Two days before Christmas, I was discussing our Christmas Eve celebration with my father. The celebration takes place up at my parents’ home, and Cornells from hither and yon gather to eat, yak, and listen to little kids sing and/or play their piano recital pieces. The performance part of the Christmas Eve program ranges from the wildly talents (i.e. my kids) to the somewhat talented (i.,e. most of the other kids) to the spectacularly untalented (i.e. weird kids I don’t know.) I asked my father if I could use the occasion to croon “The Miracle of the Christmas Poo” to the rest of the Cornell clan.
“No,” he said flatly.
“But I sang it for a ward party, and it went over OK.”
“No,” he said again.
“But I don’t get into describing the poo per se…”
I sang it anyway.
After considerable goading from my sisters, I changed the line that said “I dreamed of pretty flowers” to “I dreamed of all my presents.” Heather O., who was present for the performance, welcomed the alteration and gave the whole thing a thumbs up. Afterward, my father stood up and said, “In most families, a story like that would be written down and buried in a journal somewhere.” Not with the Cornells, baby!
Christmas itself was delightful, as always. Readers of this blog will take special note of the gifts I received from my sister wbpraw, who gave me a notepad with a caricature of Yul Brynner in the corner that said “From the desk of Stallion Cornell.” I also received a set of address labels with the same pic and the return address “Stallion Cornell/The Hearts of All Decent Folk” printed on top, followed by my home address which I will not reveal here. She also gave me a deck of Yul Brynner playing cards, and, my favorite, a t-shirt for my youngest son with a picture of Yul Brynner in pirate garb and the name “Stalliondo!” written in bold letters.
Stalliondo does not fully appreciate how cool this was, but I do, and I thank them publicly therefore.
For the most part, Christmas came and went without incident, although I can’t say the same for my son Corbin’s faith in Santa Claus.
As I’ve chronicled here, I believe in Santa Claus, and I think Christmas is much more fun for other who do, too. Cleta, our oldest, admitted that a conversation with a carpool friend in 1st grade made believing difficult for her, and evidence suggests that Chloe is simply putting up a good front. Three-year-old Stalliondo believes, I guess, but he’s still pretty unclear on the whole concept.
“Santa’s coming because it’s my birthday?” he would ask. No, we patiently explained, people get presents on Christmas, too.
“Christmas is my birthday? I’ll be four?”
No, Christmas is not your birthday. You’re still three. We told him this many times, but he didn’t believe us. But he did believe Santa was coming, so we took what we could get.
The kids who are on the cusp, however, are seven-year-old twins Corbin and Cornelius.
Cornelius didn’t say or do anything to indicate that he was uncertain, but Corbin asked a lot of questions, up to and including, “Are you Santa?” When he asked this of his mother, she said, as I would have, “I believe in Santa Claus.” That wasn’t the answer Corbin was looking for, but it’s the one she repeatedly gave, and it didn’t satisfy him at all.
On Christmas Eve, we faced another problem.
In Mrs. Cornell’s family, every family member gets to open one present on Christmas Eve. This was heresy in the Cornell family, and I resisted this tradition infecting my own progeny for as long as I could. However, Santa used to leave the Cornell children a new set of pajamas. So, as a compromise measure, we’ve arranged to have our two cats give us each a new pair of pajamas every year, which is the one present we get to open the night before Christmas. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s one everyone can live with. And it gives me a reason not to hate my cats.
As we performed this annual ritual, Corbin came up to Mrs. Cornell, and, in a very sheepish voice, said, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
See, the goal of Mr. and Mrs. Cornell for the past several years has been to get preparations for Santa’s visit out of the way prior to the wee hours of Christmas morning. In light of that goal, I had taken the kids roller skating – another Cornell Christmas Eve tradition – so she could accomplish certain wrapping procedures that Santa specifies. (In our house, Santa always uses a wrapping paper different from the ones our own presents come wrapped in.)
Well, it turns out that Corbin had walked into our walk-in closet, discovering a mound of wrapped presents that had not yet been placed under the tree. He wasn’t sure why they were there, and he left quickly, as he sensed he was seeing something he wasn’t supposed to have seen.
As it turned out, the Cornells were up past 1:00 AM redoing some of the wrapping preparations that had been made previously, in the hopes that Corbin wouldn’t lose faith. I even made a trip to Walgreens in my new pajamas, only to discover everyone in the neighborhood was there to greet me.
We made great efforts. Yet I doubt we were successful.
Corbin asked his “Are you Santa?” question the next morning. He also overheard us discussing one of the presents that Santa brought. Mrs. Cornell told Heather O. that, “We got these blue BYU wigs for Corbin and Cornelius,” not realizing that Corbin was within earshot.
“You got them!” Corbin said, pouncing on the admission. “That’s what you said! Not Santa! You!”
“I said ‘we got them,’” Mrs. Cornell explained. “You know, like, ‘we got them for Christmas.’ And we got them for Christmas because Santa brought them.”
That didn’t quite work, either.
I don’t think there’s much we can do to prevent them from growing skeptical. And I’m somewhat suspicious that Cornelius’ silence on the issue means he’s already gone over to the other side. That’s all right. People have to go through decades of skepticism before they start believing again.
And there’s always Stalliondo. Santa brings him presents on his birthday, you know.