Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zoe vs. Santa

The night before Zoe's first visit to Santa, story time took a sinister turn. We were reading Dr. Seuss's Tooth Book. When we got to the page with Smiling Sam the Crocodile, Zoe looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, "I'd like to take his smile away." True story. All she needed to up the creep factor was an English accent.

Following the unpleasant business in Texas, Leatherface
finds seasonal work at the WestShore Plaza mall in Tampa.

This Christmas felt like it was time for other firsts. Zoe was now three so it seemed she might finally "get it." However, getting it and going along with it are not the same, as I was to discover while putting up our first real tree in several years and going all out with the decorating.
Slutty candles.
It will probably not surprise you to learn I'm a far cry from Martha Stewart. My nod to home decor year round is a candle that sits in a glass dish that sits over a glass vase that I fill with multicolored rocks. On its own, shoved behind the junk mail on the sideboard, it looks like an item they couldn't push on QVC. But for Christmas I removed the rocks and added silver balls and voila, we were all festive and crap.

Unwilling to lose this momentum, I unpacked all the dusty boxes we hadn't touched in years, put out knickknacks of Santas, gingerbread men, and angels, put up blinking lights, and arranged a Nativity scene in front of the candle/vase thing.

Counting down the shopping days till Jesus' birth.
Outside Zoe's bedroom I hung an Advent calendar made out of felt where the usual suspects are also felt with Velcro on their backs. Each day you're supposed to take the next person or animal out of its pocket and place it on the appropriate spot in the Nativity scene. Zoe really liked the calendar but had other ideas about deployment. On day one she took all the people and animals out of their slots and placed them randomly around the manger. Poor baby Jesus ended up upside down at the bottom, all of his blood rushing to his head. In Zoe's tableau one of the Kings (Stephen? Larry?) perched in the manger. By his side, his proud parents: a camel and a sheep. Instead of an angel viewing the scene from above there was a cow that appeared to be plummeting to a grisly death. Perhaps Zoe was starting a new holiday tradition. We'd call it: Pick your blasphemy.
When it came to decorating the Christmas tree, I was prepared, not just from knowing Zoe but from hearing other parents' stories about broken ornaments and the horror of bottom-heavy ornament placement. I was pretty sure Zoe's OCD would not make her immune to the latter. First, there was the height disadvantage. Second, her aesthetic eye is particular to her. She was excited when I showed her the ornaments and wanted to hang them all but kept losing the hooks on her way to the tree. 
In one box was all our baby's first xmas ornaments that we'd never had opportunity to use. A mercury glass rocking horse was the first to succumb to her destructive love. It was my own fault for putting it too low. The first time my back was turned she pulled it off, sang some off-kilter song in which the only words I could decipher were "rocking horse, rocking horse, oh, hey, whoa." Crash. Which was the sound of her dropping it. It broke into shards. She still wanted to play with it, perhaps even more now that it could draw blood, but I pulled her away. Our first casualty. Probably the only reason it survived as long as it had was that it had been in a box since 2010. Godspeed, red teardrop ornament that caught Zoe's eye next.
Besides keeping the more fragile ornaments at the top of the tree I've also directed her attention to the ones she can touch, like the furry mouse or the Elmo ornament. She has her workarounds for both protective measures. 1. She drags  a chair over to reach the higher ornaments. 2. She smashes the ornaments she can touch against the ones she can't.  
Regarding the singing of xmas carols: Don't. Except for "O Christmas Tree," which we must keep singing. Over and over. Go ahead and try another song. You'll get shushed.
Now for our visit with Santa....
This plastic Santa mask is the
only thing creepier than a child
with an English accent.
I've already mentioned her chilling pronouncement the night before our visit. I knew it was unlikely that she'd sit on some stranger's lap let alone some big guy in a loud outfit wearing a fake beard (apologies, true believers and children at heart). But it's those damn photos. You know the ones. They feature smiling little children, all Zoe's age, thrilled with their one-on-one audience with the ultimate gift giver. So I held on to hope.
Foolishly.
Following my experience at Macy's Santaland, I feel that a docile three-year-old who happily sits on a stranger's lap is as mythical as Santa himself, combined with the Yeti and conditioning shampoo.
First, a bit about the line. I feared for everyone when we got there (early, by the way) and the line already snaked back, disappearing into the bowels of the department store. How long would Zoe's patience hold out? I thought, filled with panic. Thankfully, though, those elves run a tight ship. But it was a desperate hour. She became well known, as I expected she would, since her grandmother and I had to keep calling her name when she strayed too far forward. We also had to keep telling her to stop pulling on the rope barrier, and banging on the metal base of one of the stands with a broken hanger. There were a litany of whiny requests we fielded, from the relatively benign: juice, pretzels, cheese to the somewhat bizarre: keys to get into the staff-only door, a candle with the number 3 on it (okay, that's actually not too bizarre; she likes to play with her birthday candle; what's bizarre is that I always carry it with me).

I have a meter just like that
and it also starts with a "B"!
Eventually we made it to Santaland proper, where Macy's kicks the holidays into high gear with electric trains, animatronic deer, a live Mrs. Claus, and a giant sleigh, which Zoe wanted to climb on top of. I tried to get her to pose for pictures at various points but she yelled, "No photo!" every time. Most of the shots I have of her show the back of her head with her hand out, the well-known gesture of the celebrity-felon.
Then our turn came. I knew we were in trouble as soon as Piper, the official elf escort, led us to the room our Santa was in (sorry, again, true believers). Zoe peeked into the room at the hell that was ahead of her and got the look in her eye with which I'm so familiar and which was probably the one I'd had in my eyes when we'd first arrived and beheld the line.
So . . . as any good mother would, I dragged my child kicking and screaming to her merry fate. She tried to run. She went boneless. She lay down on the floor. I shot Santa a look like, I bet you see this all the time. He did not return my gaze. I imagine all the Macy's Santas must be instructed: no eye contact, no sudden movements, three "ho"s minimum. Keep it moving, children. Santa loves you but by law must restrain himself.
The upshot, I wrestled Zoe onto the dais/bench whatever it was---I didn't have time to look, for all I know I was on Santa's lap---smiled a crazed is-this-fun-or-what? smile, and: SNAP. Holiday memories. Hilarious ones I'll be sure to rub in her face for years to come.


Don't leave him cookies, kids. This Santa's favorite snack is your soul.

Afterwards, while we waited to purchase our hilarious picture, Zoe ran over to a pay phone, picked up the receiver, and guess who she called? "Hi, Santa!" she said. I'd thought she'd said it all with her tears and screaming but I guess in all the hubbub she forgot to say hello. Before she unceremoniously hung up on him, I snapped a picture. It's the only one where she's smiling.
Zoe: 24; Santa: 0

6 comments :

  1. I know you don't want to post it to the great wide McInterwebs, but please PLEASE can I get a personal email with the photo? Because I need it. I NEED IT. :) Hilarious as always. Hope to meet Zoe sometime soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Deb! Will come soon to Facebook, I hope. I wasn't kidding about being technologically challenged. I have to wait for The Husband to download the photos from the camera because I can never find the right connector thingie.

      Delete
  2. Sweet baby Jesus, I am DYING at these pictures and your captions are HILARIOUS!! The Believe Meter made me spew coffee on my keyboard!-Ashley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha. Thanks. And sorry about the keyboard!

      Delete