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  • Mike Martinez

Christmas with Children

Is there anything as wonderful as spending Christmas with children? Adults acquire a hardened exterior, a public façade throughout the years — they had better develop a tough outer shell, or life will get ugly — but children remain free of guile, at least until the onset of a disease called “adolescence.”

Watching my grandchildren Ellie (age 6) and Emma (age 1) enjoy Christmas in 2014 reminded me of what a magical time the holiday season can be for children.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, my mother and I frequently traveled up to see my relatives in Washington, D.C., at Christmastime. I fondly recall all the days and nights of activity and conviviality. I also remember the excitement of counting down the days until Santa Claus arrived carrying a bundle of presents.

I am determined to help my grandchildren experience the same kind of joy I knew when I was growing up.

They give me great joy, too, for children say the most wonderful things.

One evening a few weeks ago, I was watching TV with Ellie. It was a nature show. Anyway, I was explaining something to him about the show, and he asked, “Gosh, papa, how do you know so much?”

Beaming, I said, “Well, Ellie, I have been around a long time. I’m old. When you get old, you learn things along the way.”

“Papa, you’re not old,” he said. I thought: What a sweet child! Then he finished his thought: “You’re super old!”

Ah, well. I suppose he’s right. I certainly feel super old on most days.

Anyway, Santa Claus was good to Ellie this year. Santa brought a Nintendo 3DS XL game system and three game cartridges to go with it. Ellie also received an assortment of books, a Spiderman action figure, a Spiderman clock, Hot Wheels cars, and so many smaller items that I cannot list them all.

Emma received dolls, toys, and clothes, but she is still too young to appreciate all the commotion.

Both children had their photographs taken with Santa Claus. Ellie sometimes takes a terrible photograph because he wears a fake smile or no smile at all. His photograph with Santa was fabulous, though. He appeared to be genuinely happy. When I asked him why it was such a good picture and why he wore a nice smile, he looked at me and rolled his eyes. “I love Santa,” he said, a world-weary hipster speaking to a slow-witted, super-old man.

Emma also posed with St. Nick. The photographer snapped many shots. In some proofs, she appeared uncertain, perhaps frightened, apparently questioning who this old man was and why she had to sit on his lap. In the pose we finally selected, her face was captured in profile. She examined Santa quizzically, still unsure about the situation, but not frightened.

Next year, she probably will be thrilled when she realizes Santa soon will show up at the house bearing marvelous mountains of merchandise. He's not such a strange old man after all.

Yes, spending Christmas with children is a magical time. It’s also a great way to close out my last blog of 2014.

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