C (as she rocks around the Christmas tree): “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, at the Christmas party hop…” Daddy, is that girl singing about a sock hop?
D (irritated by dark, tangled strings of lights): Could be.
C: Have you gone to a sock hop?
D: No, I can’t say that I have. Sock hops were way before my time. They were in the fifties.
C: But, you are forty-six.
C (adding insult to irritation): So that’s almost fifties, right?
It might have been an invitation to attend Hogwarts.
Two years ago, the “extra presents,” hidden behind the tree and to be discovered on the day the tree comes down, to soften the holiday season’s end, were two reindeer bells, a la Polar Express. Last year, they were two Wonka bars complete with golden tickets. The analog for this year would have been two letters, inviting them to attend Hogwarts, since they are way into Harry Potter. (A favorite game is for Daddy to say first names. They try to beat each other to the last name. Hermione? Granger! Severus? Snape! Colin? Creevey! Minerva? McGonagall!)
But, that would have just been cruel. The twins would really have expected to attend Hogwarts. No runner up behind-the-tree gift idea presents itself…until…
…Papa asks them on Christmas Eve, after they’ve baked chocolate chip cookies, after they’ve formed off-color tinted Rice Krispie treats, and after all stores have closed, to write their notes to Santa. They comply. Fisher works in two media: paint (“Santa, I love you”) and pen (“Can I please have balloons?”). (Later, Cory, as part of a day-long mutual “antagonization” campaign rips up Fisher’s note to Santa. Daddy hides the pieces before they are discovered. No one needs that kind of escalation.)
F (penning that last part, providing additional commentary, for the first time, on Christmas Eve, after all stores have closed): All I really want for Christmas this year is balloons. That’s all I want. I know Santa will bring some. Right, Daddy?
D (…um…): Well, we’ll see, Fisher. I don’t know what Santa’s thinking sometimes.
P: Santa’s already started his trip around the world, delivering presents to other kids, so…
D: Yah, so who knows whether he’ll be able to get you balloons. It’s a pretty last-minute request, Fisher.
Voila! This year’s “extra present.” Day after Christmas, Daddy snags some balloons, wraps them up, and (unwisely) hides them behind the tree.
C (two days later, a week before the tree is to come down): Daddy! Daddy! Come! There’s something behind the tree!
F (lying with her on the floor, pointing back behind the tree): Daddy, see! There are presents back there!
D (crap): What the what? Really? Are you sure?
Jig’s up. There’ll be nothing to blunt the blow of bringing down the tree this year. But, there will be plenty of balloons for New Year’s.
From the other room, Daddy listens to the twins discuss the Kansas City white elephant gift exchange.
F (having never tasted coffee): But, you got that Starbucks coffee. I like that coffee.
C: No, Fisher, remember? Papa stealed that from me.
Daddy resists urge to yell out, “Stole!”
F: Oh, you are right, Cory! What did you get then, Cory?
C: I got those bugs. For your fingers.
F: Insect fingers!
C: They are fun because you can put them on your fingers.
F (incredulous, still never having tasted coffee): They are? That’s good. I wish I would have gotten that Starbucks coffee. (Pause.) I just got that hat and glasses and…stuff. (Pause, halting tone.) That was funny, right?
C: Yes, Fisher, that was funny. Everyone laughed when you put them on.
F: All of the er, eh, uh adults laughed, right, so that was a very funny gift, right, Cory?
F (laughing): Um, Cory, do you know what was the joke?
C: Um, no, but we can ask Daddy, okay?
C: Right. It was a joke. So, people laughed.
F: It wasn’t as funny as that brahg, though, right, Cory?
One gag gift was a camouflage bra, on clearance, in a healthy size, that a (male) cousin opened and modeled. It was a play on a real gift from the prior year, a Victoria Secret dusty rose “brahg” (as they call it), pricey (and similarly sized).
C: Yah, that brahg was so funny!
F: There is a brahg every year in Kansas City, I think.
C: And that boy holding it was so funny because he doesn’t even have chi-chis. He has a brahg, but he doesn’t have chi-chis.
F (laughing): That’s so funny!
F (again, never having tasted coffee and likely to gag if he did): I wish I would have gotten that Starbucks coffee. I like that coffee.