He’s Makin’ a List and How

This tale is from The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life, a fowl collection of humor columns I composed for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network over the course of 20 years. The Goose is available for chicken feed in print or ebook from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

What do you want for Christmas? Does anything ignite a child’s dreams quite like that question?

My kids promptly spent days at the kitchen table poring over every toy catalog on the planet and dutifully listing the objects of their desire. Jesse’s list rapidly hit 15 pages and counting.

“At least I can tell his teacher that he’s getting plenty of practice with his penmanship,” my wife said.


Handsome handwriting aside, Jesse authored a literary masterwork, the Moby Dick of Christmas lists. For your approval, I submit Page 8:

Time machine, toothbrush, chess game, camera, dino checkers, serpasaurus robot, telescope, flying saucer, asteroid gripper, Eat My Dust sign, SpongeBob SquarePants movies, pogo stick, Ancient Diabolo, Hogwarts Express, Spiderman Lego set, Star Wars X-Wing ship, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Spiderman DVD, microphone, swimming flippers, moon shoes, jumpolene, DVD player, Game Cube, Play Station, L.L. Driver golf cart, chemistry set, jet airliner. (I assume he means one of them mothballed 747s.)

I don’t wish to accuse my son of extortion, but he indicated his desire for items as such: 1) I want it; 2) I want it very much; 3) I’ll play with it all the time; 4) I need it; 5) I’ll play with it my whole entire life; 6) I want it very, very, very, very much; 7) I absolutely need it; 8) I’ll hate Christmas if I don’t get it; 9) I’ll go in the Army if I don’t get it.

I sure hope they’re looking for a few good 7-year olds because Santa Claus is going to need a strong truss or an 18-wheeler to haul all that swag to our house. As it is, papa will have to knock over a few filling stations just to fund the family’s usual holiday revelry.

All of this underscores the difference between being a child and a parent at this time of year. Kids are free to dream without boundaries. Parents must dine on reality’s cold gruel: bills, finding time in an insane schedule to shop for presents and decorate, bills, bills and more bills.

My wife has a recurring dream: It’s Christmas Eve and she has yet to buy any gifts or make preparations. The cold, clammy hand of holiday pressure is already upon her. As for me,

I will be quite happy to exchange modest gifts such as hearty handshakes and promises of undying love.

We stuck a fork in our piggy bank when we bought a new minivan. Now my car is on its last legs, crawling and rattling like a snake whenever I go up a hill. Maybe if I’m good, Santa will bring me a new one or at least a printing press so I can run off a few sheets of fifties in the basement in the dead of night.

This time of year is just tailor-made for dreaming.

Care to open another sample? How about Father’s Day Pondly Remembered?