Recommended wine for today’s entry: 2007 Murphy-Goode Liars Dice Zinfandel. Not only is this name good, but a zinfandel is perfect for sipping while writing those Christmas cards. As the Web site portlandoregonwine.com says, “The label says “sweet and juicy” so I expected an extracted California fruit bomb, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather dry and restrained wine with finesse.” And The Wine News, who gave it 89 points, said, “Dense garnet hue. Ripe scents of black cherry with maple undertones. Vibrant acidity and juicy flavors of raspberry and wild cherry. Silky tannins in the raspberry-driven close.”
I am particularly adept at deception, and I am eminently skilled at deceiving my children.
For those of you who didn’t take Word Clues from Mrs. Runge in seventh grade, that means I like to lie to my children.
In fact, not too many years ago, I had this conversation with one of the little darlings (just an excerpt):
Me: I’m not gonna lie to you, I lie to you all the time.
Daughter: Then how do I know you’re not lying now?
Me: I’m a little drunk. I don’t lie then.
If we get past what a crappy role model I am, there’s something to be said for the grainy honesty of that moment. The daughter, I’m sure, doesn’t remember it, but I was proud of myself for 1) admitting I lie to them (it’s always for their own good) and 2) admitting that I was a little drunk. I don’t remember the occasion … hell, I’m lying again, probably the “occasion” was that a new episode of Glee was on or something. But sometimes that’s enough.
Anyway, the whole point of this diatribe is that, as one who enjoys deceiving her children, Santa Claus was huge fun for me. And to compound the prevarication, we also have a little wooden elf, Elf Kazoo, who lives on the shelf year round (except when the cat decides to fling his uptight wooden butt to the ground and chip his pointy hat). Elf Kazoo comes to life each night in the week before Christmas, wreaking havoc, doing things like eating potato chips and leaving crumbs everywhere (food-related elfery must occur above eye level or the dogs clean up the crime scene before the children see it) or pulling all the toilet paper off the roll and cocooning himself in it. Wherever he is hidden, he has a typed note written in astoundingly crappy poetry, ending with a fill-in-the-blank clue as to where the day’s surprise gift is secreted. So it’s like a mini scavenger hunt each morning.
Very cute, huh? A friend in Dallas gave us the elf and my husband took it from there.
The only part of deception that is difficult is knowing when to come clean. And that is how I bring you to The Story of How We Scarred Our Daughter For Life With The Prolonged Santa Ruse.
So our older daughter, Sam, was a normal(ish) sixth grader, four months into middle school — traumatic in and of itself — with a lot of new kids that had fed in from a different elementary school. While muscular from 23 hours of gymnastics training a week, she weighed in at about 75 pounds and apparently got shoved into lockers each time she walked down the hall. But ever the optimist, she didn’t complain, she just kept at it, working to fit in with her new contemporaries.
One night, about a week before Christmas, I was lying in bed reading. She appeared next to the bed.
Sam: Mom, I have a question and I need to know the truth.
Me: (praying it’s not about sex) OK. I’ll try.
Sam: Santa Claus isn’t real, is he?
Me: (after considering the whole blah-blah-blah-real-in-your-heart-blah-blah and finding myself too sleepy to start THAT whole conversation): Nope.
Sam: OK, I didn’t think so. (Hangs her head like the cat does when I scream CAN’T YOU GO HUMP THAT PINK BUNNY IN THE OTHER ROOM? I’M TRYING TO WATCH TV!) She turns to leave, takes a couple steps, then I hear her pad back into the room. Mom?
Me: (putting my finger on my place in the book, my signal for “trying to read…”) Yep?
Sam: Elf Kazoo? (She shakes her head slowly) Not real either, right?
Me: (Now feeling badly) Sorry, Sam — no. Elf Kazoo is actually your father. They are even starting to resemble each other. (I always feel like a little levity delivered with horrifying news is an excellent way to cushion the blow. Like when you say something hysterical like “your hamster’s dead, but he had his little feet in the air so I hogtied him and made him into a Christmas ornament.”)
Now she nods and leaves the room, almost makes it to her own room, then I hear her turn and come back.
Sam: Do you think you could have told me this before I sat in the lunchroom … at MIDDLE SCHOOL … and told all my friends about the little elf who comes to life and plays tricks on us and leaves us surprises?
Me: (Now actually rubbing her back and feeling really, really guilty.) Oh, God, Sam, you didn’t … you did? Well, I’m sure they all thought you were kidding. Tomorrow just say that you weren’t sure if any of them still believed in Santa and stuff so you didn’t want to ruin it for anyone. (For those of you who are used to reading Dostoyevsky and Austen and others who have deep, deep meanings, you’ll have noticed that I just taught my daughter to lie.)
As she left the room, cheered a little, I found myself teary eyed. It was sad losing Santa and Elf Kazoo. And it was sadder that we’d raised an oblivious dolt.
For the record, she was (and is) really, really smart. She was just very trusting.