Friday, 6 December 2013
Father Christmas and the tangled web
I'm sure it's not just me who gets in a pickle with the complicated lies required to perpetuate the Father Christmas myth. Thinking up instant answers to tricky questions without contradicting previous FC "facts" is something of an art. Explaining why FC will not be bringing computer games to any boys in this house, although he will be bringing them (apparently) to almost all the other children in the school can be awkward. Surely it's not because he likes them more, or they were more good.
This year it's been slightly easier, as the eldest knows the horrible truth, and he's also told the middle boy, who therefore also knows, but never refers to the fact that it's all a big fat untruth. Because of course we are now all trying to pretend for the sake of the littlest one, who is still in blissful ignorance that everyone is lying to him and making stuff up. Although his questions are getting more perceptive. "How does Father Christmas come and get his letters? Is it like at the Hippodrome" (we watched the panto with school last year) "when there's smoke and he's there and there's more smoke and he's gone?" Well, yes, I expect so, I haven't actually seen him do it...
I remember spending quite a lot of time when I was little worrying about how FC could actually get to every child in the whole world. Surely it wasn't possible? The littlest is also puzzled by this. But on a day to day basis he's far more concerned with what FC will be bringing in his sack. He wrote a long list, all by himself, with his very own spellings. I'm an expert at reading what he writes now. The secret is to sound it out phonetically and remember that the "b"s and "d"s are usually the wrong way round. Thus "dussoob" is "buzzard". He wrote that in the book at the wetlands reserve. I was desperate to subtitle it, but I couldn't manage it without him seeing me. And we don't like to tell him he's got it all wrong, mostly we're just happy he's writing stuff.
So The List. It was long, as I say, and varied. Everything from "arsnl kit" to "abfent kalinber" (sound your letters out remember, and swap those b's and d's). "ifoan" was on there, even though I'm sure he has no idea what one is. I tried to explain that he wouldn't be getting everything. To which he stated that yes he would, because he did last year (last year's list was very modest) and that that is what Father Christmas does, he brings whatever you ask for. He very much has it in his head that by asking FC for things he will be saving us money, because of course FC will be footing the bill. Previously the other half has told the biggest boys that we have to give FC money so he can buy the things. I'm not sure I'm quite happy with that lie though, I don't think it's been thought all of the way through. I can foresee even more awkward questions arising. How do you pay him? Where do you send the money? What if there's some left over? See what I mean? A tangled web.
There's also the thing that makes me most uneasy. The fact that we don't actually give the children anything. FC does. Nanny does. Aunts and uncles do. Friends do. Parents? No, they don't bother. You'd think they would, wouldn't you? A little token at least. Something that says "I love you". But no, nothing. Although to be fair, this hasn't been raised in this house. Yet. I like to think ahead though, just in case.
Another tricky part is stopping them changing their minds every day. How to explain that FC has already been to the shop and bought what they asked for last week. I got them to stuff their letters up the chimney last night. A kind of "final answer?" moment. They've gone now, so the order is in, it's final. Except, that when FC went to the shops today, one of the items requested is no longer available, so he's had to buy a different model. How to broach this so as to avoid Christmas Day disappointment? Did he maybe send me a letter or a text? But really, he's Father Christmas for goodness sake, he can deliver anything requested to any and every child in the world, except he couldn't get the one thing we wanted right. Actually, the boys are always very good about being thankful for what they have. The eldest got watercolour paints and paper last year, as well as some books and some other little things. And he was absolutely thrilled and declared it the best present ever. Just as well, as by Christmas morning I was panicking that he would be disappointed. But he always blows me away with his attitude, so grateful, so pleased. I'm hoping this year will be the same.
The pictures are from a beautiful book I happened upon in Oxfam. I'd been lured in by something else, and when I got to the book area, there it was on the table. "Letters from Father Christmas" by JRR Tolkien.
Every year when his children were little, Tolkien sent them letters purportedly from Father Christmas. And they are utterly exquisite. Filled with stories of life and adventures at the North Pole, wonderful drawings, lovely calligraphy and special writing for the bits written by Polar Bear and the elf. Lucky, lucky children to have such an imaginative and talented father. Who clearly loved the whole FC myth. Makes me feel a little better about it all. Because what is life without imagination and tales?
Even the envelopes are things of beauty. Oh to be able to produce things like this.
The children were enchanted. I thought maybe they wouldn't get how special and amazing this was, but they did, and it made me happy. The oldest two tried their hand at the Arctik writing like Polar Bear does (he has his very own spelling too). The letters are such enchanting stories, interspersed with little comments from Polar Bear. I really can't emphasise how wonderful they are. And voluminous - the letters were sent for over twenty years. The book is 157 pages long, and every page is filled, and still not everything he wrote is included.
Hours and hours were obviously spent producing these for his children. With probably no thought that anyone else would ever read them. It puts me to shame a little. But I'm thinking he probably had a wife somewhere baking the mince pies and scouring the shops for the exact things on The Lists...