Monday, December 31, 2007

You Gotta Believe

Only 13 more hours left to post in 2007!

The old year feels old, now. I'm about ready to be done with it, even though it wasn't a bad year, all told. Not boring, in any case. But I have a few posts still knocking around my head that have morphed into Big Ideas, and that's generally the kiss of death as far as actually getting them written down is concerned--the bigger they get, the less chance that I'll actually feel up to tackling them in the 20-minute increments I usually have handy.

One of them is on Entitlement, and one's on Belief. Yah. Like I said, way too big. And both topical, as they have to do with this nearly-passed Holiday Season.

So. Entitlement will have to wait. For now, 15 minutes on belief:

As I've written about before [no time to link now, maybe I'll fix it up later] we don't do Santa Claus at our house; the Renaissance Woman being Danish, and celebrating Danish Jul, we instead have nisse: house elves that come on the night of the 24th and eat the rice pudding that good Danish households leave out for them. If they're pleased, they'll do some housework in payment, but they don't leave actual presents.

Except, a couple of years ago, when we had a housesitter watching our house over the holiday break, there were some Danish coins left on the table next to the clean and empty rice pudding bowl when we returned. And then, last year, a note was left for the Mermaid Girl on the 25th: in scrawling, untidy letters, just the way a little elf might write if it were trying to grasp a human-sized pencil with unfamiliar hands, was written "TAK FOR MAD" [thanks for the meal, in Danish].

MG, thrilled, squirreled the note away in the mass of paper and plastic that is her room, where we all forgot all about it.


We moved. And in the course of the move, that explosion of paper and plastic got churned up, and MG happened upon the note.

And one day, a couple of months ago, MG and I were having a pleasant after-school conversation about how tricky some people can be, when her face clouded over.

"Mama's tricky," she said. "And she thinks she's tricky in a fun way, but she's NOT."

She went on to explain: she'd found the note from the Nisse, wondered about it from a new, older, more skeptical point of view, and confronted RW about it. Upon which RW confessed to writing the note herself.

MG was upset, of course. And I was nonplussed--the Renaissance Woman hadn't had a chance to tell me about this newest revelation, and I wasn't sure exactly how the conversation had gone or how I should respond. I ventured that maybe Mama had wanted MG to have something fun to believe in, to make things feel magical for her, and that was why she'd written the note.

Later, RW said that it had all happened pretty much the way MG had reported. She'd been careful, though, not to say that she didn't believe in Nisse herself, and not to confess to actually eating the rice pudding--just to writing the note.

I wondered how things would go this year. But MG seemed happy to set out rice pudding again. She even put it in a small pitcher from her tea set, provided a tea-set spoon to eat it with, and hand-wrote a note in alternating red and green pencil: "Dear Nissel. We hope you like this rice pudding. from MG."

Late that night, after we'd eaten the food and lit the tree and opened the presents and said goodnight to the guests and rolled the girl into bed, the Reanaissance Woman rolled over in bed and turned to me. "Oh!" she said. "I need you to do me a favor. You need to go out to the kitchen and get rid of the rice pudding. It needs to be you who does it. But don't eat it."

So I buried the rice pudding at the bottom of the kitchen garbage, and wiped off the pitcher and spoon--but not perfectly--and turned the note over, and set them on top of it, the pitcher inside the spoon.

The next morning, MG and I were the first ones up. She inspected the empty pitcher gravely, then turned to me with piercing gaze.

"Did you eat the rice pudding?" she demanded, and I was able to swear up and down that I hadn't.

She stalked over to our fireplace and swept her finger along the front of it. "I think it's cleaner than it was last night."

"I didn't clean it!" I said-- again, truthfully. (Actually, nobody had cleaned it.)

She nodded, satisfied. "I think they came!" she didn't say much about it, but there was a small light in her eyes as she looked over the pitcher again, observing that it was clean but not completely clean, and that there was no way that Shy Kitty could have gotten the spoon in the pitcher or turned over the note like that.

RW and I compared notes later--she'd interrogated her, too.

But she never did ask me if I'd done anything with the pudding besides eating it.

I think the truth is that she wants to believe.


Anonymous Arwen said...

Believing in magic was one of the true joys of being a kid. I had a dad who wanted to be up front, and he explained it was all a trick when I was about four. (This may have been just to make my mom angry, I think.)

However, I decided that Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy just didn't come to his house because he was a little unbalanced. *g*

I still believe in fiction. We have places we can touch it as adults - game playing, fairy tales, a good book - but I also touch it in Santa coming for my kids.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Monkeypants said...

I never want to stop believing.

4:38 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I concluded this Christmas that I think my mother still wants to believe in Santa.

And I must say that this post is just the perfect thing, for Politica and I have realized because of our own family drama this year around our visit to my sister's that we need to cultivate a better sense of our own family traditions, which means we need to create some, in our new place for next year, and while I can't completely explain it all in the comment box, let me say that this post has helped me think of some ways to approach our own version of the December Dilemma with much better grace and joy. So thanks for another one of those "omigoshhowcouldsheknowIneededtoreadthattonight" sorts of posts.

5:56 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Beautiful post, beautiful tradition.

7:57 PM  

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