Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pass It Along

The last Christmas my grandfather was with us, he made certain there was a brightly-decorated tree in our house. Then he gave me a little plush Santa Claus, which became a family treasure. That was seven decades ago. I was two.

Through the years, Little Santa came out every Christmastime to sit through the season on the mantel, or on a music box, or on the player piano. At one point I had to fight off a kidnap attempt by my sister, who was under the impression that Santa was actually hers. But possession being nine points and all that, I prevailed. She finally accepted my version of how he came to our house.

This past month, my grandson fell in love with The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. He'd request four, five, six consecutive readings, then walk through the house, reciting such lines as "My friend told me I wouldn't hear the bells. But I knew better."

I thought I might be able to find a sleigh bell, wrap it, and slip it underneath the pile of gifts on Christmas morning. But as I walked past Little Santa, I noticed that atop his hat was a small bell, a perfect miniature of the one Santa cut off the reins for the boy in The Polar Express. And then it occurred to me: my grandson is two years old.

Some of us write made-up stories, but we all write the stories of our lives. I put together a note to my grandson, telling him the history of Little Santa, folded the note into a box with Santa, wrapped it, and pasted on a tag that said, "Shipped via The Polar Express." My grandson smiled when he opened the box and saw Little Santa, though of course, he didn't come close to understanding the story. But his mother and father did, and in time, he will too.

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