As I type, there is a shoe laid out for each one of us near the fireplace, awaiting tonight’s arrival of Sankt Nikolaus, according to Jack, and Sinter Klaus, according to Nora. There are also cookies, apple slices, and a shotglass full of milk (Nora’s touch.) And, there is one more thing….an elaborately gift-wrapped cactus. It has been Nora’s cactus and he is named Freddy. Nora’s note to Sinter Klaus comes complete with cactus care instructions and a plea at the end to “please keep Freddy!”
And, so it goes, yet another challenge this year to keep the spirit of Christmas alive with an ever-inquisitive, maturing 8 year old. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do about this cactus. I have visions of running down the street at midnight tonight, chucking it into a neighbor’s garbage bin, and likely setting off someone’s alarm system. I HAVE actually set off a neighbor’s alarm here before, while they were on holiday no less. Maybe I’ll tell that story some other time.
We are staying in Germany for Christmas this year which is far easier to handle than going back to America, which we did last year. I have presents hidden all over this house, camouflaged to fool little detectives. Letters to Santa are written and posted. Nora has high hopes for an American Girl doll and Jack wants a Harry Potter wand “that really works.” He already has a Harry Potter wand which he sleeps with along with a Nerf gun, and 3 swords. And, his bunny, of course.
Nora is right at that age where the magic could disappear in an instant and I want to delay that as long as possible. She is suspicious because the tooth fairy forgot one time. And, she notices that Santa’s gifts all come with brand names like The Gap, Apple, and Disney. “Does Santa just go around stealing this stuff from stores?” she recently asked me. So then I launched into an impromptu explanation about how Santa and the elves have an extensive network of toy-making partners and now that Steve Jobs is dead he’ll ride around with Santa in his sleigh. Is that so wrong?
Anyway, that is a much better image of Santa than I got the other day while at the shopping mall, Main Taunus Zentrum. I was hurrying from the parking garage, trying to squeeze in 3 errands in 30 minutes, when I saw him, Methadone Santa. His frame was gaunt, no jolly belly under the red and white suit. A long grey ponytail hung out from under his white wig. He hung close to the wall, taking slow, ambling steps, stopping on occasion. I slowed down and tried to make eye contact but he looked away quickly. He was clutching something in his arms and I looked closer–and what before my wondering eyes should appear? A brochure for large kitchen knives. Naturally. Then he scurried away to who knows where and I remain forever haunted.