THE SONIC BOOMER
My grandson Skippy is five now which, as everyone knows, is the very best age to be, especially at Christmastime. Imagine every Norman Rockwell illustration you’ve ever seen, and the little boy featured in it may as well be Skippy.
Last week, I had the supreme pleasure of accompanying Skippy and his mother to visit Santa. I don’t think anyone says “OMG” anymore, but OMG — Skippy was over the moon. He was soooo excited, but it was excitement tempered with apprehension, maybe like performance review day. You’re pretty sure you’re going to get a raise, but is anything ever really that certain?
Five-year-olds, despite being five, have their own heavy burdens to bear, especially in December. I blame that kiddie Christmas song that begins with, “You Better Watch Out,” continues with “He knows if you’ve been bad or good” and finishes up with “So be good, for goodness sake!”
Skippy sings this song seriously, over and over again, like a mantra. He’s been peppering his parents with questions for a month. “Exactly how good do you have to be?” “How does Santa know when I’m sleeping?” and, the question so important that it is uttered only in hushed tones, “Do you think I’m on the nice list?”
He has begun biting his nails. If a spoon falls off the table, he is quick to point out it wasn’t him. If the dog gets out, he recaps his recent whereabouts, proof that it couldn’t have been he who left the door open. And should his sister want a toy he’s playing with, he practically hurls it at her.
Nothing must get in the way of his getting on Santa’s good side.
When we got to the room with Santa in it, the line was out the door. Skippy was #107. Current supplicant? #17. We roamed around a little while — did some shopping, had a cookie — but Skippy was not easy to distract. He wanted to be back in line. Plus, he had an added responsibility. His sister had gotten sick at preschool that day and was not allowed to come. He had to convince Santa he’d been good, recite the list of toys he wanted and tell him what Tessie wanted — “gowns.”
At around #68, I brought Skippy up to where Santa was seated, while his mother saved our places in line. I thought maybe seeing the ol’ guy in action would quell some of his fears. Skippy took it all in, probably mentally calculating his goodness as compared to that of the other children, but I was free just to enjoy them. After all, except for birthdays, this was the kids’ only shot at free toys.
They each tried to make the best of it. Some came with lists; some came with confidence; but even the shyest among them managed to whisper a few coveted dreams. And then there were the babies — screaming, bawling, crying, desperately reaching out in an effort to be saved from this bearded monster while mom and dad retreated further and further away, laughing while still trying to get the best photograph possible.
And, finally, finally, it was #107’s turn. With his mother as his escort, Skippy cautiously approached the Big Red Chair. It was like watching Dorothy approach the Wizard of Oz. Skippy climbed onto Santa’s lap. He quietly requested a few toys, explained his sister’s situation, and asked for the gowns on her behalf.
Santa whispered something in Skippy’s ear and the kid fairly bounded from his lap. He dashed over to me — laughing, jumping, yelling, “Santa told me I’m on the nice list!” — as blessed relief flooded his innocent little face.
It was officially Christmas. I could tell by the joy in all our hearts.