I practiced the Stegosaurus dance each day for two weeks and each night I sang the song and danced the dance for my parents until I had it cold. I wanted to perform well. Christmas was coming and there was no telling when Santa was watching. And I wanted a Castle Grayskull.
The Christmas show came on the Friday before Christmas vacation. I looked for my parents from behind the curtains before we started, but couldn’t see them. The music began and I spent the entire Stegosaurus dance looking for mom and dad in the audience. Once I saw them, I smiled and waved. They waved back and I began the dance just as the song was ending.
I was upset after the show. I asked my parents if they wanted to see me do the dance again. They told me I was the best dancer out there. I figured that my hours of practice kicked in and I danced even though I didn’t realize it. Then Jean walked up, “Why didn’t you dance, Jimmy?” She was probably too short to see me.
On the drive home from school, I counted the days. There were seven days until Christmas. I needed things I could do to get on Santa’s good side. I had already let Jean and Jake go first on opening the little doors on the Christmas calendar, but Castle Grayskull was a big gift and I might need to do more.
I could either do a lot of little things or one big thing. It would be a lot of work to be nice to Jean and Jake, and make my bed, and brush my teeth, and take a bath for an entire week. I might forget for one day.
I decided the best thing I could do was one big thing like putting all my baseball cards in order by year, make, and number or sorting my entire stamp collection. These jobs were hours of work, and I wasn’t too sure how impressed Santa would be.
In the end, I decided the one big thing Santa would like was for me to make a fancy list of the things I wanted for Christmas and give it to my mom to give to him. I had already given my mom a list around Thanksgiving, but that was on plain white paper. He might not know how important the list was to me. I needed one that would stand out. This new list would have to be a special one, one worthy of a Castle Grayskull. Yes, this one would be on green and red construction paper… and in cursive. Santa would have to take notice if a second-grader wrote in cursive.
As soon as we were home, I grabbed my handwriting book and some white paper to practice on and took them to the treehouse.
For the next four days, while Jake and Jean played outside, I ignored my baseball cards, coins, stamps, and He-Mans. I worked on my letters, big rounded, looping letters. I practiced capital Js and Gs and didn’t bother with Qs, Xs, and Zs.
Wednesday morning came and Jean saw me grab all the red and green construction paper out of the package. “Are you practicing art?” she asked.
“No, this is important. Go away.”
“I want some green construction paper, too,” she said. I rolled my eyes. She always wanted to do what I was doing. I counted the paper. There were only four green sheets and four red sheets. I was hoping for more.
I tore a corner off of one of the green sheets and handed it to her. “Don’t waste it,” I said.
“I’m telling,” she said and turned to walk to mom.
“Ok, ok, here,” I handed her a sheet of green paper and a sheet of red paper.
“Thanks,” she said. “I want to write a letter to Santa. Green and red paper would be best.”
My face turned red. “Santa doesn’t want a list on green and red paper!” I yelled. I grabbed the paper from her and heard her crying as I stomped down the hall.
Then I thought of Santa. I ran back to Jean.
“Hey Jean, I changed my mind. A list for Santa on green and red paper is a good idea. You know what Santa likes?”
She shook her head.
“He likes the lists to be written in cursive. It makes him think that the kids are really good.”
“But I don’t know cursive,” she said.
“Yes, but I’ve been practicing and I can help you. I’ll write a list for me and then I’ll write a list for you. You just tell me what to write and you can illustrate it.”
She smiled and nodded. “Ok!” she said.
We went back to our room. I thought out the order of my list as Jean began illustrating hers. I carefully wrote, in cursive, “Dear Santa, this year I would like” and then wrote a number one. Next to it, I put, “Socks.” I didn’t really want any socks, but I always got them and I wanted Santa to feel good about the stuff he was going to get me anyway.
I wrote “2” and then, “Castle Grayskull!!!!!!!” I used seven exclamation points because I was seven years old. I filled out the list with filler of things I kind of wanted. I put clothes, candy, and listed about 50 baseball. I handed my list to Jean. “Please make some extra nice illustrations on this. Maybe a tree and a sled.”
She handed me her paper. “I want a two wheel bicycle, some dolls, chocolate, and a math book.”
I sat down and concentrated on her paper. I wrote “1. Bicycle, 2. dolls, 3. Castle Grayskull, 4. Math book.”
I handed it back to her. “It needs some more illustrations,” and smiled to myself. Jean was always good. She was sure to get everything on her list and she’d trade me Castle Grayskull for just about anything.
We handed our lists to mom and told her to give them to Santa. And then we waited. And waited. I started to feel bad that I put Castle Grayskull on her list. I asked her if she wanted it, but she said no.
On Friday, I asked mom about Jean’s list. I told her that Jean didn’t really want Castle Grayskull. Mom smiled and nodded.
I exhaled and figured that I’d be sure to get a Castle Grayskull because of my honesty. We went to bed at 6:30 on Christmas Eve. Jean, Jake, and I talked about our stockings and the tree smell, and watched the Christmas lights through our bedroom window until we fell asleep.
We awoke at 5 the next morning, woke our parents, and walked down the hall. My heart pounded in my chest. I prayed to God that I was good enough to get Castle Grayskull. We walked into the living room. And I saw the pink bicycle next to the sliding glass door.
I smiled at the nice thing I had done for Jean. I would probably have to teach her how to ride a two-wheeler.
I ran to the tree and searched for a box with my name. And there, almost tucked behind the back of the tree, I saw it. It was the right size. It was the right shape. I grabbed it and tore just enough of the wrapping paper to see: