Loading the car to go to the in-laws’ house takes forever. There’s been snow where we’re going, and a lot of it, so we have to load the snow pants and the boots. Michael’s unreasonably cranky, so I have to run back inside to grab the Basi Pharmacy Du Bebe. We’re going to miss trash day, and post-Christmas the recycling fills two rooms (or maybe that’s just because Michael keeps unloading the bags and throwing paper everywhere), so we have to load up the cardboard and paper recycling for a trip to the bins.
The kids are strapped in, cold, and getting restless. Christian’s taking forever to come out of the house, and when he appears, I realize why: he’s carrying THE BOX. The big honking box that held Julianna’s rocking horse, so big that we stuffed it full of other boxes. The box we had to stash under the stairs during the Great Santa Visit of Christmas Eve, because it announced in giant letters, “ONLY AT TOYS R US!!!” and that seemed like a bit of a stretch to a 7-year-old who’s almost connected the dots.
I see the box proceeding across the garage toward the back end of the van, and I think, Uh-oh.
It takes two seconds. “Daddy, what was in that box?” Alex demands.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“But what was in it?”
“Just don’t worry about it, it was in the basement.”
Alex subsides as the hatch closes behind him, and we take off to get gas and a carwash. But then he can’t hold it in anymore. “Did Santa bring Julianna’s horse or not?” he demands. “Because it says TOYS R US on it.”
“Alex, I don’t know, I found it downstairs,” Christian says, while my muscles tense. This whole season I keep thinking it’s just time to tell him already, but it’s important to my husband to stretch it out as long as possible. (He didn’t find out until 4th grade, which I think is a bit ridiculous. I think I knew in the first grade, and it didn’t throw me at all, whereas he was crushed.) So, as I have done half a dozen times this season already, I do what I have to do: I distract. “Hey, anybody want to listen to Christmas CDs?” I ask. “I brought some for the drive.”
“YEAH!” comes the chorus.
Crisis averted. Barely.
Ten minutes later, they’re talking about the weather. “This is just like summer,” says Alex, who is wearing a heavy coat, to Nicholas, whose hands are firmly encased in mittens. “Only with spots of snow. And it’s a little colder.”
“It’s just like red…only blue,” I whisper to Christian.
Today Alex is quite sick. I didn’t think you could get the croup at age 7 3/4, but there it is. I sing again in praise of vaporizers, because yesterday afternoon I thought we were going to have to go to the ER, and in the middle of the night his breathing, two feet from the mist-spewing funnel, was calm. But please pray for him (and all of us) anyway. I’m a little nervous about this virus running laps through the family.