The Polar Express

Sissy was flipping through Christmas Specials the other day when she suddenly stopped on one and called over her shoulder to me, “Look, Mom! It’s the movie you ruined my childhood with!”

To which I replied, “Oh, yeah. That’s a good one.  Let’s watch it.”

Betchyer curious to know how that movie…or really me in conjunction with that movie…ruined her childhood. So if you insist on hearing about it, then please sign the attached waiver because I don’t want you coming back to me and saying I ruined YOUR childhood too.  And then read the disclaimer below.  Then we can proceed.

And it’s not like I ruined her whole LIFE, just her childhood, so let’s get some perspective on this, please.

Disclaimer: Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. So if you’re name IS Virginia and/or you believe in Santa, please read no further.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

I still haven’t gotten your waiver, so please send that asap. But we’ll proceed without further ado…

It was April of my daughter’s 5th grade year.  It was just the two of us.  Going to a soccer game.  And coming back from a soccer game.  An hour-and-a-half car trip each way.  She watched The Polar Express the whole way down.  I listened to the Polar Express the whole way down.  And thought the whole way down, “Hmmmm, my mother told me about Santa in 5th grade*.  Is it time for me to do the same?  I’ll be all kind and loving about it.  Not all blunt and blurt-y like she was.  And my timing is WAY better.”  [ho, ho, ho.  How the mighty will shortly fall.]

So – when the movie wrapped up soon after the ride home started, I seized the moment…and asked my daughter if she believed in Santa. She said yes and turned the tables on me and asked me the same question.  I said I believed that there is a “Spirit of Christmas” (thanks for that one, Mom!) and again asked her if she believed in Santa.  She was adamant this time.  As if this were a test of her powers of intellect and persuasion, “Yes.  I BELIEVE IN SANTA, DO YOU??”

“Sweetheart. There is no Santa.”


“No, Honey. It’s your father and I.”

Oh. My.  GooodnessGodnessAgnes.  Am I channeling my mother?!  Her voice is actually coming out of my mouth.

At that point my daughter gasped like I had shot her through the heart. Which I suppose I did.  Then she turned her face to the window.  And cried the whole way home.

As did I.

There were a few other words exchanged on that car ride home. Things like, “So…does that mean the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real either??”

Good Lord! I NEVER agreed to talking about THEM!  It never occurred to me that she would put all of them together.  HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS WAS COMING?!? 

“That’s right, Sweet Girl. It’s your father and I.”

Which was followed by a fresh round of sobbing from the back seat.

Oh boy. This is going badly.

“Sweetheart. I thought you kinda knew or suspected.  If you think about it, the whole thing doesn’t hold up.  It’s impossible for one man to do all of the stuff he’s supposed to do.”


“I’m sorry Little Baby. I thought you kindof knew.  But either way, you’re going into middle school, and I thought it was important for you to find out from me rather than end up embarrassed by insisting that there IS a Santa in front of others when there ISN’T a Santa.”

When we got home she threw herself on the couch and sobbed some more. At which point I was frantic because her brother-who-still-believes was due home at any moment.

“Listen, this isn’t the end of the world. I know it’s a surprise and a shock and you get to take your time coming to terms with it.  But you CANNOT tell your brother, ok?  He gets to believe until he’s in fifth grade too.”

“NO! IT’S NOT FAIR!  I’M GONNA TELL HIM!!!!!  CHRISTMAS IS RUINED!!!!!” No, no, Sweetie, Christmas isn’t ruined, it’s just your childhood that is.

“No, you’re not going to tell him. And Christmas isn’t ruined.  I truly believe that there is something called the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ Thanks again, Mom. That came from you LOOONG before there was a Polar Express movie that makes the holiday more enjoyable as you get older.  Even though I don’t believe in Santa anymore, I still have a great time at Christmas.  And you will too!”


“True. But now you can fully participate in it.  You’ll still get gifts.  And a stocking.  And it will all still be a surprise.  And you will still get gifts from everyone else – Sonny and your grandparents and aunts and uncles.  And you still get to come down and open up all the gifts on Christmas morning as early as you want.  And NOW?  Now you can play Santa for others.  For Sonny.  Or for a less-fortunate family we ‘adopt’ for the season.  Trust me, it will all be ok.  It’s not like I told you to stop believing in God.  And let’s remember what we’re celebrating anyway.  Jesus’ birth.  So there’s that.  That doesn’t go away.  He was born for us.  So let’s remember that.  But what you CAN’T do is ruin it for other kids.  It’s not your place to tell them about Santa Claus.  I’m happy to answer any questions you have, but you musn’t talk to Sonny about this.  Understood?”

[sniff, sniff. Shuddering sigh] “Ok.”

For the rest of that day, whenever we were alone, she would pepper me with questions:

  • What about the Shelf Elf? Was that just you too?
  • CRAP! The WHOLE dream is dying right NOW. This very DAY!!! Yes, sweetie. That was me.


  • What do you do with all the teeth?
  • I saved them all. Would you like them back?
  • NO!!!!


