Five chickens and a pencil walk into a bar… just kidding. I am literally the worst at telling jokes. They go something like this. Why did the chicken cross the road, wait, was it a chicken, I am not sure if it was a chicken or a hen, oh it doesn’t matter, there was a bird of some sort who wanted to get to the other side, wait. Forget it.
Believing in magic and dreaming the unthinkable…that is what five chickens and a pencil is about. I don’t understand people who say they don’t want their kids to believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny. Why? Life is long, there is plenty of time for reality.
Parents with more than one kid realize about four seconds into kid number two that no two children are alike. No better way to see differences than Christmas lists. My Olivia, always smiling and happy that the holiday festivities were finally underway would spend a lot of time discussing the situation, but mommy why do we write a letter, but mommy how does he get the letter, but mommy I don’t know how to write lollipop, but mommy I want Elmo Saves Christmas on, but mommy why it can’t be Christmas every day. Jacob was all business, a short plea for forgiveness of any sins, a reminder of his good deeds, then a dive into the wants.
When he was about 8 he finished in record time. Sneaking a look I saw that he asked for five rubber chickens, you know the skinny ones that look like they should be hanging in a Chinese butcher’s window. Waca waca waca, hilarious gag props…for his vaudeville act on the playground. The problem was, there was nothing else on the list, he was testing me. Jacob had asked for a rubber chicken a few weeks earlier, my response was what on earth do you need a rubber chicken for, of course I am not buying a rubber chicken, save up your own money if you need a chicken. Now he had me. In our house Santa always delivered at least one thing on the list. (I realize now how privileged that is…but it is what it is). If he only had rubber chickens on his list and Santa refused to deliver them… then Santa was mom. Ugg. I was both beyond proud of his little devious mind and completely annoyed…annoyed enough to go on a quest.
Before “shopping local” was a thing, people just shopped local. It was quite human and the connections could be either joyous or leave you shaken. Try-n-Buy, our local toy store was the place of dreams, perky sales people helped you find the perfect gift then wrapped them in bows…swoon. So I called the store and got the one sales person with a chip on her shoulder (I had a knack for this) and asked if they carried rubber joke chickens. After giving some theatrical descriptions she totally understood what I wanted, and quickly replied NO. So I told her of my suspicions and that I really wanted to win this Santa test. She put me on hold and on her return said, We got him, I can order them, they will be here next week. Huge swoon for small town living, local stores, and grumpy sales people who get joy from defeating young children in mental warfare.
My husband is not really a preparing for Christmas kind of guy but by Christmas Eve he is all about joining the fun…Kat, let’s put the chickens in a pot on the stove and leave a clue in his stocking. Oh man, an empty stocking, most people would say it was too harsh. But being a child who watched her cousins look for their Easter baskets for DAYS to finally find them under the floorboards (I kid you not), this seemed like a perfectly normal idea to me. Christmas morning Jacob flies down the stairs to find an empty stocking, he was shell shocked. Greg quickly told him to look inside. The note, the clue, the find… a whole stocking of Santa goodness including…five rubber chickens…the energy in the room can not be described. It was that moment of sheer perfection. Magic. There is no better feeling in the world than seeing your children happy.
In a recent NY to CA phone marathon I asked if Jacob remembered the chickens…I love hearing their versions of our family folklore. Yes, for sure he remembered, he told me it was a test, but that he also really really did want the chickens. It seems his elementary school gym teacher had his own version of dodge ball. It involved a curtain hung between the two lines of kids so you could not really aim at a specific target…oh, and there were not hard, textured, red balls that left welts on your body…there were rubber chickens. He said rubber chickens flying over the curtain was one of the funniest sights, chicken after chicken, kids laughing, fun. Can you imagine…dodge ball that did not leave you in pain. Brilliant.
A few years after the rubber chicken incident Jacob looked me in the eye and said Mom, do you believe in Santa? I responded Jacob, I love believing in Santa. He completely got it, and replied, Me too. A tender moment, a moment where I did not feel like I had failed the parenting test I was given, a memory.
One hard part of having twenty-something kids is there is little magic left. There is fun… never in a million years did they expect Hamilton tickets from Santa…but they also immediately hugged their parents for the gift. The joy of having neighbors with young kids is we get to see the holidays through their eyes. We got a peek at the Santa letters this year, and immediately my mind started spinning. One asked for a five foot tall pencil…is this a test or is there a back story? With permission from their parents, this prop maker and her illustrator husband, will be sending an early, very authentic looking parcel from the North Pole. Our elf on the shelf and a foot long joke pencil will be “delivered” as a precursor to the big day…and bigger pencil. Hopefully it will bring some joy, some thinking the unthinkable…some magic.
Wishing you the permission to believe in what ever you want to believe in…because believing is good. Swoon.