Yesterday, as Donald was clearing space for the tree, I brought out a Little Golden Book that we've had for years, Baby's Christmas, and started leafing through it with Ulysses. I pointed to a picture of the jolly old man in red.
"Do you know who that is?" I asked.
Ulysses nodded and smiled. "Candy Claus!" he said.
I showed U the box that the Christmas tree was in. "Christmas tree!" he said. It's the same box the tree came in, so it has plenty of pictures and descriptions of the contents. A six foot tree. We got it at Target in the mid-1990s, the first or second year the store was open there on Lien Road, on the site of the old Lien farm -- barn and all stood there, within city limits, right up until that time.
I opened the box and we took out the sections of tree together. We fitted together the stand and the three sections of tree. I began fluffing out the branches, which have to be pressed together to fit in the box.
"Christmas tree," Ulysses said, watching me work. "I'm happy."
"You're happy?" I said.
"Yes," he replied, nodding. Smiling. "I'm happy."
At first, Ulysses didn't like it when he saw Donald was clearing off his train table, packing up his wooden tracks and bridges, boxing up his toy trains. When he realized Donald was emptying that corner of the living room of U's toys, he jumped out of his chair and ran over in a panic.
"It's OK, Ulysses," said Don, "We're making space for a Christmas tree!"
"We're having Christmas," I said.
"We're putting up the tree for Santa," said Don. "He's coming with presents!"
Ulysses begin to cry. "No! Don't do that! No touch!" It was clear that he didn't get it. And he didn't want to listen anything we had to say about it, either. His voice rose to a scream. "No!"
"Abort mission!" I told Don. "We'll pick it up again later."
But Don wasn't ready to give up. "I'm going to get the Christmas train from the closet," he told Ulysses. He headed towards the office. Ulysses continued to protest. "No, Tata! Mama! No!"
The Christmas train is a toy Donald and I bought at least ten years ago. Maybe it was the same year we bought the tree. It's decked out holiday style; it plays loud, electronic carols; instead of coal, the car behind the engine brims with presents. Every year before U was born, we had set up the track to circle the tree.
Earlier this year, U noticed it -- in its original box -- high on a shelf in the office. Just a corner of the packaging was visible, but it was enough for train-crazy Ulysses to recognize it as a train, a fun, colorful train, that for some reason we weren't allowing him to play with. "That's for Christmas," we would say. Every once in a while, he would head to that closet, or simply point towards it from wherever in the house he happened to be. And beseech whichever of us was around: "Train! That train!"
It had been months since he had mentioned it.
I watched U's face as Donald walked into the office and turned towards the closet. I wanted to see if he would figure it out. He did, while Donald was still out of sight. It was a terrific payoff.
His brows were knit together and his mouth was pursed in a frown. Then all at once, his brows shot up, his eyes went wide, his jaw dropped. Just as suddenly, his face lit up in a smile.
It was finally happening! The forbidden train! It was coming out!
Donald emerged carrying the train box. He set it down near Ulysses. He went back to work clearing the toys and trains and train table from the Christmas tree corner.
He got no complaints.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Adorable Christmas anecdotes