When I used to imagine what Christmastime would be like with a child of my own, I thought of the wonderment and awe and magic that the holiday used to bring to me when I was growing up, and of the gradual crescendo of anticipation that ran from about Thanksgiving (well really, if I'm being honest, from Halloween) through the endless, sleepless hours of Christmas Eve.
While the past two Christmases with Felicity were highly enjoyable, this year really captured all of those feelings -- and not only did I get to experience it all vicariously through her, but I also got to feel them firsthand, because it turns out that being one of the purveryors of Christmas magic for a little one also greatens one's own sense of wonder at everything surrounding the holiday.
We also really packed in a tremendous amount of holiday fun, especially once my parents arrived the Wednesday before Christmas.
Felicity is at a fantastic age for the grandparents -- almost as soon as they arrived, she was full of hugs and snuggles for them, and all she could think about from the time she woke up was Grammie and Granddad. She started carefully choosing which person she wanted to accompany her -- thrillingly for them, as you can imagine -- to the potty or to "give you a great bath." "You want Grammie to give you a delicious lunch today!" she'd exclaim. Or, "You want Granddad to read you a bedtime story." She issued these invitations like royal proclamations, and fortunately she couldn't have found more enthusiastic participants than those two.
So the whole band of us trooped around the city to see the festive sights of Midtown, to have tea at Alice's Tea Cup (fairy wings included), and to take in the classic Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The latter kept Felicity completely riveted throughout, and she has been practicing "Rockette moves" ever since, plus she will randomly announce, "The Rockettes were dressed up like reindeer! They were DANCING! Santa was there, too! There were DONKEYS in the Ativity Scene! They sang the song about the wise men! And the Baby Jesus was there, TOO!" (Please, no one tell her it's the *N*ativity scene.)
Grammie came up with lots of activities for quieter afternoons at home, such as making those pretzel-Hershey's kiss-M&M candies, playing "Hide the Animal" ("Close your eyes, Granddad. Now open them! Which animal is missing? IT'S THE COW!") and "I Spy," and co-authoring and illustrating a book called "Santa Claus, Santa Claus, What Do You See?" (I doubt we can get the licensing rights to publish it, but I assure you if we could it would be an instant best-seller).
Felicity also overcame her abject fear of the Santa video and watched it roughly 3,000 times. Plus she got a plush Santa in her Advent bag; she calls him Little Santa, and when she pulled him out of the bag, she said, "You want to talk about these things: he has a red hat, a cherry nose, a white beard, two green mittens, and two black boots! You love him!"
Springboarding from that, as well as her utterly fearless introduction to the man himself at my office party (where she stood right up in his face as he talked to another child about their position on his Naughty/Nice List, and repeated "I'M FELICITY. MY NAME IS FELICITY!" until he had no choice but to look her up next -- fortunately, she squeaked onto the Nice List this year and got to take home a PlayDoh kit and a bag of "chock-nates"), we took her to see Santa at Bloomingdale's.
We eschewed the Macy's experience for fear it would be overrun with wretched people and would sap us of cheer, given that we were going on a Saturday morning just before Christmas, and the East Side setup didn't let us down. With a short line and a quick assembly-line photo process (though admittedly far less ambiance than Santaland), we were in and out in about fifteen minutes, or at least we would have been if (a) the people right in front of us hadn't decided this was the year to take 500 shots in different configurations, requiring a million do-overs each time the elf behind the camera showed them the results; and (b) the photo printout line hadn't been positioned right by a display of boots and shoes with bunnies and bears on them.
Due to (b), Felicity had to be dragged out of the area, after spending ages touching EVERY shoe and boot and declaring, "I like THIS one the best. These boots are BEAUTIFUL. These shoes are my favorite. You want Santa to bring you THESE ONES. You look so cute in this hat! You're going to wear this hat around the world!" Naturally, they were also the most expensive children's items in the store. $85 for a child's scarf? REALLY?
On Monday, we decided to make our second annual Christmas Eve visit to Central Park Zoo, where we had the most delightful time. No-Fear Felicity was all about feeding (and hugging) the goats and sheep this time, and she led us around the zoo to visit all of her animal friends. We even got to watch the sea lion show, unfettered by the gazillion tourists who are usually clogging up the joint during our spring and summer visits. I had my very first snow leopard-sighting, and we saw the polar bear taking a long winter's nap. We even hit the timing right to watch the glockenspiel perform "Joy to the World." And, we completely wore Felicity out, which was of course a major goal.
After attending our church's Christmas pageant that evening, we headed home for the ritual hanging of stockings and placement of cookies and milk for Santa. Felicity laid out all of the stockings on the floor and kept picking up my Dad's and saying, "You LOVE this one! It's very beautiful!" (It also happens to be the largest one.) We thought Santa would enjoy some of the treats that Grammie and Felicity made together, but first Felicity decided that she needed to "try one to make sure it tastes good." (Evidently, it passed muster.) We also displayed the artwork that Felicity had created for old St. Nick and read "The Night Before Christmas" as our bedtime story.
Overnight, the Christmas magic arrived in spades.
Santa was quite generous this year, with the most prominent item he brought being this dreamy dollhouse, which has occupied virtually every waking moment since Felicity first saw it that morning. We did manage to draw her attention to the (many!) other items that were arrayed about the living room and that filled her stocking ("It's a little broom, just your size! You're going to sweep with it! It's little ballet shoes, just your size! You're going to do PIQUE in them!"), but she came back again and again to her dollhouse and its resident family of five (plus cat). She named the little girl "Little Felicity" and the cat Atticus. (The brother has no name, and the baby is just "The Baby.")
When we all turned our attention to the wrapped gifts under the tree, Felicity helped us each take our turns opening our allotted gift (one per round). She was more or less uninterested in the clothing she received (except the hot pink Hello Kitty sweatshirt -- which she won't allow me to call by it's proper name: "It's NOT a sweatshirt! It's a SHIRT. With a kitty-cat on it. Sorry."), but she did enjoy quite a lot of the other enticing items. Still, she invariably came back to the dollhouse every time, and she even skipped a few turns unwrapping gifts because she was so absorbed with it.
At dinner, I asked her what her favorite part of Christmas was, and she said, "The kale!" (She turned her nose up at the meatloaf and mashed potatoes in favor of three helpings of kale, WHAT IS HER DEAL?) If I'd asked her a little later, she probably would have said "the special treat!" -- i.e., Joe's birthday Carvel cake.
All in all, it was an excellent Christmas, with more than our fair share of love, laughter, merriment, and surprises.
I think this shot pretty much sums it up: