I’m not Santa

CIMG7561

I’m not Santa.  I have played his representative at this household for …um…thirty years, but I suddenly find that my term is over.  All my girls have their own little ones and, hence, have assumed the role of Santa for themselves.  And all my girls have their own guys who are responsible for ensuring Christmas happiness and long life for themselves by buying the appropriate girly-pleasing gifts for them.

I am off the hook.CIMG7567

WOO HOO!!!

What does this mean exactly?  Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on Christmas.  Relinquishing the role of Santa corresponds with assuming the role of grandmother–to an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.  (Insert smiley face.)  Consequently, even though I had said that the grands were getting only one thing, I still zipped over to the Hereford Pharmacy to buy some cute little stuffed critters.  I just couldn’t bear to give them each just a plastic thing. For toddlers you  get a lot of bang for your buck with plastic toys, but on Christmas Day, when their naps schedules are all messed up, they need something cuddly to calm them down.  They do.  Trust me.  I’m a professional.   I’ve been doing this Santa thing a loooooooooong time.

There are categories of Santa presents.  If I’ve told you this before, bear with me.  It’s just that it’s important.  Pathetic little tears on Christmas are at stake.   Categories start simple.  Little ones don’t even know Christmas is coming, so lights and boxes to play with are enough.  Soon, very soon, categories become essential.

  • Category 1:  Something to do.  The gift has to keep them  busy for at least part of Christmas Day, and preferably days thereafter.  That is why six year old boys are given 1000 piece Lego sets.  Anything smaller will be assembled in less than twenty minutes.  This could also be called the technology category–Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, I-whatevers.  I..I..I… (me…me…me…?)
  • Category 2:  Something to cuddle.  For little ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through a disrupted nap schedule.  For older ones,  it (hopefully) soothes them through the disappointments of the day.  I failed to fill this category the year my oldest stopped believing in Santa.  She went to bed in tears because she did not get a teddy bear.  How was I supposed to know that it was her test item–the only item on her list that she told no one but Santa?  This category continues to be important through the hormonally treacherous teen years.
  • Category 3:  Something to wear.  Initially this is more a gift to the parents than to the child.  Once the school years begin, it is really important that the child have something new to wear back to school in January, preferably something that is “cool”-whatever “cool” happens to be that year.  Underwear technically fits this category but, for lack of coolness, does not count. Clothing continues to be significant until the child is old enough to work at, say, White House Black Market or Loft.  Once that happens, there is no reason to compete with their hefty discount.  They should be buying you clothes at that point.
  • Category 4:  Something to take to bed.  This can be combined with Category 2.  But usually this involves pjs.  You can’t go to bed with a Lego set or a bicycle.  The perfect Christmas Day ends with warm snuggly pajamas.
  • Category 5:  A surprise.  It’s no fun to only get what you asked for.  That reflects a lack of creativity on Santa’s part.  Some children make this a very difficult category to fill by providing extensive wish lists.   A certain six year old I know thinks he didn’t miss a thing on his list this year.  Responsible adults in the family informed him that even Santa doesn’t have a TV in his room.

    This list is comprehensive but not complete...Santa must fill in missing categories.

    This list is comprehensive but not complete…Santa must fill in missing categories.

So, since I’m no longer Santa, I don’t have to worry about categories.  I am not responsible for their Christmas happiness.  They are responsible for their own families.  And they have men in their lives to fulfill their deepest longings.  So all I have to do is get them a present.  The happiness of the day does not depend on what I get them.  What a relief!  If Christmas Day is a gift-giving disaster, it won’t be my fault.

I repeat the mantra to myself: Not the Santa, not the Santa, not the Santa…  It’s liberating, like when my daughters got married and I was no longer responsible for them.

Then why the extra trip out to buy stuffed animals?  Santa-emeritus just knows.

Santa from Wanamakers in Philly circa 1960

Santa from Wanamakers in Philly circa 1960

Little man hands

Lesson 1 in tractor maintenance--he'll be working on this same tractor for the next forty years

It was too quiet Friday morning, so I looked outside and saw the little guy working on the tractor with PopPop.  From the upstairs window it was just the cutest thing.  Then I went outside to inspect closer.  Oh my.  Grandson was busy at work scraping gunk off the tractor engine.  This is a 1952 tractor and I know for a fact that no one has cleaned any gunk off that tractor since we moved up here in 1993, and who knows when before that.  But PopPop had the six-year-old happily at work.  The smile on kiddo’s face attested to “happy;” the automotive grease smeared all over his face, winter coat, and jeans attested to work.

And then there were his hands. We have countless pairs of disposable gloves around the house, but why would you give a boy gloves to wear to scrape twenty years of engine gunk off a tractor?   Hmmm????

