Friday, November 7, 2008

My Son, My S-elf

There are a plethora of genetic defects that I could have passed on to my son. For example, I have the longest earlobes in the free world; I can actually bend them up and stick them in my ears and they stay there. My mom once got them caught in my pigtails. I spent an entire summer in therapy after a traumatic Bible school experiencing involving my participation in a skit acted out during the old VBS standard "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" Thank goodness, so far, Kyser's earlobes seem to be of relatively normal size. Then there is the issue of my chin. There is no delicate or politically correct terminology to describe the horror that fate, destiny, genetics and God visited on my chin so I'm just going to put it out there: my chin looks like a butt...seriously. So "Butthead" to me is not a derogatory phrase, it's simply a way to get my attention for pictures...

These two things, along with my short, fat fingers, my freakishly wide Ubangi warrior nose, my chipmunk cheeks, which come in handy when traveling for extra storage, and my frighteningly long tongue caused me some concern when I discovered there was going to be a condensed soup version of my husband and my self.

But Kyser escaped with relative normalcy...literally.

It wasn't until the Thanksgiving after his third birthday that I began to notice. At first, we just dismissed it. Not wanting to see the signs, James ignored it. But that Thanksgiving night, after supper and our traditional habit of sitting around and complaining about how full we were until we had enough room for dessert it happened. We were all in the kitchen, except for Kyser. And when we went into the living room we found him standing in the middle of the floor with about 500 multicolored Christmas lights wrapped around his various appendages and torso. He didn't apologize, he didn't look like he expected to get in trouble. He looked up at me with those big blue eyes shining and handed me the cord and said those three little words that were the beginning of the end: "Plug me in."

Kyser is a Christmas nerd. He comes by it honestly. By age two, he knew all the words to "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch." That was the year our dog, Zeus, nearly escaped having pencils glued to his head when we weren't watching...antlers like Max. That was the year Kyser learned some of the words to Jingle Bells...which he began singing in July...and usually in Wal-Mart.

It was the next year, the year he decorated himself, that we discovered the movie "Elf". That was the year Kyser attacked a Christmas tree at Walmart in a futile attempt to put a star on the top of it. He also started requesting maple syrup on everything he ate and got trapped in a revolving door in Columbia.

Tonight we put up a Christmas tree in Kyser's room. His reasoning is that the light from the tree will help make his room warmer. But he doesn't have to explain to me. I come from a long line of premature decorators. I was fine with putting up that little Shrek green three foot fiber optic tree. He wouldn't let me put ornaments on it yet because he just wants to look at it for awhile while its "naked". Then we're going to turn it into a race car and candy tree. But for now, Ky is content to look upon the tree naked...

I often wonder why I feel called upon to start thinking about Christmas after the Fourth of July. Could it be outside marketing pressure? Could it be greed? It could be, but it isn't... It's genuine Christmas nerdology. We didn't have much when I was a kid, but we always felt rich around rich as poor folks could I guess. There were always people in and out of our house, someone was always cooking something and my grandfather, who was a pastor, would take me with him in that old green Dodge Dart Swinger with a huge cooler in the back full of foil covered plates of cookies and candy and full-on Christmas dinners and we would take them to people's homes. It would be so cold in that old car that the vinyl seats were as hard as a church bench, and the smell of all the goodies didn't make it any easier. But Grampa always snuck along a huge thermos of real hot chocolate (the kind that didn't come in a pouch and had no water in it) and peppermint drops to ease the pain of charity. Growing up in a small town, watching Santa Claus come to town on the firetruck, riding my bike uptown to watch them put the Christmas decorations up, I realize that though there were years when our Christmas tree was not sitting atop a huge pile of presents, I never felt like I was missing out.

And so tonight, in our house with no heat because the furnace broke...AGAIN, with a pot of camper's stew cooking in the crock pot and the prospect of a family campout in the living room because it is the warmest and best insulated room in our house, Kyser and I will decorate his naked tree with old, wooden ornaments. You see, we were going to go out and buy new ones but as we were going through the Christmas decorations Kyser and I happened upon a box of little wooden toy ornaments that my family acquired when I was about five. "Mama, mama, mama," he held the box up and shook it to get my attention. "I love these, they are beautiful...can we put them on my naked tree?"
I opened the box and there were the little snowmen and the little toy soldiers and the little rocking horses with their black circle dot eyes and their peeling paint and I thought about all the nights my brother and I would lay under the Christmas tree with all and look up through the branches and my brother would try to tell me how to cross my eyes to make it look like all the lights were moving and about how I would always get a headache trying. And one night my brother had a sneezing fit and shook some of the ornaments loose and I got pelted in the head by the little wooden snowman and it left a mark.
"Please Mama? I promise I won't stick them up my nose again. And I won't put them in the toilet to see if they float. Don't cry Mama, I'm not going break them. I'll be nice with them."
He comes by it naturally, even the nose and the toilet things were familiar to me. And I wasn't crying because I was afraid he was going to flush my wooden gingerbread man down the toilet. I was crying because I was so proud and so happy that the little nut didn't fall far from the Christmas tree.

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