Nate and Sam's Christmas Special

It’s almost Christmas! No matter how you measure it, Christmas is heeeere.


Nate and Sam are new to Christmas. Nate knows who Santa is and he knows he’s owed presents. For now, per the myth we’ve instilled in him: Santa is Jesus’ sidekick. They’re both omniscient and omnipresent. If one of them misses a child’s infraction or mortal sin, he will be informed about it by the other one. They collect as much intelligence as the most vigilant autocratic regime and together they, battle the evil transgressions of minors all year round.


I’m confident I can still get a lot of mileage out of that fantastical fable. It allows me to demand the best behavior without actually being strict. “I’m just speaking on behalf of Santa Claus and Jesus here! They definitely do NOT want you to color the electrical outlets with crayons. Their rule, not mine—sorry!”


Even the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving morning had advertisements on every other float: Hass avocadoes, Delta Airlines, Ocean Spray, KFC, and Planter's Peanuts. Fortunately, Nate and Sam were so astounded by Rachel Platten’s mid-parade performance of a song that wasn’t “Fight Song”—formerly their favorite tune—to notice the blatant commercialism.


Jaw still on the floor, Nate turned to Tighe, “Dad, do people still like ‘Fight Song?’”


We’ve tried to develop his generosity in hopes of replacing the greed. What are you going to get Sam for Christmas, Nate? And your teachers? And [insert family member’s name here]?


Apparently, Sam only wants a McDonald’s smoothie. And his teachers only want chips and salsa. And according to a commercial he saw while watching football a few weeks ago, Tighe wants a Corona.


Nate pored through a Harry and David’s catalog recently while I orated on nonsense about how it’s better to give than receive. He began identifying the gift baskets in there that he wanted, that he’d like to order for friends and family and then conveniently visit as they’re being delivered. That might be okay, except that all the baskets he picked out were cookies and chocolates, no fruit nor nuts.


Sam remains clueless about the ramifications about bad behavior in December. He’s vaguely aware of Christmas—he knows we have a Christmas tree and each person possesses a stocking dangling from the mantle and that there are two Advent calendars in the dining room with tiny pieces of chocolate in them. Oh, he knows that part well. Too well.


But still, I thought it’d be safe to take him Christmas shopping while Nate was at school.


With Nate, such a trip would be suicide—either for my credit card or for me or for Nate. One of the three of us would not survive.


With Sam, though, it was kind of fun—at first. His little blue eyes got wide when he saw balls, wooden dinosaur puzzles, Lego’s (so did mine!), and the Thomas trains! But as I got a little more intentional about my browsing—“I wonder if they have…”—Sam refused to keep up.


I caught him trying desperately to pry open one of the train sets, “Please, Mom! Please!” Like a junkie. He was practically shaking.


Fortunately, the next aisle had something equally appealing and distracting, so I was able to progress him a little further towards the exit.


“Look Sam, horses! Oooh, Ninja Turtles! A dance machine, Sam! And a pirate ship!” He zigzagged along behind me.


Suddenly, I glanced back and he wasn’t with me. With a mild amount of alarm, I retreated, charging to the aisle I had last seen him. He wasn’t there.


After a few increasingly frantic moments, I found him. He had discovered the pretend play area—workbenches, toy kitchens, and a store. And in the store were mini-shopping carts. He had loaded his merchandise, some trains and trucks, into a cart and was pushing it towards me, a smile on his face.


“Are you ready to check out?”


“Yes. Like. Christmas shopping.”


“Of course you do. Look, Sam! Dump trucks!”


As he turned his head to look, I lifted up the small cart and set it down behind some toy mats, out of his sight.


He was actually laughing out loud as he circled the display of Tonka trucks and diggers. But when he selected one and shifted to place it in his cart, his brow furrowed. I could see his confusion as his eyes quickly darted around our immediate area.


He began pacing the aisles, his free hand turned upward, questioningly: “Where are you, Cart? Cart! Cart! Where are you?”


And he never found it. Because I’m smarter than he is.


“Ok, Sam, let’s go home.”


But as I reached down to grab his hand, I realized he was gone again. He had returned to the pretend play area to collect a second cart, this one empty aside from his most recent Tonka acquisitions.


He was aiming for the Minion piñatas when I scooped him up and shoved the cart into another aisle.


Angry for a moment, he recovered when I showed him the small musical instruments ahead of us. Next to the exit. I set him down and he spent a few solid minutes darting back and forth between the keyboard, the drum set, and the microphone, where he breathed heavily on it as he sang “Fight Song.”


He’s not as tone deaf as Nate, but he was still self-conscious about his performance, though I think it was mostly because he heard that Rachel Platten has a new single out.