Where to begin? First up - I've been making a list of some of the bits of wisdom you've shared with us over the past month. Like when we were at Mr. Glen's home in the mountains of Big Canoe and talking about the wildlife. Somehow we got on the subject of carnivores, and I was expressing sympathy for the prey. I keep waiting for you to feel sorry for the animals we eat (I often do), but you are so pragmatic about it.
You summed it up in one simple phrase. "Well," you said, "you gotta eat, you gotta kill." Where do you get this stuff?
I also laughed when, for what must have seemed like the millionth time to you, I used the phrase, "Just a minute!" when I needed your patience. You sighed, and to no one in particular you announced, "Sometimes 'just a minute' is actually a really long time." So true.
Another day we were in the car listening to a kids' radio show and the DJ was talking about his birthday. He said adult birthdays aren't as exciting as kid birthdays. To which you replied, "He just doesn't want to be one year closer to being dead."
Ouch. But true.
When I became an adult, I also thought that Christmas as an adult would never quite compare to Christmas as a child. But that was because I had not imagined how great it would be to celebrate Christmas with my own child. To be the person behind the scenes helping create the magic. Watching that magic unfold for you.
This year, Christmas Eve was balmy and bright, so we baked our Santa cookies and then sat at a table in our backyard to decorate. As usual, your cookies were 1/2 icing, 1/4 sprinkles and 1/4 actual sugar cookie - just how you like them.
That evening, we attended the Christmas Eve program at church - a beautiful service of candlelight and my favorite of the year. Your patience through the lengthy service was rewarded at the end, when you were entrusted with your own lit candle to carry out onto the church steps. The entire congregation gathered there, each person with his own candle, and we sang carols.
And this year, you really knew your carols. Earlier in the month we went caroling at the nursing homes of some of our church members. We got a booklet of songs for reference, and a few people were given hand chimes to play.
Last year, unable to read and not knowing the songs, you amused me by singing "Frosty the Snowman" as the rest of us sang carols. But this year, you and I had practiced some of the carols in advance and you could also read some of the songs.
And then - THEN - you were handed a chime.
You were suddenly so focused. You studied the booklet with a fierce intensity, trying to read the words and the cues for your chime. Our heads were bowed close together so I could help you read, which was dangerous because you played that chime with such vigor that you often hit me with it. But I couldn't be annoyed. You were just so committed.
Your clear favorite was "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing." So you were delighted when, on Christmas Eve, as we all stood on the steps of the church facing Chippewa Square, the congregation began to sing this song. And you sang too, sang as loudly as you could. I wanted to sing, but I couldn't because my throat grew tight as I watched you and as I tried not to cry. The candlelight flickering on your glowing face. Your voice ringing out so strong and clear. Part of me wanted to scramble for my phone, to get a video of this moment so that I could replay it. Instead I just tried to drink it in so I'd never forget how you sang that night. Your Daddy did manage to get one picture, and I treasure it.
After the service we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner with oyster stew lovingly prepared by Boo, and soon it was time to chase you into bed so Santa could arrive.
Oh man, Santa had been stressing me out. I swore when I became a parent that I'd always try to be truthful with you, which has made Santa Claus a difficult story to tell. That's probably why we don't spend a lot of time talking about him. In fact, when you bring him up I start to get all nervous. What will I do when you ask me if he's real? I would want to tell you the truth, but age 5 seems too early to unravel that mystery.
This year I got lucky. Once, when we were going to see Santa at a party, you asked, "Will this be the real Santa or someone dressed up like him?" To which I replied, "Good question!" and then promptly distracted you.
Some time later, in the car, you made this announcement. "Some of my friends at school say Santa isn't real." I reached for your father's hand for moral support, and then you went on. "But I think Santa is real."
There was a pause during which I hoped and hoped you wouldn't ask for my opinion. And thankfully, you didn't.
I don't remember any details about the conversation I had with my parents when I was a child - when I learned the truth about Santa. But I do remember feeling like I had been let in on a big-kid secret. Instead of a disappointment, the knowledge felt like a privilege. I was old enough to know the game. I hope you will see it this way too, whenever that time comes.
This year, on the one hand your Christmas list was short. It's nice that you're not yet at an age where you've set your hopes on some expensive new "it" toy or gadget. But on the other hand, your main request was unusual. You wanted a stuffed pink narwhal with a shiny golden horn.
Of course, you don't know that Santa shops at Target and Target doesn't sell stuffed narwhals. You think his elves can make anything. Thank heavens for Etsy, the website for people making and selling handmade gifts. And thank heavens for the lady who makes stuffed narwhals to order.
You also wanted a unicorn pillow pet, but that completed your list. Santa picked up a few other small things too, and we had fun setting it all out in front of the fireplace next to the sugar cookie and egg nog you'd left for St. Nick.
Christmas morning, you were delighted with all your treasures. One of the biggest hits was your new batgirl costume, and I just love that you're wearing it in all of our Christmas morning pictures.
Here you are with your super narwhal, also in a cape.
Then you took two boxes and made a bat cycle with a narwhal sidecar.
Then you headed outside with your new fishing pole for some batgirl fishing lessons, after which you had stick fights with everything from your Daddy to the Evil Holly Tree.
Then we took a stroll down the street to check out a neighborhood church's nativity scene. I giggled while taking pictures of Batgirl riding a camel to Bethlehem, and then taking her narwhal to see the baby in the manger.
The day was full of moments like these. Wonderful moments. But our adventures for the month weren't nearly over, because one of your gifts was a trip to Disney World. And that, my love, I'll tell you all about in Letter (Book) to Camille: 66 Months, Part 2!
For now, sweet dreams to the best superhero of a daughter I could ever hope to have. I love you so very much.