This Isn't Really Whoville
A Single Mother's Christmas
The holidays are rolling back around and every year I can't help but to think about THAT Christmas. There are pieces of your life that you look back upon each year with a different prospective, analyzing how it changed your life. I remember the day I discovered there was NO SANTA. I could not help but to remember this moment that one Christmas that my eight year old son, Beau sat at our scratched up kitchen table, carefully and thoughtfully using his crayon to draw up his Christmas list. He walked over with hope and excitement on his face and proudly presented it to me. As I read down the list smiling, he looked at me with his dark brown eyes that peeked out from under his brown wispy bangs and excitedly explained that SANTA was going to bring us the computer we needed. My smile faded but he continued to explain that SANTA knew that we were the only family on the block that didn’t have one. “Well”, I said carefully, “Computers cost a lot of money”. “But SANTA has a lot of money”, he replied with total confidence. “He will bring one. I just know he will”.
Days went by and I thought long and hard about how to handle the situation. As Christmas drew closer, there were so many times that Beau mentioned the computer Santa was bringing and I would open my mouth to tell him that SANTA didn’t exist. I would then look into his little eight year old eyes and just not have the heart to take Christmas away just quite yet. Christmas is that magic day when some of the things you really want just pop into the house and I didn’t want to turn it into a day that you guiltily open presents you know your mom could not afford. Beau wasn’t getting a computer and I didn’t know how to tell him. So he believed. And he believed whole heartily.
Christmas day arrived and he came into my room to wake me. My daughter was with her father for the holidays. “Mom, Mom… Come on downstairs”, Beau said excitedly. I got out of bed and followed him down the stairs to our tree, hoping for the best.
I can still describe the moment exactly as it happened. We turned on the lights, he surveyed the area, slowly hung his head, and turned quietly and walked upstairs and went back to bed. I stood there for a moment hating myself for a lot of things. It wasn’t that I had a spoiled child. He rarely asked for much because he knew we were strapped financially. We bought our clothes at yard sales and couldn’t afford to drink soda at Burger King with our dollar Whopper. But he really just knew that Santa was going to pull through for him. And his mother, as Santa, had failed him.
I then followed him upstairs and went back to bed as well. What could I say? The damage was done. Should I tell him that there isn’t a Santa? Maybe next year I will be able to afford some better gifts. And it at that very moment that I vowed to work harder to make more money and provide a better life for my children.
As I was lying in bed plotting how I was going to actually do this, Beau came walking up to my bed and kissed me on the cheek. “It’s O.K., Mom” he said. “It’s like the Who’s in Whoville. They got all their presents stolen and still they had a good Christmas. Let’s go down and open the presents.”
There are many moments in my life where Beau, my extremely perceptive intelligent child, would come up with just the right thing to say. This one is on top of the list, even number one over “Bad things always happen to us Mom, but you just keep on going. That is why I love you.” It was even better than the “Super Mom” song he made up when I fixed broken things for him.
So I hugged the best boy anyone could ask for and went downstairs and opened the gifts. He smiled at his lame bow and arrow. He sat in his cheap little bean bag chair and put on the watch I bought him and kissed me. He dumped out his cheap Christmas Bear stocking and enjoyed all of the little plastic toys that Santa had put in there. He pretended that he was happy with his gifts and I pretended that I didn’t want to cry my eyes out. Then I let him go to his friends and enjoy his day while I cried.
The next year was a little better, but only because he learned that Santa was not our Savior as he had hoped for. He started to grow up and realize that life has some cold hard realities, but he continued to bless me with his sense of humor and words of comfort.
Before I knew it, time had graced me with a sixteen year old teenager. Beau had grown into a smart, good looking, loving, popular boy who was dating his first serious girlfriend. Through the years, he had visited his dad every other weekend regularly. Now, with his new job at the mall, he had a harder time keeping a regular visiting schedule. “I am not going to visit my dad next time that he calls”, he announced to me one afternoon. “He lied to me. I asked him to come and get me last weekend and he said he had to work. I could tell that he was really just drunk.”
There are sometimes moments in a mother’s lifetime that she just cannot protect her child against the harsh realities of the world. When the phone rang a few days later that morning of my birthday, I knew that one of these moments had arrived. He had stood his ground and refused to visit his dad that following weekend and for a reason that will remain a secret forever; his dad took out a deer rifle that evening and ended his own life. We later found out that there had been a note, but the incident had rendered it illegible.
For three years, Beau hardly smiled. In the past, our family made it through a lot of hard times by playing jokes on each other, but what he felt inside could not be fixed with jokes and tricks. I could only watch from the sidelines as he tried to go forward and figure things out. Super Mom could not fix this no matter how she tried and there were no songs sung for many years.
Even when you look at photos of strangers, you can look into the windows of their soul we call eyes, and see the happiness in that person. Beau always had this incredible smile and sparkle that drew people to him. He was a happy child in spite of the bumps along the road that being raised by a single mother had caused. But when I looked at him after his dad died, he was gone. His eyes had what people often describe as a blank stare and I could no longer find my sweet Whoville boy.
Years went by and I could see a slow progress as he smiled a little more and seemed to function more like his former self. He was still emotionally shut down and reserved, with a serious, somewhat hard side that had not been there before his dad’s death. Christmas came back around last year and we were all, as usual, very broke. We discussed earlier in the month just getting small gifts for each other.
Everyone opened their gifts and Beau walked over and handed me a package. I opened my gift and revealed a box with the picture of a waterfall that you plug in on your tabletop. I thanked him and he smiled back and said, “Well, open it up and look at it Mom”. As I opened the box, I smiled and felt happier than I had in a long time. It was not because there was an Ipod in the box in place of the waterfall, but because he had tricked me. And when I looked up at his face as he laughed, for the first time I saw my Whoville boy again.
My favorite Christmas gift is not something you display on a shelf, wear on your finger, or put into a chest of drawers. My favorite Christmas gift is a smile, one I can carry around every day in my memory, no matter where I lay my head.