Raven and I had to look for another fallen tree branch to serve as our Christmas tree this year. The last one “we already returned to nature,” she said and I quote. It struck me how beautiful those words and such insight sounded coming from her lips and her mind.
I loved that tree. But I also like the novelty of having a unique one each year, even though it means waiting for whatever branch the strong spring winds would blow on our nature strip.
We also did a daily Christmas countdown. Every morning, there would be a little shopkins toy wrapped in tissue paper waiting for her when she woke up. You know, something to get her excited for the big day. It was a brilliant idea in theory but in practice, turned out to be quite a lot of work. I wrapped every item individually and every night, placed them on top of the heater that served as our Christmas counter decorated with miniature trees and a pretty pink angel I could not resist buying at Kmart.
It was all cute and fun until those times I forgot to leave a gift the night before. Whereupon I would wake up very early in the morning to do so just to beat her to it. After the first week, I was so over it already. But I soldiered on. I didn’t want to give Raven the impression that Santa was some wishy washy bloke who couldn’t even follow through on a ritual that happens only once a year.
“Mama, Maggie and Haneefah said Santa is not real,” she told me after I picked her up from school one day. With her being in kindergarten, it’s pretty challenging to stick to the plot. But the hard conversations had to be had.
And so I told her the truth: that Maggie is Chinese and Haneefah is Muslim and their cultures don’t celebrate Christmas. Same way we don’t celebrate their Chinese New Year or their Ramadan and that’s completely okay because everyone’s different. She understood.
As to the other truth about Santa’s existence, I stuck with the lie. She’s not gonna be a kid forever and Jeff and I intend to make her childhood magical. She’ll understand someday.
Raven left a carrot and some milk on Christmas Eve for Santa and the reindeers to share. With all the cookies that children all over the world leave for them, we wanted a healthier alternative. Also, because that’s the only food we had in our fridge.
She got heaps of presents. More than I expected, actually. I was happy for her to receive one or two. Maybe three, max. I want her to appreciate them and I know she does but at some point, I feel like kids go through a ‘gift fatigue,’ if you know what I mean. But from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to each and every person who thought of her on Christmas Day and took the time to buy her a present.
Just as I am grateful for her thoughtfulness in making us presents, as well. She got very creative with her Legos, using them to build gift boxes out of it. Inside Jeff’s was her pug Lego, because she calls him Puggy and that’s the piece he usually plays when they play together.
The one she made for me, hands down, was the sweetest present ever. Because inside my box was the message: You’re a good mama.
When she asked me to write the sentence down on a piece of paper when she was making our presents at the start of December, I didn’t really think anything of it. Forgot about it already, even. But to see how she painstakingly copied each and every word on a separate paper as if the message came straight from her, that made my whole entire motherhood gig so worth it.
Of course we got other presents from her, too. Jeff received a bunny stuffie. I got a plastic bag of red pipe cleaner along with some, um, paper cutouts with drawings on them. As for her auntie, Raven gave her her own bag back which she probably saw lying around the house and decided to gift it to her.
From “Santa,” Raven got a big, heavy box full of Shopkins. Secondhand toys I found on Gumtree that, according to the dad, was his daughter’s collection for 10 years. She’s 13 years old now. $100 for the lot. But the smile on Raven’s face when she saw them… Priceless.
*Raven at 5 years old