Credit Where Credit is Due
Who the hell is Santa Claus, Kristen thought, to get the credit for what we give our kids?
She was waiting for Mariah’s brainlink class to end and brooding as the year’s first snow drifted down. Thanksgiving next week, then only a month until Christmas. Her husband’s hours had been cut back again. They were only going to have enough for the “Santa” presents this year.
Mariah ran out of the training center to her mother.
“It was great, mommy! Can we practice at home?”
Mariah had just gotten her implant on her seventh birthday. Today was her first class and she was anxious to be able to use the ‘link network to communicate like her parents and big brothers.
“Fold your laundry first, then we’ll practice together.” Kristen said.
At home, Kristen finished her chore quickly and said she was ready to practice. They got off to a rocky start. Mariah had trouble even opening the ‘link.
“Don’t force it, Mariah,” Kristen said. “Take a breath, relax, and let the connection open.”
Soon Kristen sensed the connection going live. She focused on the thought of an apple, green and shiny, with a little nub of a stem.
“Good job, Mariah. You’ve got it open. Now, can you see what I’m sending?”
“I think so. It’s something green and round! Is it a green ball?”
“Close! Keep working at it.” Kristen elongated the stem, exaggerated the dimple at the bottom of the apple. But as she made these adjustments, she felt the connection fade and drop.
Mariah pouted. “I’ll never do it!”
“Nonsense, love. It just takes practice. We’ll keep trying.”
Mid-December, Mariah and Kristen were practicing again. After her rough start, Mariah took to the ‘link rapidly. By the end of her third class, she was receiving and transmitting relatively complicated mental images. The more abstract communication with words, essentially “talking” over the ‘link, was still challenging.
Kristen sat with her tablet computer, the screen angled away from Mariah. As they practiced, she browsed for bargains on presents.
“Ready, Mariah?” her mother spoke aloud.
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…” She transmitted the nursery rhyme over the ‘link.
“You’re saying Humpty Dumpty!”
“That’s right. Now repeat it back to me…” Kristen directed.
“Humpty Dumpty… wall… Dumpty… great…” Mariah’s reply was choppy, with missing words and long breaks.
Kristen found a good deal on hockey equipment for the boys and a castle and dragon playset for Mariah as they practiced. Humpty Dumpty, Peter Piper, and Little Bo Peep all got their turn until Mariah tired out and asked for a snack before bed.
Somehow, Kristen and her husband Patrick were up before the children Christmas morning. They sat silently drinking coffee, looking at the tree and the packages beneath it. No brainlink was needed for them to share a worry that Christmas would be a disappointment this year.
Patrick went to make breakfast. Kristen stayed in the living room, savoring the pre-chaos calm.
Soon, Mariah came in, rubbing sleep crumbs from her eyes.
“Morning, sunshine!” Kristen said.
Mariah pinged Kristen over the ‘link. She was always looking for opportunities to use it these days.
“Merry Christmas, Mommy!“
“Daddy’s getting breakfast. Come sit with me.“
Mariah snuggled up. “I wish I could open my presents now!“
“Well, we need to wait for everyone to be ready.”
The longer Kristen looked at the gifts, the smaller the stack seemed. Patrick hummed carols in the kitchen. Kristen wished she could be as content.
“Mommy, are you sad?“
“Oh, not really. I just wish… I wish Daddy and I had been able to get you some presents ourselves. Thank goodness for Santa Claus!“
Mariah hugged Kristen tightly. “Don’t be sad. I know that you got us the presents.“
Kristen hesitated. “You think they aren’t from Santa?“
“Uh-huh. I saw you thinking about what you’d buy when we were practicing together.“
“And you didn’t say anything?“
Mariah shrugged and looked away. “I thought you might be mad. I saw something you didn’t want me to.“
“Of course not, love.“
Mariah smiled and, rather than using the brainlink, whispered in Kristen’s ear. “It can be our secret, Mommy. We can still let Daddy think they’re from Santa!”
Michael Haynes lives in Ohio with his wife and children. He enjoys writing and reading, particularly science fiction, fantasy and mystery. He also likes watching movies, going to hockey games (go Jackets!), and cooking. He blogs regularly at http://www.michaelhaynes.info about writing and whatever else crosses his mind.