The Cast: Santa Claus (he’s real), Zander (the birthday boy).
When you have a child’s birthday close to Christmas time you only have two choices (the way I see it). The first is this: Treat their birthday just as special as you would anybody else’s. Do NOT rip them off just because Christmas is a few days (or a week) away. That is not fair to the child. The second is this: Cut them short on presents for their birthday and/or Christmas, only because they were born close to the celebrated birth of the Savior of mankind. Now, how fair is that second choice? Really?
(none, if you ask me)
Anyway, my second child (oldest son), has a birthday coming up this week. He will be twenty-two. He was recently married. And his whole future is ahead of him. Big stuff. Well, it wasn’t all that long ago that he was a small boy, easily caught up in the spirit of Christmas. It is this time that I wish to speak of.
As previously mentioned, with a child’s birthday close to Christmas, you sometimes have to figure out a way to make things right and fair. I believe it’s only fair to give the child a good birthday and a good Christmas. In my house, we have a grand time. There are a heap of fun traditions. One of them is the family elf (not that elf on a shelf garbage—which is stupid). I’m referring to a family elf. Kind of like a liaison between my family and The North Pole. This whole thing started when I was a child.
From the time that I was young—as long as I can remember, my family (my mom, dad, brother, and sisters) had a family elf. His name was Dorhety. Dorhety would—from time to time—stopover from Santa’s workshop and see how we all were. Sometimes he would bring early presents to leave under the Christmas tree. Usually, though, it was just a routine checkup. Well, one year, my brother, sisters, and myself all were assigned future family elves, along with ornaments that represented them. That was super cool.
My Family elf (when I got married and started a family) is Tinker Elf. Tinker Elf is in charge of lots of different production elements within Santa’s Workshop. He has done well for himself. Much like Dorhety, Tinker checks up on us and has watched over the children. Tinker Elf has brought presents and letters from Santa. He has been very good for us.
Well, one year (when Zander was about six), Tinker Elf left a letter at our home. It had a brief message from Santa along with a special gift just for the upcoming birthday boy. The gift: A Magical Penny.
All the children were very excited about the whole thing. What do you do with a magical penny? Where could you spend it? Can it buy more than a penny’s worth of stuff? So many questions. Fortunately for my wife and I, Santa had included an explanation as to where to go to use the penny: Walmart. Of course… no problem.
So, with all the children wrapped up in coats and other such warm stuff, my little family boarded our van and headed toward the dreaded Imperial Death Star, otherwise known as Walmart. Once there, my small band of rebel scum headed inside, unsure of exactly where to go to use that fantastical Father Christmas gift. After a short discussion, we decided to head to the back of the store where the Layaway counter is located. This location also happened to be near some of the bathrooms—in case the situation became a potty emergency, for anybody. Convenient.
Once we had all made it to the back of the store—I had gone ahead to ensure someone would be there that could help us—we patiently waited in line to see what birthday present Zander could possibly be able to buy with the magical penny that Santa had given him. There was plenty of excitement and suspense. All our children were taking turns guessing what the magical Santa penny might provide. None of us could possibly know. How often do you get to use a magical penny from Santa? I’ve never been able to. I was just party to the party that got to: My son.
Finally, it was our turn. I told my son to let the employee know what he had and where he got it from. Tentatively, my little boy reached up to the counter—his puffy coat almost swallowing up all of his little boy hand (as well as the rest of his form), “Here is my penny. I got it from Santa. It was a birthday present.”
The employee took the penny and then pushed some buttons on the register. Gears and clickity-clacks sounded. Lights flickered. Then, a paper fed out of the machine. The employee tore it from its housing. Read it. Then looked at Zander and said, “Okay, give me one second. I’ll be right back.”
Zander’s eyes became bright with anticipation. You could see the possibilities forming in his head. At that age, he understood the limitations of what a penny could buy. But, this was a magical penny from Santa Clause, himself. What this might possibly purchase could be anything.
The wait seemed like a forever. In reality, it was probably only two or three minutes. Admittedly, I was chomping at the bit myself. Not only did I want to see what the magical penny could buy, but, would Zander like it? Sure, it was a present. And, children usually like those sort of things. Also, it was a present from Santa Claus. And, again, children usually like those sort of things. And finally, it was a birthday present (from Santa). Kids love that stuff—as well as adults. The wait was killing me. It was killing us all.
“Sorry it took so long. There were some other items in front of it that I had to move,” apologized the employee who was now emerging from the doorway of the storage section of Walmart. She was guiding out of that back room a brand new bicycle, for my son. It was awesome. The bicycle was a dark and shiny blue. It had stunt pegs on the tires. Pads in the best places. A hand brake. And, training wheels for the new rider.
My son’s eyes grew so large that they almost popped. I had to manually close his eyelids to prevent the popping of the eyes. I swear it. On his face, Zander wore a smile so big it wrapped around his head, twice. Santa had given him a new bicycle for his birthday.
Off to one side, there had been an older gentleman, quietly sitting, waiting for something other than us, and had watched the entire exchange. He gained my son’s attention when he said, “I wish I had a penny like that one.” A wry smile upon his lips.
To which my son responded with, “Well, maybe if you’re good enough, Santa will bring you one too, for your birthday.” Intending no offense and offering only encouragement.
The gentleman just smiled bigger, chuckled, and replied, “Maybe. I hope so.”
Together, we headed toward the front of the store: Zander sitting astride his new bike, I pushing him along, my wife holding our youngest in her arms and the hand of our oldest. It was like a small Bagnall Family Parade. One of my favorite family memories.