Suzette Standring: Shifting Santa into second

Suzette Martinez Standring

Christmas comes but once a year, and my nearly 3-year-old granddaughter is anti-Santa. Isabella doesn’t care how many presents he brings, she doesn’t want to see him.

“I no like him.  No want it,” she said.

Tracing back into her childhood (all 33 months of it), her “St. Nick” wiring probably went haywire last year. There in a corner of a downtown lower level, we happened upon an in-store Santa.

Isabella’s eyes widened at the bright red, bearded man ho-ho-ho’ing at her.

“Tell him what you want for Christmas, honey!” I said, trying to lift her onto Santa’s lap.

Well, it was like giving a fisher cat a bath. Isabella screeched, clawed and clung to me in fright. I quickly moved her away, fearing I had caused trauma.

 “I don’t like Santa,” she said recently when I talked about another holiday visit. She still remembered last year’s episode.

“Well, if she doesn’t want to sit on the laps of strange fat men, it’s probably not a bad thing,” said my husband, cheerfully.

Well, maybe shifting Santa into second isn’t so bad.

The original reason for the season is the birth of Christ, and baby Jesus does not scare Isabella. Lately, when the miniature infant is missing from my Nativity tableaux, I’ll find it on a pillow covered with a blanket or on the top of our dog’s bed.

“Baby Jesus taking a nap,” Isabella explains. She’s learning that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

One of Isabella’s favorite books is “A Gift for the Christ Child” by Tina Jahnert. Even though it’s a Christmas book, she’s been read from it since summer. Isabella is crazy about the animal pictures:

“That’s a cow.”

“That’s a donkey.”

“Where are the pigs?”

When she spots the infant in the manger, she happily shrieks, “The baby!”

Only now she’s starting to understand the story. In the book, little Miriam gives up her blanket, a most prized possession, to help keep the newborn Jesus warm.

This seriously strains Isabella’s understanding since few can pull her own “Stripey” away from her. 

“Miriam give her blankey to baby Jesus?” she asked incredulously.

This year, my daughter Star wants to involve Isabella in child-related charity; maybe toy collecting or visiting a homeless shelter to play with kids and to bring presents.

“I want Isabella to think about what we’re giving to Jesus on his special day instead of what we’re getting. And what Jesus wants is for us to show love for each other,” said her mom.

Celebrating a very special baby is something Isabella can understand. To her, the animals in the manger are party guests and Isabella is drawn to the gentleness of the Madonna.

“I like Mary and the sheep,” she told me.

For whatever reason, she’s still a bit leery of Santa, but she’ll outgrow that eventually. Meanwhile, together we can always pen a letter to “The North Pole.”

But baby Jesus makes Isabella feel safe, and perhaps a little ray of compassion is starting to grow in her. After all, the point of this very best of all birthdays is to light the world with love.

May blessings abound to all!

Suzette Martinez Standring is the author of “The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists.” She lives near Boston. Her Web site is http://www.readsuzette.com or contact her at suzmar@comcast.net