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Dad’s Christmas Wish List

12/03/2014 21:18, Published by Sandy Kauten, Categories: In Print, Parenting



When I was a kid, my folks encouraged me to send Santa my Christmas wish lists. So every year I’d ask in vain for a pony, a six-shooter and a pair of spurs (for jingling only; I would never hurt the pony). Although I never stopped wanting to be a cowboy, I did eventually learn to guide my wishes toward actual possibilities.          

And this year’s list represents my best-ever job of wishing. It consists of concessions and indulgences big and small that would mean a lot to me, but wouldn’t cost anyone a dime.

From my 12-year-old daughter Wendy: I want a smile.

You see, I bring photos of my wife and kids to the office and put them up all around my desk so I can look upon their sweet faces whenever the job gets me down. Likewise, I feel as though my loved ones are bearing sympathetic witness to my daily travails on their behalf.

But amid the angelic smiles and general projection of support and serene good-will, there are the many faces of my youngest child. Wendy scowling, leering or sneering; Wendy agog, agape or aghast; Wendy hunching her shoulders, squashing her nose or crossing her eyes; Wendy disgruntled, disfigured or demented. These pictures show spirit, imagination and an admirable rubber-faced mobility of expression. They add a certain liveliness and variety to my family shrine, the way a rabid skunk in church might spice up Sunday services.

But when I’m pulling wearily at my oar and the other slaves are yanking on my chains, customers are catapulting flaming casks at our vessel, or the boss’ cat-o-nine-tails is whistling around my ears, the satanic grimaces of Wendy do not whisk me away to a happier place.     

So I’d like Wendy to look forthrightly into my camera when I ask her to – and smile like a normal person. 

From my 15-year-old daughter Sally, I’m tempted to ask for the surrender of a certain too-sexy orange India-print dress, low-cut and short. But it’s the holiday season and it’s the wrong time to get between a girl and her gay apparel.

Besides, there’s something I’d much rather have: Sally’s permission to tag along to marching-band camp next summer as a chaperone. Every August, Good Times Regional High School’s Plumed Legion retreats to the mountains for five days to indoctrinate the freshmen and to learn their new music. Although they drill all day, they romp all night. Last year, I watched Sally pack for the trip. Her luggage contained a SuperSoaker XP-310 (an assault rifle of water guns), a bucket for throwing cold water into showers, balloons for water fights, Icy Hot liniment for application to toilet seats, and 40 live crickets with which to infest the boys’ bedding. “Sally, you can’t take this stuff; they’ll kick you out of the band,” I said.

"Dad,” she said, “You don’t understand. The chaperones don’t mind pranks; they only care about booze, drugs and sex.”  

Parents who have gone to camp, support Sally’s claim. The chaperones nap during the all-day rehearsals and then stay up all night, drinking strong coffee, playing cards, and sneaking around the cabins to make sure no one is getting drunk or pregnant. Band camp is not a chance for quality time with Junior, but it sounds like a fun adventure and each year I’m eager to sign up. So far, Sally has always said, “No way!” and I think that’s her right. But maybe this year, if she knows how much I want to go, the spirit of Christmas will melt her little snowball of a heart.

From my 19-year-old daughter Marie, my gift has already been promised.

When she left home for college, I was very sad. The first week I wrote her five letters. Everything seemed to remind me of her as I mourned the end of our time together. I kept buying the foods she likes even though she wasn’t around to eat them. And on quiet weekend mornings I still go into her empty room and visit her old teddy bear, who, like me, is a threadbare and obsolete relic of Marie’s childhood.

Then I received a letter from Marie. She wrote, “We’ve taken lots of family road trips, but we haven’t done Texas. Why don’t we go there in January when I have some time off from school? Just you and me. Mom could stay home and take care of my annoying sisters and you’d even get to wear a cowboy hat and no one would laugh at you... maybe.”

From my lovely wife: Two weeks’ furlough.

And from Santa? How about that pony? But I’ll need two, amigo. Please have ‘em saddled and waiting for us in Laredo. 

Rick can be reached at rickepstein@yahoo.com


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