Thursday was the night Allyson had been waiting for for weeks: the tree-lighting ceremony in front of the library and a visit with Santa. She'd been talking about this to anyone who would listen, and even to some people who probably didn't want to listen. (On Thanksgiving day, she told my sister Emily's neighbor all about it. The poor woman couldn't even get back in the house because Allyson kept hollering more details, like: "and a real live reindeer!!")
While I was putting the finishing touches on our dinner--split pea soup with homemade croutons--Allyson was gearing up for the big event. "Can we paint my nails purple?"
"No, painting your nails is only for special occasions," I said absently, absorbed in the meticulous work of removing all the fat from the tender ham which had slipped off the bone.
"But I want to look special for Santa Claus," she pleaded.
"No, sweetie, I have to finish dinner right now, and then we have to hurry and eat so we can.... NO!!! Don't open that nail polish!" I lunged to grab the bottle, which was dangling loosely from one hand, right over the ceramic tile floor.
Allyson was so excited over the prospect of seeing Santa that she didn't even pout about the nail polish, though she did ask a couple more times just in case. She was also too excited to eat more than a couple of bites. I made up for her lack of appetite, though. The soup was FABULOUS!
Ethan eyed it suspiciously; it was green, for crying out loud. I braced myself for his disparaging comment, probably involving the word "gross." But there was an unexpected silence as he shoveled spoon after spoon into his mouth. Then came the sweetest words: "This soup is delicious! I don't even like ham. Or peas. But it's great! Can I have some more?"
Actually, Ethan's response closely mirrored my own back when I first tried split pea soup, at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on our honeymoon. Who could guess that something that looked so... pukey... could be so incredibly delicious?
Bill did not share our enthusiasm. He did finish about a third of his bowl to be polite. When I asked how he liked it, he smiled apologetically. "It's not too bad, as far as split pea soup goes."
At 6:15, we scrambled to get all bundled up for the tree lighting. Allyson argued that she was plenty warm in her long-sleeved T-shirt, but Bill insisted on adding a few layers. By the way, this is Allyson's idea of bundling up:
Allyson isn't the only one who likes to borrow other people's winter wear. When Bill saw that I was wearing TWO of his jackets, his brows lowered. "Let me get this straight," he said. "You have the nice black coat with matching gloves, scarf, and tuque [hat] that I gave you last Christmas, but instead you put on my jacket?" [That reminds me of another black coat Bill once gave me for Christmas, but I'll save that story for another day.]
I ducked my head. "I needed a big jacket to go over-"
"-my other jacket?"
"Well, yes," I admitted, warmth suffusing my face. "I wanted to wear layers. You're the one who taught me that."
"Well, let's get on with it," he said. (I always wonder if he's REALLY mad at me for wearing his jacket... or flip flops... or flannel pajama bottoms. There's just something enticing about his stuff. A couple of times he has passed his flip flops on to me and bought himself a new pair--which I promptly pilfered. I guess I have a problem.)
At 6:22, we pulled out of the driveway with eight whole minutes to get to the library. We hurried across the parking lot just as the mayor was finishing a completely inaudible speech. We joined in the countdown, and then the tree burst forth in all its humble beauty.
We paused for a quick shot in front of the tree before we herded into the library to wait in an endless line that snaked between the computers. Allyson was amazingly patient, but Ethan was pretty bored until he found a couch where he could curl up with his latest Harry Potter book.
Meanwhile, I kept myself amused by surreptitiously sneaking peeks at the computer screens; I particularly enjoyed perusing scores of Facebook pictures, which really weren't all that interesting, truth be told. It made me thankful that I can waste time on Facebook in the comfort of my own TV room instead of making a reservation at the library.
Can't We Have Just One More?
The best moment came when I admired an adorable baby girl all dressed in red. "Don't we need another one of those?" I sighed wistfully.
"We don't need another BABY," Bill said, rolling his eyes.
This jogged Allyson's memory; just the day before she'd asked me why we couldn't have another baby, and I'd told her to ask Daddy.
"Oh, Daddy! Please can't we have just ONE more?" Allyson asked in her sweetest voice. "I love babies! I want to babysit." I turned my back and pressed my lips together.
"You can babysit Aunt Emily's baby when he's born," Bill said, in his most reasonable voice.
"But he already gots a owner," she argued.
"Who's Charlie's owner?" I asked.
"Aunt Emily!" she said, and I was surprised she didn't add: "Duh!"
"Well, I'm sure we can watch Charlie when Aunt Emily and Uncle Paul go on a date," I soothed.
The Big Moment
I wondered if Allyson would freeze up in terror like last year, but she was all business. When it was finally her turn, she climbed onto Santa's lap and grinned for the camera, and then she announced, "I want a Barbie house!"
We heard Santa ask if she'd been good, but we couldn't decipher her mumbled response.
Santa gave her a hug and promised to see what he could do. She headed back to us with a radiant smile, clutching her candy cane and Santa coloring book tightly. She and Ethan had cookies and punch in the story hour room, and then we hurried back to the car, chilled from wearing our coats too long inside the warm building.
On the way home, Bill asked what Allyson had said when Santa asked if she'd been good. "I said yes," she said.
"And WERE you good?" Bill pressed.
"Well, kind of good."
"Yes, you're a good girl," Bill assured her. "Most of the time," I added mentally.
It was a great evening, even without the live reindeer--which won't be there until later in the month. Maybe I'll paint her nails for that.