I was originally going to write this week about that fun, almost oxymoronic ritual known as the ‘restaurant customer appreciation holiday party.’ I was going to tell you what it’s like to be at one of them, through the eyes of the bartender working the party. Then I remembered my promise to myself about writing strictly positive upbeat columns through the holiday season and until the end of the year. I came at the subject from every possible angle. No matter how I sliced it, I realized that it was impossible to cover that subject matter without any negativity or slightly bitter sarcasm. So as much fun as that would have been for me to write, I decided to shelf that piece.

Once again, my children unknowingly inspired me and this week will be about preparations around the Nichols’ house for the all too rapidly approaching holiday. The inspiration came as I watched my two youngest, (now ages two and a half and one and a half respectively) play in my living room the other day. They were wistfully enjoying a rainy afternoon with literally thousands of dollars worth of toys overflowing from toy boxes in the corner of the room being used as nothing more than a backdrop. I watched them intently for the better part of the day without their knowledge of the fact that they were once again, writing this story for me.

It was their innocent choice of play things throughout the day that fascinated me. Their absolute favorite things to play with are my TV remotes; (I should say that singular since one of them has been MIA for over a month), and my cell phone. These are things I go to great lengths to keep from them, yet somehow they invariably manage to apprehend them. After a series of unintentional phone calls, incoherent text messages, downloaded apps, selfies – as many as 98 in a five minute span; changed profile pictures, deleted photos, and incoherent status updates all done by tiny little fingers, it’s become necessary to tighten security regarding the cellular apparatus. I got a text from an ex of many years ago which was simply three question marks. I couldn’t understand why the cryptic message until I realized it was a response to this: “xx8gg%zzzz0000qt7vvvvn.” And that is in fact verbatim. I saved it for just such an occasion.

So anyway, as the day went on, the girls played with wooden kitchen spoons, Mommy’s shoes, a metal martini shaker cup that they somehow got from the top of the wine rack, a roll of toilet paper, a box of tea bags, and a few other trinkets, none of which can be found in any toy store. They even got creative and went through the recycle bin. The older of the two placed two empty Kleenex boxes on her hands and was pretending they were boxing gloves. The only thing my two-year-old likes to play with more than the aforementioned household items is whatever the one-year-old happens to be playing with at the time.
I’m not even sure how they kept getting these things, all I did know was that none of the things they played with were actually toys. Witnessing this whole ritual got my mind racing and I thought I’d use this to my advantage.

It turns out, that this was a really brutal year financially for Santa. Word from the North Pole is that he and Mrs. Claus are going to be on a short leash this year. So I of course hatched a plan through perfectly sound reasoning, and my usual bulletproof logic. The plan goes as follows: Santa gets gifts for the oldest girl who will turn nine later this week. The gifts are then placed into cardboard boxes. Santa moonlights in a bar that sells a lot of wine, so boxes are not an issue. What? The boxes are then wrapped beautifully and carefully with Christmas paper. The gifts are first presented to the one-year-old. She rips the colorful paper off and immediately begins playing with it enthusiastically and is perfectly content. She has a pile of colorful paper; she’s happy.

Onto the next part of the plan… The box is then handed to the two-year-old. She opens the box, takes out the gift, and immediately starts playing with the now empty box and couldn’t be happier. She quickly realizes that she can fit her entire body in the box and now she couldn’t be more mystified if she were front row at Disney on Ice. The gift is then handed to the nine-year-old who proclaims that it is exactly what she wanted. Everyone is happy, crisis averted, and St. Nick kept within the budget.

This is how I’ve played it out in my head a thousand times, and it always end with happy kids and parents being hugged like conquering heroes. I figure as long as I properly edited the video, they’ll be none the wiser. I can probably pull this technique off for about two more years, and by then Santa’s workshop will have rebounded. The girls won’t realize until they’re about 35 that they got skunked a couple of times early on. By then, I’ll be old enough to pretend that I don’t even know who the hell they are.

Of course, I am completely joking about all of this. This is completely a tongue-in-cheek philosophy I hatched while watching two little cherubs enjoying the simplicities of life to the fullest. It turns out that their true favorite toys are each other. It’s just my nature to take such a beautiful moment and find a way to make it a little silly.

Even though I probably could have pulled this off, you all know what it’s really going to be like in my house. It’s not a big secret that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children and their happiness. As always, we’ll do everything necessary to give them an amazing and memorable Christmas. And I can’t wait.

Watching the daily growing exuberance of these angels as the big day approaches puts wind in my sails and has me constantly flashing back to my own childhood. I’m once again seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child, and there may be no better feeling. I’m reliving the fondest memories of my life and with the singular exception of how much I wish my Mom were still here to enjoy this, I couldn’t imagine a happier time.

Happy 9th birthday to my Princess. Merry Christmas everyone. Miss you Mom. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols.