“Is Santa coming to our house?” my son Zack asked as he pulled up his blanket, tossing me an underhand lob before the knuckleball that would be coming soon.
I smiled, happy to see Zack taking charge of his bedding situation. He’d been stubbornly refusing to wrangle his own blanket for pretty much his entire life, finding it more convenient to scream, “COVER ME, DADDY! COVER ME!!!!” at around 3am, or whenever he sensed my REM cycles firing up.
“Christmas isn’t until the end of the month, but I expect he’ll show up. Have you been a good little boy?” I asked. Zack pondered for a long moment.
“Some,” he replied, perhaps understanding that Santa is a guy who appreciates honesty.
“Aw, don’t sell yourself short. You’re a good boy. I’m sure Santa knows that,” I said.
“Is Bad Santa going to come? The bad guy? The black one?” he asked.
I stared at Zack. Who had poisoned his three-year-old mind with whatever he was talking about?
“What? There’s no Bad Santa. Just the good one with the reindeer and the presents,” I said.
“I don’t want Bad Santa to come. The black Santa,” he said, pulling his blanket up a little higher.
I thought back to anything that might explain these questions. Then it hit me: the comic book pillowcase he’d used on the airbed at his aunt’s house two weeks ago.
“Are you talking about Spider-Man? The black Spider-Man?” I asked.
“Yeah, that one. What’s him name?” Zack asked.
“Venom. The bad Spider-Man is named Venom. The good Spider-Man wears a red suit, but other than that, he doesn’t really have anything to do with Santa. Totally different people,” I said.
“Oh, okay. So just the good Santa’s coming to our house?” he asked.
“Well, sort of, except there never was a Bad Santa. Santa is just Santa. Good Santa. Are we on the same page here that Spider-Man and Santa aren’t the same person?” I said.
We talked for a few more minutes, and once I was comfortable that Zack no longer believed a supervillain would be attacking our home on Christmas, I wandered down the hall, where Zack’s older brother, Evan, also had Christmas on his mind.
We’d just spent the evening decorating our Christmas tree, which held the kids’ attention for a solid three ornaments. The rest of the time, my wife, Kara, and I played a zone defense around the tree, trying to keep kids from knocking it over. The exercise did get the kids thinking about the true meaning of how awesome it is to get presents, though.
“Here’s my letter to Santa,” Evan said, holding out a piece of paper festooned with dinosaur stickers. It read: “Dear Santa: I want something that beeps when it runs over a dino fossil or a treasure chest. Evan.”
Let’s get right to the point, Santa. No “I hope this letter finds you well” or “my best to Mrs. Claus.” There are cool things in the ground, and I want them out. That’s where you come in, as my primary supplier of fossil/treasure detectors.
The regular reader(s) of this column may recall that Evan is certain there’s a full dinosaur skeleton buried in our backyard. The only reason we haven’t found it yet is a curious lack of excavating effort on the part of his parents. On the off chance that we don’t have a stegosaurus lurking just underneath his swingset, though, Evan is willing to settle for a treasure chest. He’s a modest child with modest expectations.
He could learn a thing or two from his younger brother, who will just be happy when Santa doesn’t try to wrap us in webs and eat us.
You can knock over Mike Todd’s Christmas tree at firstname.lastname@example.org.