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If you’re a parent, you don’t need to read the rest of this story.
It’s the story of the kid and the Santa jig, and the jig is up, and you are left as the grownup fool telling your kids for the past eight years that a giant fat man breaks into their house each year. If you’re already a parent of a kid older than mine, you know the sock-in-the-gut feeling of your baby’s childhood blinking away.
Today was that day.
I picked up my sweet Thing 2 from school, a rarity since returning to work. I took her out for a special treat (curry meat pie — my girl is special) and we spied friends outside. While we were chatting with them, our favorite toddler boy, Teddy said, looking at his hand-me-down pink tricycle, “Dis bike too small fo-me!” And his parents replied, “Well maybe you.should.ask.for.a.new.BIKE.from.SAN.TA!
And that was it.
She got it.
In one sentence. It was over.
She looked at me, took my hand, squeezed hard, and said, “Yeah, ‘Santa, or Mommy and Daddy.”
Stunned, I took her by the hand and walked away. I stared at my buddies with that Oh-Holy-Crap-That-Just-Didn’t-Happen eye stare. But it had happened. And there was no going back.
I tried to undo-the-undoable. I told her that our friends were trying to talk their son into asking for a bicycle from Santa instead of from their parents because bikes are expensive. And parents can’t afford bikes. And Santa helps because he can. And, you know, wink, wink, wink.
She didn’t buy it.
She rolled her eyes at me.
So I took her for a fancy haircut at a grownup hair salon to distract her.
Or maybe, to distract me.
She got a bob cut.
It made her look young.
I looked at her, confused. My eight-year-old floors me frequently.
“Mom, it’s Yom Kippur, today is the day they get to erase all their mistakes.” My brilliant, beautiful, daughter. I told her we all have a chance to erase our mistakes and she tells me, “But today, my eraser can be for them to make their mistakes get erased easier.”
The worst holiday ever? Valentine’s Day, of course. Watch fellow iVoices reporters and me chat about our most, um, memorable Valentine’s Day gifts. Love, hearts and twinkles. Blech.
“Valentine’s Day is coming!,” La Gringa said yesterday. “Shut the hell up”, I thought, as we were herded toward the Christmas blowout sale aisle with another three dozen bargain shoppers. If the post-holiday season wasn’t depressing enough, try perusing through the 75% off racks at Target with once-carefully thought-out gift options, now chucked on the ground, grinding under my shopping cart. The Target message was clear: the holidays are over sucker, move on the Valentine’s Day! MLK Day Commemorative Plates! SuperBowl Sunday Chip’n'Dip Bowls!
It suddenly hit me: Target is ruling my spending, my holidays and my calendar.
Now, like all good neighborhood residents, I try hard to shop locally, but Target is Target and we all eat from the same trough of discount deals, readily available everythings and decent selections. If you’ve got a lunch break, you go to Target, if you’ve got a bunch of errands, you go to Target, if you need uniforms, kids underwear, bananas, a birthday card and a new scale all at once, you go to Target (For the record, you don’t ever buy your wife a new wardrobe at Target for her birthday, trust me.). The problem is, Target is leading loyal customers into truly believing that it’s the benchmark for all things commerce. That’s where I draw the line.
There things to be mindful of when shopping at Target as a regular source of purchasing:
1. Emotion Marketing. Because Target says it’s time to start buying Easter baskets in February, doesn’t mean you should. Or that it should be on your mind, or in your current budget. It’s hard to resist, right? This year I saw Back to School clothes for sale at Target in June. By August when I went to buy the uniforms, they were sold out. You’re kidding me, right? I used to get my school uniforms the weekend before school started and supplies, the day after school started. Target has me thinking about — and buying — items on their marketing schedule, not mine.
