Allyson had planted herself at the head of the Santa Claus line.
We tried to explain why we had to go; Daddy's hockey game was starting soon, and the line was endless, and she had already sat on Santa's lap the week before. Allyson refused to budge. "I have to tell Santa I want ballerina shoes!" she cried frantically.
A mother who was nearing the front of the line eyed us menacingly. "Let's go!" I said firmly, tugging Allyson's arm. She began to sob, but the other mother wasn't moved. She turned to her husband and said pointedly, "I'm getting tired of people stepping in front of us in line."
I smiled apologetically and pulled Allyson onto my hip. "But my shoes! I need to tell Santa!" she sobbed over and over. Bill told her we'd write a letter to Santa, and this seemed to satisfy her.
I realized on the way home that we'd never gotten close enough for Santa to admire Allyson's purple nails. Vixen might have seen them, but she didn't seem impressed.
A Card For Santa
Tonight Allyson decided to write the letter to Santa while I made dinner and Bill stretched out on the couch to close his eyes for a minute. "I'm making a craft for Santa," she announced, and then she cut a snow-skiing mouse out of an old Christmas card and Scotch taped it to a piece of manila paper.
"Now will you help me write my list?" she asked.
"No, Baby. I have to finish dinner," I said gently. "I can help you after we eat."
She trudged back to the living room. "Daddy, Mommy won't help me write my list. Will you help?"
"Nnnnhh..." Bill replied.
"But I don't know how to write 'North Pole,'" she whined. "Please, please will you help me?"
Bill drug himself up to a seated position and asked for a colorful crayon.
Allyson immediately launched into a dictation something like this: "To: Santa in the North Pole. Please bring me a Barbie house and ballerina shoes. And please can I have ballet lessons? I love, love, love Christmas. I hope you like this craft I made for you. And I got to pet a real live reindeer at the li-bary. And we're gonna have a Christmas party for all the kids and decorate cookies. I like it when you bring me lots of chocolate. Please give me chocolate and popcorn and Skittles. Love, Allyson."
She watched expectantly while Bill scratched away with the green crayon. At last, he handed her the card, and she raced to the kitchen to show me. When I read it, I burst into laughter and then covered my mouth so she wouldn't think I was laughing at her picture. Bill frowned at me, and I sputtered, "It's just so cute, Allyson! Santa's going to love this card."
Here's what Bill actually wrote:
I managed to avoid actually reading the card to Allyson. I happen to know that Santa's already bought everything but the ballet lessons, anyway.