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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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Fa La La Land

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As we all rush into this holiday season, it settles me to know that to my children, there's nothing essentially different about Christmas. You didn't expect me to say that, did you? The pat response to the yuletide is something like this: 'It's a magical season of joy and giving.' Yeah, yeah, yeah. There is joy. There is giving. We all know they're excited about the presents. My kids love singing a good 'Jingle Bells, Batman Smells' just as much as the next kids do. But, kids, they live in 'fa la la' land all year long.

My daughter keeps a pencil in her pillow case in case she feels the urge to write before she gets some shut-eye. This way, she has something handy (or heady) to write with without getting up. In the morning, she snaps her fingers three times before she climbs out of bed. I'm not sure why she does this or when she started her nocturnal writing, snappy morning habit, but I'm absolutely in love with her. How could anyone be this magical? In hindsight, I was either an equally interesting child or a horrible bore. My mother won't confirm or deny.

The point is, kids live in la la land. Just when I think I've got a good handle on their modus operandi, they do something totally unexpected. My son has been dead-set against eating squashy, mashed potato-like food for years. The other day I told him, 'You loved squash as a baby!' To this half-truth he said, 'You're right. I did love squash. Yum-yum!' I watched him devour two helpings of the orange stuff followed by a full chug of milk. I didn't bother to ask him if he wanted to try some of Daddy's sweet potato souffle. Why push the Thanksgiving miracle?

Equally mystical is my oldest child's obsession with any sort of acrobatics that require a flourish. Her favorite feat? Couch flipping. She flips over the couch (backwards and forwards) only to straighten up, point her toes and fling her hands in the air like Mary Lou Retton. Ever since she's perfected the flourish, she's been cartwheeling around the house, the yard, my classroom, the hallway, the soccer field you name it, and she's done a floor routine there. I think she likes standing in place with her hands up more than actually moving.

Today we went shopping in the big city. Armed with their Christmas lists, some newly-minted money and my mother-in-law, we hit the mall. As we walked in, I remembered a conversation over cold breakfast cereal one morning this past summer. The girls were hatching a plan to live in the mall. 'We'll just meet the people at the door, give them some money to get their presents somewhere else, and then sleep in the mall! We could eat there and wear new clothes every day. We would have all the toys we wanted and always have new stuff!' The utter joy that came over their faces resembled rampant consumerism. I didn't know whether to be amused or horrified.

I remember telling them that life wasn't just about things. Clothes and toys and new shiny stuff would get old after a while. Turns out that's the one thing they didn't buy. As we rarely make the trek to their mecca, they hadn't had occasion to test the theory until today. After an hour of walking around, pawing over purses, hats and shoes, bumping into people and praying for serenity, I looked at my cell phone. Time to meet my mother-in-law at the rendezvous point. Ten minutes short of an eternity later, I suspected Mimi got waylaid by my material girls. I gave her cell a ring and prepared myself for the inevitable, 'We're still trying on clothes,' or some such falderal.

You know what they were doing? Riding the escalators at Macy's. They were all shopped out, God love 'em. In fact, when I arrived and told them it was time to go they said, 'Can't we go up just one more time?! Please, Mumma!'

Now I'd like to say that in the dizzying joy of that simple moment, I let them take one more express ride up the escalator, but I had to get to Target before dark. I bundled them up and braced myself for the cold without a backwards glance.

Turns out, I had my priorities wrong. I didn't see the magic of that moment, but they did (for the record, so did Mimi.) It wasn't in the stuff in our bags, or the hope of crossing one more thing off the list. The magic is in the small wonders right in front of us.

Next time we hit Macy's, I'm going to let them ride that escalator all day long. And when Mimi's tired of that, she can bring them to the Clinique counter.

Someone's got to supervise while getting a facial.


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