As Christmas Eve (Wigilia) nears, the work pace turns frantic. The fact that Wigilia falls on a Monday this year makes things even more frantic. We have Sunday requirements to work into our Wigilia preparation work load. We split up Mass duty: K goes at 9:00, I go at 11:00. That leaves me with the little ones to entertain for a while.
“Let’s play Memory,” I suggest to L. I know it’s a losing proposition: she always wins. “Because it’s princesses!” she shouts in explanation as she heads up to her room. “I wonder how well you’d fare against me with a cigar band memory game,” I laugh to myself as she rifles through her game drawer. Unable to find the cards she returns somewhat dejected until I suggest that she make her own.
“Great idea! I’ll make them of my friends.”
Something tells me I’ll fare no better with this version, but before long, she has pairs of drawings of this best friend from school and that best friend in general — the best best friend — as well as assorted other friends and acquaintances. But really, at this age, most of her friends are her best friends, so she draws them all. We never get to play the game, though, because Mama returns from Mass and we head out, exchanging the Boy in the process.
As the afternoon approaches and the weather warms, K kicks us out. “I have more baking to do, and I don’t need the three of you in my hair.” The Boy and I head out for our usual walk, the loop I’ve been taking him on for seven months now. Strange how that has turned into something of a thermometer and chronometer: when we began the walks, we had to head out early in the morning, for by lunch time, it was entirely too hot; now we have to wait until after lunch because before the mornings are entirely too cold.
But perhaps not cold enough, for yesterday I mowed (!!) in a tee shirt, and today, I only need a long sleeve shirt to keep off the chill. Some might be tempted to envy, but believe me, it’s the other way around: I envy those who have a true, cold Christmas.
We take a detour with the Girl as she rides up the street to visit one of her friends, who in turn decides to head back down to our house with us. I see them into the house then head off with the Boy.
K, in the meantime, is battling American cocoa.
“It behaves differently from what I’m used to in Poland,” she explained years ago, before she mastered — more or less — the local options. She still probably doesn’t like it as much as what she grew up with, but that’s really understandable. Not many of us would prefer the new to what we’ve made memories from.
Once the Slovakian Hedgehogs (as the cakes are called in Polish) are done, L decides she’s going to leave one for Santa.
“But today is only the twenty-third!” one might respond. Well, clearly such an individual knows little about the Polish tradition (at least my Polish in-laws’ tradition) of opening presents on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day. In that case, Santa must come at some point during the evening of the twenty-third. It makes no sense otherwise.
We don’t know how much of this is play with the Girl and how much is genuine belief. She once told me that she knew that I was Santa, but she seems to be playing along these days as if she’s clueless. It’s more fun for us all that way. Among other things, I get to write the thank you note from Santa:
Thank you for the cake, milk, prunes, and carrot. Mrs. Claus will be very happy to hear about the carrot: she always says I need to lose a bit of weight. But can you imagine a skinny Santa? Me neither!
Please apologize to your mother for me. I had to use some of her paper to wrap your presents. Rudolf got a little rowdy coming over, and the sleigh tipped to one side, and all the wrapping paper fell into the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally, I know you were a bit disappointed with the little slip of paper in your stocking. Relax: it’s just a note to help you find the actual gift. You need a bigger stocking, girl!
Until next year,
In the stocking, a surprise for tomorrow evening — something she’s never quite experienced.