Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas List

The eight-year-old goes to see Santa. After some small talk, he asks her what she wants for Christmas. She replies, “A ball of yarn.” He asks what for, and she explains that she is learning how to make yarn bracelets. He asks her what else she wants, and she replies, “Nothing. Just a ball of yarn. That’s all I want.” Santa presses her, insisting there must be something else. She maintains that there is nothing else. Santa presses on. Does she like dolls or video games? Clothes? Stuffed animals? “Just a ball of yarn,” the eight-year-old concludes firmly.

I am watching this exchange, and I am tempted to chastise Santa. Instead of suggesting there is something wrong with a child that wants only a ball of yarn for Christmas, why not praise her for knowing her mind and for not being greedy? A ball of yarn is enough for her. How many of us can be content with so little?
The line is long, and publicly chastising Santa seems a questionable approach to take. So I bite my tongue. As the eight-year-old comes back over to me, her five-year-old brother approaches Santa and begins the small talk.
“Am I supposed to want more than a ball of yarn?” the eight-year-old asks, clearly exasperated.
“No,” I tell her. “That’s perfectly fine.”
“I mean, I like to give presents more than I like to receive presents,” she explains.
The five-year-old is laying out his list to Santa. It has three items. 1. A Lego set. 2. A bow and arrow. 3. An Egyptian mummy. Santa seems more pleased with this list, though he is not sure he can fulfill the mummy request. “Well, an Egyptian mummy kit,” the five-year-old clarifies. “I guess the mummy doesn’t have to be real.”
Later, the visit to Santa over, the five-year-old says, “I don’t think my Christmas list is long enough.”
“Why do you think that?” I ask.
“Because all the kids at school have like a hundred things on their lists, and I have only three.”
The eight-year-old chimes in. “You don’t have to be like all the kids at school,” she says. “Three things is enough. It’s plenty. Besides, if you had a hundred things on your list, you’d never get them all anyway. And you don’t even want that much stuff. Trust me.”
I am certainly biased, but I’ll say it anyway: she is the wisest eight-year-old I have ever known. Instead of a Christmas list, she wrote this letter.