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AustinMama offers up some Daddy props.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein

The Annual Yule Do

As a person who likes to sing, I try to learn a new carol every Christmas.  In recent years it’s usually been something like Weird Al’s “The night Santa went crazy”, the Arrogant Worms’ “Santa’s gonna kick your ass” or even Radio Free Vestibule’s “Christmas on acid.”  It’s a flaw in my internal sweetness-and-light-o-meter that sometimes my natural cynicism blooms around the holidays, although I’m careful not to demonstrate this in front of the boys.  Keefe is savvy to the jolly fat man’s true nature by now, but Hugh is at that brief age where Santa is still a very real and magical figure.  He hasn’t turned the laser focus of his scientific intellect upon the myth yet, perhaps fearing to burst the bubble on some unconscious level, and the occasion colored his play for weeks before Christmas -- Bionicle heroes brought moral salvation to their villain, the Makuta, with gifts of cookies and cocoa and threats of coal in stockings, and even in pirate games Captain Yellowbutt reminded scurvy crewmates to mind their manners and that “Santa would want you to keep your weapons clean.”  It’s was a beautiful thing.

I’m not sure if this trend extends beyond my immediate circle of acquaintance, but people seem much more aware this year of other holidays being celebrated around them.  One of the highpoints of my season was Hugh’s kindergarten class production of The Nutcracker.  In this version, the mouse king was replaced by the pirate king (guess who), and rather than traveling to the land of sweets and candies the nutcracker prince takes Claire to the land of celebrations.  The kids danced for Diwali, Channukah, Kwanza , and more.   After that, it got a lot harder for me to Grinch about things. It was just too cool.  With any luck, at least half of those kids will grow up to be a little more tolerant.  When I was a small-town kid, we only heard about other cultures by accident.

One big surprise this year came home with a compilation CD of Bing Crosby and others singing holiday songs they made classics: there turned out to be a tune I had never heard before -- sung by Vera Lynn, which most of my readers are young enough not to remember as a preeminent musical voice of Britain during World War II.  The song is called “The little boy that Santa Claus forgot”, and it goes like this:

Christmas comes but once a year for every girl and boy 
The laughter and the joy
They find in each new toy
I'll tell you of a little boy who lives across the way
This little fellow’s Christmas Is just another day
He’s the little boy that Santa Claus forgot
And goodness knows he didn’t want a lot
He sent a note to Santa for some soldiers and a drum
It broke his little heart when he saw Santa hadn’t come
In the streets he envied all those lucky boys
Then wandered home to last year’s broken toys
I’m so sorry for that laddie
He hasn’t got a daddy
The little boy that Santa Claus forgot.

Jan immediately disliked it – there’s no optimistic note to redeem it, it’s just heartbreaking.  In my usual contrary fashion it immediately stuck in my head.  That kid’s still with us today, but nobody sings about him anymore.  We’ve got to acknowledge how many people are being left behind by modern success.  Take a quiet moment to think about what Christmas in Iraq was like this year.  Makes it a little ironic to know that North Americans spend enough on Christmas presents to obliterate global poverty for the year twice over.  Feel guilty?  Good.  Now we can get back to how wonderful our own lives are with a sense of perspective.  A carol that serves that crucial function is a fine addition to my left wing musical arsenal.  Do something nice for someone who’s got nothing.  Donate some old toys to a charity, bring canned goods to the food bank, and thank whichever god you prefer that you’ve still got both of those handy limbs.  Lest we forget.

For many of us, myself included, there was little to gripe about this year -- a little extra time off of work, a feast of whatever kind suited our whim and budget, some gifts, and the company of family, or at least sympathetic friends for those whose families aren’t sympathetic.  My blood relations are delightful, but I know at least one person whose family uninvited them for Christmas over a religious argument, and others whose folks have added to, rather than subtracted from, their seasonal stress.  Whatever happened to peace on earth and good will towards men?  Note to self: I will never do that to my children.  

I honestly didn’t want anything much for Christmas, at least not anything tangible -- some more down time, sitting on the couch for a while and having somebody fetch and carry for me, or the chance to get out for a real date with Janice, those would be lovely.  What I really looked forward to was the giving stuff away part.  This year I made seven pairs of earrings, three statuettes that I intended to be brooches but am worried are too fragile for that purpose, several pairs of customized underwear, and music CDs with original art covers (I’m proudest of “Pirate Santa’s Christmas Treasure”).  On top of that, Jan bought gifts all year long whenever she found something wickedly cheap that she knew someone we know will love, and when we look in all of our hiding places there’s a lot more there than we remembered.  An embarrassment of riches.  Going back to the Santa myth I mentioned earlier, the fat guy really does exist.  Not as a ludicrously philanthropic individual with an arctic refuge, but as a role that we can all play.  When Hugh opened up that pirate ship he’d been talking about for four months, I got to watch his face, and I was Santa.  What more can I ask than that?  But easy on the fat jokes please.  I’ve been putting eggnog in my coffee for weeks, there’s too many cookies in the house for willpower to resist, and I cooked two lasagnas just yesterday.  Plenty of time for me to work it off when I’m running around in the springtime pretending to be the Easter bunny.
Michael Nabert is a Canadian writer who loves to talk and sing, and writes mainly about parenting, the art of wooing and paleontology. Widely traveled, with an opinion about everything, his friends often describe him as having "a deplorable excess of character." He is currently stay-at-home dad to Hugh and Keefe.  


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