2. Selection and Variety. We need a new scale. Target has four kinds of scales. Good variety, right? If Target doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist, or costs too much or is too much of a pain to get in the car and go across town to the shop that specializes in such things. There are four types to choose from, just pick one, right? The same goes for toys, kids clothes and seasonal tsotchke. I couldn’t find a silver cardigan for my daughter at Target, so I just didn’t buy it. The developmental kids toys are the same everywhere and I should just pick one of them in the “developmental” toys aisle at Target — well, at least that’s my thinking. Yesterday I staged a rebellion: I’m going to (a) research scales (b) determine what kinds of features I want (c) read the reviews. Then, I’ll go to Target and if they have it, great, I’ll stick it in my cart next to the deodorant and Intro to Yoga DVD, but if they don’t, I won’t be a slave to the Target machine, I will buy the scale I want to buy. Maybe. That is, er, f I have time and I don’t have to stop by Target anyway on my way to pick up my kid from ballet.
3. Setting the bar. I am often reminded when I question authority, process and procedures that most things are geared toward marketing toward, or communicating with, the lowest common denominator. Everything from public school to airport security screenings are designed for Bozo the Clown, so it’s no surprise that even my son calls out the low bar of marketing messaging. “What does ‘MORE SWEAT FOR LESS’ mean, Mommy?,” my 7-year-old asks. “It means you can pay less money for sweat pants,” I replied. “Why do I want to sweat more for less?” he answered. Indeed son, why? For the love of all that is good: My kid is calling out the low level communication strategies. But you know what I did, huh? Huh? I turned around to see if they had the same sale for women’s sweat pants.
And so it goes. I love me my “Tar-jay” I know that I’m part of a marketing machine and I expect the bar to be set low. I’m never disappointed nor impressed. I won’t be deterred from the big red circle and cheap popcorn at the front door. I won’t either be impressed by quality, selection or price. But here’s the kicker, see… I don’t have to like it, but it’s hard not to.
We watched as my mom released 10 balloons into the sky on New Year’s Eve singing at the top of our lungs, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, Hey, hey, hey Good-bye!” Under my breath I whispered to her, “See you later, sucky year.”
2010 was a crap year.
There is nothing like the shadow of a sick mom to put a haze over even the best of years — months and weeks clouded by hospital visits, medication and status reports. Then the second shoe dropped: La Gringa’s mom had lung cancer too. Both our moms down for the count. Shockingly, we’re the ones who were lucky this year. One street over, my friend Rita was holding it together for her husband and children, but before the year ended, she’d said goodbye to her husband, not to a slew of balloons. My dear friend and soul mate Elliot died this year too from brain cancer. In a screwed twist of fate, his brain was known well for being far beyond any of ours. My friend Jill’s mom died suddenly on her anniversary morning after beating cancer the previous year– how whacked is that? El Ano Horrible also brought on bitch-slaps to savings accounts everywhere, sending most of us into (gasp!) cutting our Anthropologie budgets to halt. The year also a bust of companies I loved, worked for and was loyal to — from layoffs to shut-downs, Silicon Valley seemed to be on a colossal roller coaster.
I literally could not wait to say goodbye to 2010. And this morning, the first morning of the next decade, I cannot wait for 2011 to get started, looking toward a year that is just simply better than the last.
It’s quite possible that I could be disowned for this one, but my grandmother has long passed and I’m just daring enough to give you the best holiday gift I have can offer: my fudge recipe. My only tip: timing is everything Oh, and one more: don’t forget to lick the bowl. Here you go, the one and only non-hand printed version of our family’s favorite:
Garza Girl’s Fudge
4 1/2 cups white sugar
1 can evaporated milk
36 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped rough fine
1/2 # unsalted butter, cut in chunks
10 ounces good quality marshmallows
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 cups rough chop walnuts
Bring sugar and milk to a soft ball stage (don’t mess with it while it’s working its magic). Remove from heat. Add butter, chocolate and marshmallows and rapidly incorporate fully. Add walnuts and finish with vanilla. Place in baking sheet and cool at room temperature until set (about two hours). Cut fudge into one-inch squares.