One of my favorite holiday shows was on tonight, and we were watching it with the kids. It's "The Year Without a Santa Claus" and I just cannot resist the Heat Miser, I have to sing along.
During the presentation, there were a lot of commercials for an upcoming showing of "The Polar Express."
"The Polar Express" is adapted from a book, like many of the movies directed at kids have been lately. I remember I'd never heard of it, but received it quite a while back when I was a member of a kids' book club. I was enchanted by it the first time I read it, and I read it to the kids each Christmas holiday season. I really love this book, and am glad that stumbled upon it when I did.
But it makes me cry, when I read it, every single time. The kids are all aware of this, and for some reason, Ben said to me tonight, "I don't understand why it makes you cry, Mom."
I tried to explain it to him, about how the part that gets me is near the end, when the main character mentions how he could hear the bell, even into adulthood, but as his friends and sister grew up, they could no longer hear it. I told him that it touches me that they don't believe anymore, and that's why they don't hear it. They grow up, they know the world, they no longer believe--like they lose that innocence within themselves that would allow such a belief to exist--that that is what makes me feel sad, but I left out the part that it particularly hurts because I know there will come a day when he and his siblings no longer believe either.
I have decided it is just me mourning the passage of time. While this passage is necessary, constant, and I accept it, nonetheless, it chokes me up.
"You don't get it," I told him, "but someday, you will."
Nolan piped up behind me, "I get it."
I know he does. Last week, when he was feeling so poorly, I was going out and I told him I'd bring him anything he wanted. I was desperate to make him feel better, and I had a shake or something like that in mind. He got up from the couch and walked over to me, to whisper it in my ear. Mr W teased him at the time, about being so secretive, but Nolan said he was a little embarrassed to say it out loud.
What did he want?
A game. Pokemon Diamond. I kinda knew why he was embarrassed, but I made nothing of it and I picked it up on my way home.
When I got back, and showed it to him, he smiled at me, his face tinged with sadness, and said, "So I can be a kid now, too?" "What?" I asked, a little perplexed.
He wrapped his arms around me and said that he thought we'd make fun of him for asking for such a "kid" thing. And then he started crying, like he hasn't done in a long time, and I found myself patting his back, rocking back and forth a bit, just like I used to hold him--when he wasn't taller than me.
"Honey," I said, "You're just tired of being sick," I told him, as I felt him calm down some.
As he walked away, I mentally kicked myself, because the light bulb in my head went off, and my initial assumption, while not far off, wasn't the only thing bothering him. I followed him into my room few minutes later. "Son," I said as I flopped down next to him on my bed, "are you under the impression that just because you are growing up, you aren't supposed to still like "kid" things? That you need to give them up or something?"
He nodded. And he started to cry again.
"No, no, no," I told him. "Growing up doesn't mean you have to give up the "kid" stuff, the things you like that make you you. You're allowed an obsession or two to follow you well into adulthood, be they Pokemon or books or rocks. Dude, there's a reason your sister likes Hello Kitty, and it's me. Did you think your Nana keeps the Star Wars toys that are your Tio Ernie's in her closet because she has the space? Do you think your Dad rides the roller coasters at Disneyland with you guys purely for safety reasons? I have friends who still buy Barbies...for themselves. Part of the fun of being a grown up is that you don't have to give up the stuff that is really dearto you, even if it comes in a package that says "ages 3 and up." I promise you that you are not alone, and you are not to ever feel you can't indulge in the "kid" stuff because you think we will make fun of you."
The smile of relief on his face was worth any shame I may have felt showing him the Raggedy Ann doll my Mom recently sent home with me. And she is raggedy, my very own Velveteen Rabbit. (Yes, that story gets to me too.)
He has since played his game out in the open, without explanation or excuses.
As for our viewing of the YWASC, during another commercial, Ryan turned to me and started talking about Santa Claus. During his in depth conversation, something became apparent to me, and I was surprised and delighted.
He still believes in Santa, with the ferocity and innocence that only a nine-year-old can muster.
For me, that is the first gift of Christmas.
And it didn't cost a thing.