My son decided to compile his Christmas wish list last weekend, and I should have known we were in trouble when he fetched the graph paper.
Jack grouped this year’s wishes into five categories: swimming, gaming, “school/business,” “foodstuffs” and “probably will not happen, but ideal,” a pie-in-the-sky category that includes a $2,000 gaming laptop and some contraption with a name that includes so many random letters and numbers, I’m not even sure what it is.
Each of the items is neatly bulleted and each category set off with mathematical brackets.
The food list goes from specific (“Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Kids Berries (large bag)”) to pleasingly vague (“pretty much any kind of Skittles”), and should be labeled, more accurately, “Things Designed to Rot My Teeth.”
The school/business category includes computer software, “various unspecified gift cards” and “cold hard cash (or check).” I asked Jack if he thought about accepting credit cards or PayPal. He said he’d look into that and get back to me.
My favorite part of the wish list by far is a bar chart at the bottom labeled “Probability of gifts by category,” which features penciled-in columns that illustrate his presumed likelihood of receiving said gifts. According to Jack’s calculations, he has a 90 percent chance of getting something gaming-related under the tree this year and only a 2 percent chance of getting one of those big-ticket items from his “ideal” category.
My husband and I chuckled, along with Jack’s sister, Hannah, when the boy presented the list to us with a smile. I grabbed a magnet and tacked it to the fridge, as I’ve done now for more than a decade.
Not too many years ago, Jack scrawled his letter to Santa with a green crayon. He asked for a Furby, a “huge book,” a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine trains and “bilyins and bilyins of choclit.” A few years later, the No. 1 item on his wish list was a whoopee cushion.
Hannah, meanwhile, will turn 17 this month and is past the practice of writing down wishes or circling items in the American Girl catalog. So long ago, when she was 3, she begged for jellybeans and Coca-Cola – “yeddybeans and Coke!” – for Christmas, and she happily declared, upon receiving both, “Santa must love me!”
Her wishes are still simple but muttered in passing: “Clothes. And iTunes.”
Friends who spot Jack’s wish list on our fridge may think he’s greedy. Or maybe they’d denounce me for putting that kind of crash commercialism on display.
I don’t see it that way. To me those lists are a snapshot in time, an annual peek into my children’s wildest imaginings. They reflect where my teenagers are now and hint at the complex people they are becoming.
They say a man’s priorities say a lot about him. So do his Christmas wishes.