Just Answer the Question!

by Whatever Girl on December 22, 2009 · 1 comment

I’m stuck. In traffic. The rain is pelting down and the windshield wipers can’t clear it fast enough. It’s all a grey blur. A fed-up flagperson stands near my car, her ‘stop’ sign drooping down to the ground. I know how she feels. I just want to get home, too.

I check the rear-view mirror and spot Zoe looking out the window with an inquisitive look on her face. I know this look – it means some sort of random question is coming like ‘What is your favourite brand of zip-lock baggie”. Zoe is the master of the Annoying Question.  Our car rides together typically involve her asking me a series of sometimes cute, sometimes inane questions ranging from ‘what is my favourite colour of shoe’ (black) to ‘what kind of animal would I like to be stuck in an elevator with’ (a sloth)  to ‘do I prefer red candy canes with white stripes or white with red’ (ummmmm…).

The fact that she asked me these exact questions yesterday does not matter. If I point this out, she merely answers that I may have changed my mind, like she has a notebook and is tracking my answers. She’s probably keeping notes on whether or not I am consistent. This will come back to haunt me when she’s a teenager. I can see it now: “Mum can I go shopping with A?” she will ask. I will respond with “Not today honey, you were out last night and I think you should stay in today”. Out will come the notebook. “Two weeks ago you allowed me to go out to a party in the evening and then shopping the next day. What is different about this week?” I will cast about for a reason other than “I just don’t feel like driving you” and will come up with a lame answer such as “you need to finish your homework”. The notebook will again be produced and reference made to my comment of earlier that day at 10:34am whereby I forbade her from going anywhere near the computer for 24hrs. At this point I will become slightly irritated, stomp into the kitchen and yell something mature and responsible like “Fine. Whatever.”

 Back to the car.

 Sure enough, I hear a little voice.

“Mumma?” she says, in her signature squeak.

“Mmhmm” I reply.

“Mumma are you Santa Claus?”

 Whoa. What? Shit. OK I was not expecting this. The flagperson’s sign changes to ‘slow’ and I sit there with a stunned look on my face. How appropriate I think. Yes I am slow right now.  She holds the sign a little closer to my car and starts waving her arms around like would you hurry up already. I move down the road madly searching for a way to buy myself a few minutes of time. Why can’t she ask me about my favourite type of zipper?

“Mumma I asked you. Are you Santa Claus?” she demands again. Ok she is 8yrs old. I dig deep in the memory bank to recall when Jacob, now 13, finally worked out that it was just not logically possible for one guy to cover 600 million homes in one night, or whatever the number is, magic or otherwise. I think he was about 10. Zoe is far more logical that Jacob ever was or will be and so really it’s not surprising that she is asking me this question now.

None of this matters though as I am completely unprepared either way. She could be 40 and I could be 70 and I would still be unprepared.

“Well, Honey, I don’t think I look much like Santa, do I heh heh”. It’s a lame answer and as per usual, she’s not going to accept it.

“What I mean, Mumma, is do the Parents put the presents under the tree and in the stockings?” I can hear a rising note of frustration in her voice.

Then she says: “Just answer the question”.

This makes me smile, somewhat nervously, which ticks her off even more.

“It’s not funny! I just want to know”

 It’s clearly time to get serious. I need to answer this question. I know there is a school of thought that questions why we even tell our kids this biggest of lies in the first place. I do not prescribe to that particular school. I think Christmas is magical and that childhood should be full of wonder and if that means we hold out for the big guy with the sled and the workshop and the elves, then so be it. And besides, by the time Jacob finally figured out that it was his dad who drank the whisky we put out for Santa, his disappointment was quickly replaced with a sense of responsibility and importance at being admitted to a new kind of club whereby it was his job to keep the dream alive for his little sister and all the other little ones out there. He rose to the occasion admirably.

 Back to the car.

I sit for a moment at a stoplight and ignore the impatience emanating from the back seat. The evening is settling in and as the rain sheets across the windshield, Christmas lights are magnified into a beautiful rainbow blur. I turn down the radio and answer my daughter.

 “Zoe I’ll tell you about Christmas.”

 Silence for a moment and then “OK”. And then “But I don’t want to hear about the sheep and the donkey and Mary I already know that story”.

 I suppress a giggle. I see her cute little face in the back seat, lights reflecting off her glasses. I better get this right.

 And so I tell her that it’s the Christmas Spirit that puts presents under the tree and in the stockings. I say that I’ve never seen the Christmas Spirit but that I can feel it. I explain that some people call it Santa and in other places they have different names for it. In my world, the Christmas Spirit looks like Santa, and it feels like love and that’s what I believe. And that when I come downstairs on Christmas Morning, there’s nothing I believe in more than Christmas.

 I haven’t answered her question directly and this is usually a problem for Zoe. I wait for her protest but it doesn’t come. She is quiet for a few more seconds and then:

“Mumma what is your favourite kind of salad dressing?”

And all is well in the world.

 Thanks for reading.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

stephanie December 22, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Hi Jane,
I just read this and have tears in my eyes….. it is just like the conversation I had with my 7 year old daughter – not word for word of course but definitely in spirit (pun somewhat intended).
I’ve read your blog when you link it – and have always enjoyed it.
Hope you and your family have a great Christmas!

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