The kid had man hands.  No, I’m not referring to the Seinfeld episode.  I’m referring to the man-sized grime on those little mitts.  He looked like a regular mechanic, and he was proud of it, too.  Well, before Mr. Junior Mechanic entered the house he needed a lesson on how to use the de-greaser.  It’s pretty cool for a kid to have hands are sooooo dirty that he has to use a pre-wash on them.  He dutifully used the de-greaser (twice, at my insistence) and rubbed the grimy glop off his hands with paper towels.  Then we went upstairs to the bathroom, with me opening all doors and turning all knobs.  Gobs and blobs of soap followed, with a soak in the sink and a nail brush loaded with more soap.  Grimy clothes were removed and deposited by the washer to await PopPop’s grimy additions later.

Cleaner than tractor grease, but dirt + water + boy still = needs a bath.

Earlier in the week, grandson helped PopPop with sawyering.  That was a cleaner project–even with the tumbles into the dirt.  His job was to hose off the logs and then each board as it was sawn.  When not busy with the hose, he climbed all over any logs or branches he could find.  He made an impromptu see-saw from a few pieces of wood.  Later, he practiced his balancing by walking across logs.  I pondered briefly whether he might break his arm or something if he fell, but  I still managed to get distracted by PopPop cutting down a tree just as the little guy fell from his balancing post.

“MomMom, I fell.”

“Are you hurt?”

He points to his chest.  A quick examination reveals a three-inch scratch.  We go inside to clean it and apply a band-aid the size of Montana.  I warn him that a band-aid that size will freak out his mother.  And sure enough it does, because he knows just how to present it.

“Mom!!!  I fell off a tree and hurt myself!!!!”

“Oh my gosh, honey, are you ok?”

He pulls up his shirt to reveal the band-aid the size of Montana.  I’m upstairs but can hear her maternal wail.  The kid is totally messing with her.  There is nothing wrong with him.  He is 100% boy.  And he knows his mom is 100% girl.  He has already figured out how to work that.   And after a day of hosing logs and falling over trees, he doesn’t understand why he might need to change and wash up before heading off to a birthday party.

Ah…little man.  And learning from the master of dirt himself–PopPop.

 

 

Comfort

matching tractors

“Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  So said Robert Frost.  A grandparent’s home, that’s where you go when you don’t want to go home.  A grandparent’s home is where they roll out the red carpet.  If you’re really lucky, your grandparents live next door to your great-grandparents who really know how to roll out the red carpet.   And then you absolutely, positively don’t want to go home. 

planting buckwheat

Last weekend our little guy was hanging out with us and he was in little boy heaven.  While helping PopPop set up the grill, he found a caterpillar chrysalis which he snagged as a pet.  Then he and PopPop rode down to the field in their matching John Deere tractors and planted buckwheat seed together.  He was such a good helper he even earned money.  Whoa.  The next morning, this

Harper's buckwheat after 5 days

four year old got to drive himself over to Nana and Great-grand-grad’s house all by himself.  Of course, Nana had just baked a fresh batch of cookies and he managed to eat eight of them while playing a round of Candyland before heading back to MomMom and PopPop’s house.   There he helped MomMom make Cornstarch Pudding, a total comfort food that her grandmother used to make for her.  After a romp around the house with Aunt JuJu, we took Cornstarch Pudding home to Mommy.

There are two foods that I crave in the summer–Peach Tapioca and Cornstarch Pudding.  My grandmother, Dooda, made them for me when I visited her in the summer.  Although I can–and do–make them anytime, it is summer when I most crave them.  Dooda has been gone for twenty-four years, but reading her hand-written recipes while I make her desserts is like having a visit with her.  I picture her kitchen: the yellow walls, the white metal cabinets and enamel sink, the formica table, cuckoo clock on the wall, the shelf full of Amish figurines .  The kitchen was small, but there was a set of steps in it that connected to the main stairway.  Those steps were the best spot to sit as a a kid and watch her cook.  A breeze through an open window over the smell of freshly chopped celery always reminds me of her.  So does the smell of vinegar.  I would sit on the kitchen steps and watch Dooda make her homemade mayonnaise.  The final product was delicious but while preparing it, the aroma of vinegar took over the whole house.  (FYI, Marzetti’s Cole Slaw Dressing tastes just like it.) 

Harper is most likely going to associate the taste of honey with MomMom and PopPop, but it was still nice to make for him what Dooda used to make for me. 

Dooda’s Cornstarch Pudding

1 qt. milk,divided

2 eggs, separated

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

vanilla to taste (1 teaspoon)

In double boiler, heat 3 cups of the milk until scalded (steaming hot, but not boiling).

In another bowl, mix 2 egg yolks, beaten.  Then add sugar, cornstarch, salt, 1 cup cold milk.  Mix well and stir into hot milk.  Stir constantly, about 15 minutes, until pudding has thickened.  Add vanilla.

Save egg whites for meringue.  (When pudding has cooled, whip egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar til stiff.  Fold into pudding.)

The cornstarch pudding is actually a nice summer pudding because the addition of beaten egg whites makes it a very light pudding.  It’s also not too sweet.