Friday, December 30, 2016
This is typically a wonderful thing. Simon gets extra rest, I have one less kid to worry about as I get Michael off to school, and everyone is happy. One particular Friday, I was struggling to get Michael's lunch packed and the baby fed and I didn't end up going downstairs to wake Simon up until after 8:00.
I knew something was wrong the moment I opened his door. "Good morning, buddy," I said.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't want to tell you," he said.
I sat on the edge of his bed and put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you sick?" "No." "Did you have a bad dream?" "No." Then he started to cry. Sob. "You forgot about me," he wailed. "I waited, and waited, and you never came."
All of my hugs, kisses, and assurances that I thought he was asleep and that I would never forget about him had little impact. I had let him down. Strike one.
A couple days later, Patience was napping, LH was visiting his mom, Michael was at school, and Simon was still at the table trying to finish his lunch. It was slow going for him, due to the elaborate daydreaming taking place in his mind. I needed to run to the neighbor's house to pick something up so I told Simon I would be right back. "Okay," he said.
At the neighbor's, I picked up what I needed and then got to chatting. Five minutes turned into ten, and when I finally got back to my house, I found Simon collapsed in a miserable heap on the couch.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"I thought you left us forever," he sniffled. "I couldn't find you anywhere."
Apparently, he not only didn't remember that I told him I would be right back, but he also couldn't believe it had only been ten minutes. He was certain at least an hour had passed. Strike two.
A couple more days passed. Christmas Eve arrived. After the kids were in bed, I pulled out the goodies to fill up their stockings. Michael and Simon had green ones and Patience had a red one. I went to bed exhausted but happy, sure the kids would like the gifts we'd bought.
In the morning, Simon approached our makeshift mantle with anticipation, eyeing the stocking he believed was his. "I can't wait to open it," he exclaimed, poking at the stocking in which I had placed Michael's gifts.
"That one's not yours," I said, pointing at the other green stocking. "Yours is this one."
His little shoulders drooped. Disappointment descended upon him like the weight of the world. His eyes grew wide and his lip quivered. "But, this one was supposed to be mine."
"I'm sorry, buddy," I said. "Here, I'll switch them right now. It'll be fine."
It wasn't fine. "I told you a million times that I wanted this one," he said, heartbroken. "And you didn't listen."
There was nothing I could say. He had, in fact, told me that. Once. A couple weeks ago. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I had forgotten. Swing and a miss - Steee-rike three! You're out!
Here's hoping 2017 is a year of success, forgiveness, and second chances. Happy New Year everyone!
Monday, December 5, 2016
Enter: The Happy Game. You've probably seen this game before. It has many variations and names, but basically everyone brings a wrapped gift (there's usually a spending limit and/or theme), and you sit in a big circle passing dice. When you get three matching dice (or whatever you choose as the "winning" roll), you get to pick a gift from the pile. The next person who rolls winning dice can choose another gift...or they can take yours.
This goes on until the timer runs out. Typically a lot of trading goes on before the game is over.
Well. One year, my aunt and uncle were hosting Christmas and The Happy Game was planned. "Movies" was the theme, so everyone brought a wrapped movie. No one was supposed to know which movie anyone else had brought.
My uncle got into the spirit of the game in an interesting way. He thought it would be funny to buy an "adult" movie for our game. I think he hoped to finagle my aunt into choosing it. I'm not really sure what he was thinking. But Christmas day came, The Happy Game commenced, and my uncle's plan...whatever it was...quickly went awry.
Wrapped movies were chosen and passed and stolen and re-stolen as the game went on and it soon became clear it was not his wife who would end up with the highly inappropriate movie, but my mother, a very conservative Christian woman with four young children watching. My uncle tried in vain to roll three matching dice and steal the movie from her, but it was not to be. His face grew grim as time ticked down. This was not the funny prank he had envisioned.
Then, the game ended. We began to unwrap our gifts, one by one, around the circle.
As my mother's turn to unwrap came closer, my uncle began to noticeably squirm. In fact, I think he began to sweat as he did some serious re-thinking about his life choices. When she began tearing the wrapping paper off her gift, he looked like he might pass out.
All eyes were on my mother.
The wrapping paper fell away and, with a smile on her face, she proudly held up her movie for all to see. A copy of The Jesus Film. It was a Christmas miracle! My uncle stared in stunned silence. What had happened? Had the Lord Himself intervened to rescue the poor, misguided soul who thought an X-rated film would add excitement to our Happy Game?
Turns out my aunt had discovered my uncle's plans the night before and secretly switched the movies and rewrapped them in the same paper without breathing a word to anyone. Then she sat back and watched the drama unfold. The full story didn't come out until much later.
Maybe, in a way, the Lord did intervene. Make of it what you will. But either way, The Happy Game remains a favorite Christmas tradition in our family to this day and none of us, least of all my uncle, will ever forget the year of the Christmas miracle.