dear Oscar, dear Posey…

this is your mother speaking.

you won’t fully remember this Christmas, not either of you, not yet.

(hell, neither will i. in this life you never fully remember anything, my sweets. especially when you start Christmas day off with Baileys in your coffee. take that one from your old mother.)

by the time you read this – if you ever do – you’ll have figured out that the jolly jelly-belly who eats the Christmas cookies – and most of your Hallowe’en candy – is really Mommy. or your father. or whoever can get to them first. but for this year, in spite of our refusal to entirely corroborate the idea that a fat man will squeeze himself down our non-existent chimney, you’re both pretty sure that Santa’s on his way.

we exist right now in a magical in-between world, where Christmas is a wild mythical mix of Santa and Frosty and Cindy Lou Who and Mommy’s overblown renditions of O Holy Night. the fact that you like my caroling has secretly earned you each an extra present under the tree.

i’d like to wrap this time up in tissue paper, like all the precious things. but time isn’t like that, little ones. it’s now, and only ever now.

you are two and four. you like each other, mostly. and yet, the autumn has been hard. and so i write the now for you, for someday when all is different and you wonder if any of this was even real.

Posey, you’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that you used to be a baby.

sincere and earnest, as if sharing a secret, you offer up this story of yourself and time and the mystery of change, over and over. i suspect you’ll want your own blog, soon.

last night, on the solstice, you woke at 11 pm and promptly threw up all over us both. you said your neck was sore. and you were calm and strange, your sweetest self but oh so quiet, limp in my arms, and i was afraid. and so we slept on the floor in the playroom by the glow of the Christmas lights with a windstorm howling outside, so i could watch you. the longest night of the year indeed. your fever broke at 4am and you stood up and announced, “i’m feeling better.” and then i could sleep.

Oscar, all you asked for from Santa this year was Hungry Hungry Hippo. but last weekend, on an ill-advised trip to a giant store to pick up last-minute gifts for extended family, your eyes lit on a giant walking IronMan. and so it came to pass that later that evening, as i stood in front of the children’s toothbrush display at the drugstore, i found myself weighing a Diego toothbrush in one hand and an IronMan toothbrush in the other and wondering about the magic of superheroes and singing Puff the Magic Dragon, a right maudlin old elf.

for the record, you got the Diego toothbrush this year. but Santa did spring for a small IronMan transformer. because you are growing, leaps and bounds.

you teeter on the verge of boyhood, thrust suddenly into the power games, the shows of force that are both play and practice, uber-serious. you came home from school the other day with a scraped up nose and a scraped up heart, left out of playing monkeys and then pushed around under the jungle gym. and you tried to turn your face from me to hide your hurt and your confusion, and i wanted to gather you to me and hide us all in the house until you’re twenty. maybe twenty-six.

but we talked and we role-played, you and i. strategies and encouragement. such a thin armour. yesterday i talked to your teacher and sat with you at the daycare lunch, staring down les amis.

i wanted to stand up in the middle of that classroom and tell you you’re doing a good job. that i hope with my whole heart it gets easier for you, that it doesn’t take you as long as it took me to figure out that power’s just a game, and there are always other circles if some try to shut you out.

i wanted to shout Charles Bukowski from the tiny tabletop: don’t let your life be clubbed into dank submission! be on the watch! there are ways out!

Bukowski isn’t on the pre-k curriculum, of course. but i hope you hear me, somehow. i hope you feel the hands that have your back. always.

one late Saturday afternoon in December, almost dark, i watched the two of you string ornaments on the short fat real tree your father dragged home – our first real tree in the ten Christmases he & i’ve spent together. he did it for you, this funny little tree. you won’t remember, because you were too young to notice, but i shot him a deadly look when he squeezed it in the front door and announced its presence. all i could see was needles all over the floor and the fact that we’re not even here for Christmas this year and my papers weren’t done yet and i was rushed and panicked.

but the two of you gazed at that tree like it was the loveliest thing in the world. and so we opened the boxes of old ornaments – most of them relics from my own childhood, knitted monstrosities my Nannie bought me annually from the Women’s Institute Christmas bazaar – and you slung them on the small tree’s ample hips and the sight of them in your hands was good for my grinch soul.

somewhere in the mayhem, Oscar, you shot this, your first-ever photo using the big camera. perfect. the blur is your sister.

in your stockings, you’ll find letters made of chocolate, and wooden tops and an orange each. but what’s really in there is just a big jumble of love and hope and happiness and vomit-covered laundry and our own childhood fears and this deep, gutting gratitude that you two are here. just our regular lives, lit up by strings of lights.

love you. Happy Christmas.

Mommy