One thing about Familia Leta it takes a bit of time to realize is that while all appears to be well, all is not... well. They (we) have just as many problems as the next family, and in 2007, we might have broken a record for suck-ass luck. One of us found out she is infertile. Another of us filed for divorce. Still another suffered a pulmonary embolism, and yet another lost a pregnancy at nine weeks. And then there is me: I lost a very important career make-or-breaking job and, ugh, not that it matters but the whole Larry Debacle of 2007? I could have done without that, thanks. My dad being sent home to die was just more suck-ass to cram in our cram holes. We've friggin' had enough, thank you. But Hyancinth Level keeps us up and smiling in the face of abject horror. It's part of the contract. It's what we do. It's what everyone does, I think, especially if there are kids around.
But just because we are all smiling in the face of abject horror doesn't mean we don't like to talk about it. We do. Very much. However, three year old Liam and four year old Ana do not need to spend their Christmas learning vocabulary like " leukemia, blast cells, chemotherapy, dementia, embollism, spontaneous abortion, divorce, endometriosis, FSH level, and cram hole." It is possible to substitute the usual words. So they do.
What you mean: "So Pop hasn't died yet. It's quite surprising that he's still alive considering he has terminal cancer and was supposed to be dead as Elvis, oh, four months ago."
What you say: "So the patriarch is still a functioning carbon-based life form. We're vanquished of complacency by this, considering his expected level of rapidly dividing hostile cells is no longer measured by cytogenics. Also, he is really late for his reunification with spirit animal, forever ago, really."
Then some three year old, say, Liam, comes up and says, "Mommy, was is carbon-based?" And then some smart-ass can say that carbon is an important material that makes up our bodies, and Liam feels like a genius, and we have all just been clever and snide about my dad not dying. And the kids have no idea we've been talking about death and has no idea that his Pop might be going away forever. See how awesome that is?
But sometimes, Nina comes up says, "Vanquished?? Read a little Faulkner last night, did you? Are you trying to model irony, are you just an ass?" And then everyone shushes Nina for swearing, and asks Nina if she might be off-meds, which she most assuredly is. They then ignore her and try to think of synonyms for vanquished.
But sooner or later, Ana comes up and says, "Nina, what is irony?"
This is the moment when Nina scoops up Ana in one arm and Liam in the other and carries them to the Christmas tree. Because Familia Leta is awesome on at least five levels, we'll call this the Bit Level:
I point to the drill bits and I say "those bits are made of iron. So I call them iron-y." The fact that they are made of steel or a cheap decorative alloy is no issue. It's ok to lie to these kids, yes indeed. We decorate the Christmas tree with candles and drill bits because Ana likes the candles and Liam loves power tools, and for as long as possible, these kids will know nothing about a world that is not magical and beautiful and glowing with loveliness. And drill bits.