The Naughty List

The Soundtrack to the movie Annie was sitting on the table beside me. It was staring at me like it was the last cookie in the jar. So naturally I reached for it.  

"No, no," my older sister Kari said while she pushed the cassette closer to the tape player, "Not for you." 

Not for me? Nothing was ever for me.  I wasn't even allowed to drink out of my bottle anymore. EVER. I had resorted to taking tiny sips from my cousin's when he wasn't looking. I had been stealing chugs out of Chris' bottle for close to a year. Apple juice just didn't taste the same out of a cup.

I swear I can still hear my Aunt say to my Mother, "Well at least he drank his juice," when Chris hadn't eaten all of his dinner.  I always thought I should have chimed in, but then they would have known what I had been doing. And even would have to stop. Maybe it tasted better coming out of the bottle or maybe it was knowing that it was wrong to drink from it that made it oh so good. Whatever it was, I swear my eyes would roll in the back of my head when I put back that bad boy. It was simply not how a good girl behaved. In fact, it was rather naughty.

So there I was, too young to play with big girl stuff, yet too old to reap the benefits of being a baby. I was angry and my damn pigtails were hurting again. I always felt like my mother made them extra tight to punish me for wiggling around and carrying on while she combed my hair.

So when Kari was out of the room, I ripped the hairbands out of my head and hurdled my toddler ass onto the end table. I was like a monkey dangling from a tree trunk. Once I had the Annie tape in hand, I swung my way over the side of the table and landed like a ninja safely back onto the ground. Before I could contain myself, I was pulling the tape out of the Annie cassette.

To this day I cannot fully explain what I was thinking, but I can still remember what I was feeling—pure, unadulterated nourishment. Sometimes it just felt so good to do something so bad. Within seconds, I had a pretty significant pile of tape in front of me and was tangling it every which way possible. Needless to say, that same toddler ass that was bum-rushing end tables was as bright and red as Rudolph's nose minutes later.  My sister Kari listened to that Annie tape nearly every day, which made that bum tutoring that much more deserved. Boy it would have been nice to have that bottle full of apple juice to wash down that spanking.

This happened a little over a month before Christmas so all of those creepy "Santa is watching you," lines were of course used against me by both my parents.

I couldn't help but wonder, "Who did this guy think he was spying on me?" And if he was watching me all the time, maybe I didn't need to bathe as often. It would be a win-win. There would be more time to play and wreak havoc at night and I wouldn't have a fat man checking me out in the tub. When I said win-win, I was only thinking of myself obviously.

I didn't quite "get" Santa at that young age, but as time went on, every warning about him watching began to work. That was until the Christmas where I started to question Santa's existence. It all began when I tripped my sister while she was skateboarding past me. Christy was airborne for what seemed like five minutes before she hit the pavement and chipped her tooth. We both sobbed for close to an hour. She cried because both her skateboard and tooth needed some aesthetic remodeling. I cried because I really didn't mean to hurt my sister.  On some level I had thought tripping her would be funny— some sick kid I was. Regardless, I knew this would have some pretty extensive repercussions for the Christmas season coming up.

I wrote an apology to my sister and of course wrote Santa. I knew that creeper had already seen what I did so why not go in there with my head down in full admittance. Then I went into school on that Monday. It was right after Thanksgiving so the Santa-chatter had already started in my third grade class, but this year it was different. The girls were all huddled in a circle in front of the school. My friend Allison had heard from her neighbor that Santa wasn't real. Gasp. This was not what I wanted to start my week with. Give me a break, there was just no way he wasn't real. My other friends Meredith and Jessica seemed to be pretty sold on this story though. Could it be?

I went about that holiday season with an extra ear on the adults. They weren't going to get anything by me. So when Christmas Eve came, I was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Santa Claus came every single year to my Aunt Teresa and Uncle Alan's house. There was no better opportunity than this.

All twenty-five (plus) of us would gather in the living room and begin singing Christmas carols to lure Santa into the house. The louder we sang, the more likely he would appear. We would all then be called up to Santa to receive one gift out of his sack. I mean talk about a production. You don't get more Italian than this... A nice, loud room full of people all of which are singing and cheering. All having just been fed a plethora of delicious home-cooked Italian food and fish that was by and large better than all of the expensive Italian restaurants in our neighborhood.

When Santa finally did enter the room that year I kept a special eye on him. So when I was called up to sit on his lap, daring to ask him for gifts I knew I didn't deserve, it hit me. In that close view, Santa did not have rosy cheeks or a belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly. His eyes did not look old and wrinkly. His beard was not fluffy, but instead rather crinkly. When he asked what I wanted I began to decipher a familiar voice.  This was a voice I had heard my whole life. Could it be? I paused and looked up at his light brown eyes. They were supposed to be blue like the ocean….

"Tell Santa what you want, sweetheart," Grandma yelled from the crowd of relatives.

I spouted off some Barbie items that I wanted and a few video games while managing to not utter, "Thanks, Uncle Alan." I had to contain myself for the sake of my two younger cousins who would surely be disappointed to find out that their father was posing as Santa Claus.

When we went home that night, instead of kissing my parents goodnight and running off to bed in anticipation of Christmas morning, I crawled onto the foot of my parent's bed while my mother took off her make-up and washed her face. It was something I loved watching my mother do. She looked so refreshed before she went to bed; so rejuvenated. It went right along with her usual bedtime quote, "Getting into bed is so delicious." Mom certainly made it look that way.

I confronted her right there and then. She couldn't deny that Uncle Alan was pretending to be Santa. It was so obvious. He was mysteriously missing from the room during the whole hour that Santa was there.

Mom explained to me that Uncle Alan and all of the mall Santas were just acting as Santa's helpers.  I didn't know if I was buying it, but then something crazy happened after all of our gifts were opened the next morning. The five of us were sitting around the counter in the kitchen, eating Christmas morning breakfast when Dad yelled, "It looks like Santa dropped something on his way out last night!" I ran over to the fireplace where Dad was standing to find a Barbie sitting right on the bottom of the fireplace. I believed for the rest of that day that Santa did exist.

A few years ago I asked her why she bothered keeping up the Santa act. I was already nine, why not just tell me the truth?

"It was nice having Santa to blame when you didn't like a gift, " Mom answered jokingly.  "You were also always in some kind of trouble. What else did I have to hold over you if there wasn't a Santa watching you?" Smart woman.

Then Mom gently tucked my hair behind my ear and explained that I was the youngest so after me there was no more Santa in the house. "You will understand when you have your last baby," she said and gave me a hug that I can still feel today. 

Baby's first Christmas, December 2013
And so to my first baby on your second Christmas, I wish only the best things for you. I wish for the lights on our Christmas tree to glow on your little face and spark wonder in your heart every single night. I hope you keep dancing every time you hear a Christmas carol until someday you know all of the words and can sing a melody. Above anything else I could ever hope or dream for you, my sweet girl, I urge you to always look at the world the way we all do during this time of year. Dare to believe in miracles and new beginnings. Fearlessly believe in yourself and that you can make a difference in this crazy place. And remember to turn all of your naughty moments into something nice, even though Momma knows being naughty can be more fun.....


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