It’s the Thought That Counts
“Is my birthday at Christmas?” he asked. His puppy dog eyes and the head that held them were centered perfectly between me and the game that I was watching.
“No,” I said.
He didn’t move.
“I want my birthday to be at Christmas,” he continued, or at least I think he was continuing. I had been ignoring him and had just noticed the noise from his mouth when a commercial came on. He could have been talking for ten minutes or silently mouthing, “I hate you.” I didn’t give it much thought.
“Why do you want your birthday to be at Christmas?” I asked.
“Because I want to go to the Santa Store,” he said, as if such a thing was the most natural reason in the world. The tarnish on my all-knowing dad status continued to spread.
“You already went to the Santa Store,” I told him in a classic case of one-upsmanship.
The Santa Store is a room at his school that the PTA managed to fill with truckloads of crap so that children can shop for their parents, siblings, teachers, or anyone else they feel deserving of combs and plastic bottles of perfume for a dollar. I had taken him shopping one day after school earlier in the week and between us, we managed to cover everyone on his list for $9.25.
Everyone except me, of course, but I was okay with it. We also didn’t buy anything for him, which was more of a sore spot.
We gave him some change so he could visit the Santa Store during the allotted time the next school day. He bought crap for his brother and three classmates. He bought nothing for himself.
“I want birthday presents from the Santa Store,” he said.
“You know it’s all junk, right?”
“Then why did we buy presents there for Mommy and Nana?” he asked. Luckily we were alone at the time.
“Because we’re cheap and you don’t have a job.” I told him. I call it like I see it.
“Why can’t my birthday be at Christmas?” The kid wasn’t getting it.
“You were born in the summer,” I said. “You’ll get much better gifts then. Kids with birthdays at Christmas get a raw deal. People get them one gift and say it’s for both Christmas and their birthday. That’s the rub.”
“Is the one gift from the Santa Store?”
“You’re freakin’ killing me, Smalls. Fine, I’ll buy you presents at the Santa Store for your birthday. How’s that?” The game had been back on for a few minutes now and it was time to wrap this up.
“Okay, that’s good,” he said. “But don’t buy my Christmas presents there. It’s too junky.”
With that, he walked back to his playthings, content his point had been made. I watched him, full of joy and what he was selling as reason, and then I looked at the TV, the game and the score that had changed, and I wondered what the hell had happened.
Photo courtesy of Whit Honea