  • What do you do with the cookies? Eat them and drink the milk??
  • I usually put the cookies back and pour the milk back too. And just bite off the bottom of the carrots and sprinkle those around.
  • Oh.

And as I was lying in bed that night, crying my own self while relaying the conversation in all its horribleness to my husband – bemoaning the fact that she really didn’t seem to KNOW already, he says, “She suspended disbelief. She was able to suspend disbelief and believe.”

Hmmmm…a pat on the back or a tissue would have been more helpful at the time. But he might be on to something.

And thus ends this winter’s tale of the death of a childhood. A bit of a bummer, I agree.  It still makes my heart shrivel.

But enough about me. Back to you.  I’m wishing you a joyful and peaceful Christmas.  I hope you can suspend disbelief for a little while and believe…in the spirit of the season.  For the Christ child is born again into the world to save us.

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”  -Conductor, Polar Express

* Yes, my mother told me about Santa Claus when I was in 5th grade too, thanks for asking.  In December, as we were walking into RJ Mars to buy Christmas gifts, she suddenly turned to me in the doorway and told me there was no Santa Claus; That it was she and my father all-along.  And then I had to spend the rest of the time in the store choking back tears, viewing everything through a haze.  Utterly devastated about all of it, including the sucky timing, consumed with worry that I wouldn’t get ANYTHING on Christmas morning since I now knew what was what on the Santa front.  Why?  How did YOU find out?

Dual Survival

My kids have become enamored lately with this show called “Dual Survival.”  Have you seen it?  It’s been around for a while but we just clued in to it.

It’s about these two guys who show us how to survive in a variety of unlikely scenarios. But first, they live the scenario and then talk you through what you’d do every step of the way.  Take, for example, the following:

Episode 23 – Two gentlemen are dressed in tuxes standing on the deck of a glorious ocean liner as it makes its maiden voyage to America. When suddenly!  The ship strikes an iceberg.  Then, as the band plays on, everyone plummets into the water and dies of hypothermia and drowning.  –End scene–  In my personal opinion, that episode was a little much and didn’t necessarily float my boat guck, guck, guck pun intended but it was informative in a “bring more lifeboats next time” sort of way.

Episode 37 – Now the show stars are posing as two young men who are traveling with a rugby team to Santiago, Chile. But first they have to fly through the Andes Mountains whereupon their plane crashes and they have to consume each other to live. Naw, didn’t see that coming at all.   But again, informative in a “tips-and-tricks for surviving a plane crash AND an avalanche AND cannibalism especially if there’s no ointment for any of that in the poorly stocked first aid kit” sort of way.

And the show goes on and on. Each new episode seems to be shorter than the last.  And it seems like there are two new guys in every episode as well.  I’m not sure if that’s actually the case, or if it’s because the status of their ever-changing beards just makes them look like different guys.  Further, I’m not 100% sure what there is to like about this show other than that one part where the two survivalists are acting like goodfellas carousing at the Copacabana chit-chatting about how they hijacked a truck under the direction of their capo…

Ok, stop.  Now I’m just completely making stuff up.

Watch the show your own self and tell me what you think. But remember, never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.

Liquor Store

What with all of the upcoming opportunities to drink…er…I mean the holidays, I’ve been in the liquor store more than usual lately.

And even though I’m now a sanctioned adult and fully authorized to be there, I still feel weird about it.

Is it just me on that one?!

Because I’m always vaguely worried someone may have called ahead from college through the tightly interconnected liquor store network and warned them I’m on my way.  So by the time I get there, I feel like everyone at the store is spying me with their little eyes and they know, KNOW, about the very wrong Flaming Dr. Pepper Shots Incident backintheday.  (In my own defense, I didn’t spill the drink that caused the bartop to go up in those weird blue flames.  That was someone else.  I was just the Idea Gal on the Flaming Dr. Pepper Shots.)

Or perhaps my feeling of unease comes from being at the liquor store in the middle of the day, when it’s so oddly quiet and everyone’s got their peepers on each other being all judge-y about stuff that happened a million years ago.

I mean, who even GOES to liquor stores in the middle of the day?!?

I was wondering that very question the last time I was at the liquor store doing a little holiday booze hunting when I say him.  Him!  Neighbor Man.

No, not Helpful Next Door Neighbor Man.  (You still have to get yourself one of those if you haven’t already.).  It was the Neighbor Man who got so loop-de-looped at the last block party that he stumbled up to Sonny who for some reason was dragging around his squeaky red wagon, and asked for a ride home.  Sonny agreed, so 6’5” Neighbor Man folded himself into the wagon whereupon Sonny brought him home then came back to the party with an empty wagon and a two dollar tip.

And there you have it.  THAT is who is in the liquor store in the middle of the day.  That Neighbor Man.

Well, and me.  Thanks for bringing that up.  So you can just shut it now.  And you know what else you can just shut it about?   That Flaming Dr. Pepper Shots thing from college.  I’m sorry I ever brought that up.