They don’t make it easy on Santa

Our six-year-old had to be prodded into starting his Christmas list. Having to write down words and ideas is so far below the dignity of a First Grade scholar. It’s much easier to watch toy commercials and say “I want that!” at the conclusion of each.

Once begun, he threw himself into the spirit of his list. He learned he could be more specific in his desires when they were the fruits of his own mind rather than the mass market spit balls of the Toy Industrial Complex.

xmass list_Page_1 xmass list_Page_2

Those who haven’t been following along may find it odd that four lines on the list call specifically for German items. The rest of us are relieved that it is only four items. This leaves several items that Santa could plausibly supply to a child in the United States.

I’ve contacted Santa. Following is his assessment of the likelihood of supplying each listed item:

A German Subway SetSanta’s Response: “WTF?”

What makes a toy subway German? And what makes a train set into a subway? Are you planning to set this up in a crawl space under the floor? How would the kid even play with that?

A Police Car with Sirens that can light upSanta’s Response: “At least this makes sense.”

But doesn’t this kid already have police cars, some with sirens that light up. And aren’t most of them neglected or broken?

A German Army Truck and HelicopterSanta’s Response: “Kids in Germany don’t even ask for that.”

An army truck and/or helicopter I could probably do, but now I’ve got to have flags painted on them? The elves aren’t good with flags.

An iPadSanta’s Response: “Yeah . . . No.”

$o many reasons; $o little time.

A German Army Suit with a Beret (Side note: I wondered why he asked how to spell beret) – Santa’s Response: “This request has been filed with German Subway Set.”

Such a shame. We have tons of children’s French Army uniforms with berets, but fresh out of German.

A Call of Duty KREO SetSanta’s Response: “Well, KREO are cheaper than LEGOs.”

So if there is such a thing as a Call of Duty KREO set, well, maybe.

A Nintendo 3DSSanta’s Response: “Is that a real thing?”

I lost track when the elves were still making the original DS? We’re up to 3 now? Can it be Japanese, or does that have to be German too?

An MSU Football CostumeSanta’s Response: “Great choice of team, but how about we start out with a sweatshirt or some pajamas?”

He’ll get a full uniform when he makes the team. Go Green!

A Star Wars LEGO SetSanta’s Response: “Didn’t he just get a bunch of those for his birthday?”

Maybe if they have a good sale.

A Boom Co BlasterSanta’s Response: “Isn’t this just a poorer quality Nerf gun?”

And aren’t there already tons of lost Nerf gun darts hiding behind all the furniture in your house?

A World War I German Army HelmetSanta’s Response: “Cool. I’d like one of those, myself.”

But has he checked prices online? Are his parents willing to give up their first-born child in exchange? Does he realize who their first-born child is?


I’m not sure what happened to the last entry. He probably wants something he has no hope of spelling. Maybe I’ll just get him something that starts with B. Or maybe I’ll fill it in with A Big Lump of Coal – German Coal.



Those Germans sound like they’re telling a really good story

My son likes me to read to him. Though I would rather have him start carrying more of the burden of the reading, I generally don’t mind his requests. Sometimes, he doesn’t even listen to the story. He just likes hearing the sound of my voice.

If I needed any more proof of this, it came the other day when I read a good chunk of a book to him in German. The boy does not understand German. Moreover, a solid C- average through two semesters of German 1 notwithstanding, I neither speak nor read German.

The story of how I came to read to my son in a language that neither of us understand is a long one. I will shorten it as much as possible.

My father spoke German like an authentic Swabian, which is to say fluently, but perhaps with a bit of a southern drawl. I’m sure this came in handy for him, growing up in a mostly German-speaking household. When I was a child, he would occasionally travel to visit some of the Swabians his parents left behind when they decided that all the artillery noise from neighboring France that kept them up at nights was too much for their peaceful natures.

German Swabia

Swabia (highlighted): Southern hospitality – German style. (Map: Clair Samoht)

My father would bring home from Germany the most wonderful storybooks I’d ever seen. They were full of brightly-colored animal characters, performing heroic deeds in fantastic settings. The heroism of their deeds I deduced from the pictorial narrative, since the text of these German books was, not coincidentally, all German. In spite of, or perhaps because of, their foreignness, I loved those books.

I grew up, and the books vanished.

Before our first son was born, my wife located copies of these books online. She gave me a set for my birthday. Even she made me read them aloud to her, because although we don’t know what the words mean, she is in love with my German pronunciation.  She thinks I sound like the Germanest German who ever clicked his heels together, and for some odd reason, she finds this attractive. After the children have gone to bed, I sometimes hear her whisper into my ear, “Sprechen to me, baby!” But that’s a story for a different blog.

Anyway, my son found these books on the shelf and was immediately taken with the artwork. He can tell by the pictures that these are good stories. Of course, he wants me to read them to him. At first, I protested that they were in German, but that feeble argument did nothing to dissuade him.

Consequently, I occasionally find myself sitting next to the boy, reading to him words I don’t understand and am pronouncing like I think the German generals in old WWII movies would. To make matters more ridiculous, the text is written in an old fashioned script, from which I could probably not make out English words. I can’t stop to try to decipher all those 30-letter words without affecting the flow of the narrative, so I just read the first syllable and tag onto it something that sounds like an order to move two panzer divisions to Normandy.

Reading German books

This is what it looks like when we read one of our German books.

German generals looking at map

This is what it sounds like when we read one of our German books, though this is actually an image from WWI, not WWII, and these individuals are not movie actors.

The boy just listens, or not, patiently enjoying the great pictures. He doesn’t interrupt me at all until we get to the end of the story. When we get to the end, he asks me if I’m done. He is completely satisfied with the story, except for one little thing. “What was that about?” he asks.