Christmas Magic

It all began before the Christmas of 2013 when we checked with our daughter to see if her family had a Wii game system. It seems that they had had one, still had some controllers and games, but the Wii system was defunct.

So, we decided to get a new Wii system for the family. It isn’t all that expensive as a family present. So that was the plan, we bought the system, some games, the Skylander platform, with characters that can be swapped back and forth, and even new characters made from parts of the others. We also included our La La bags (we are Grandma and Grandpa La La, another story); basically stocking stuffer sorts of things. And walkie talkies. But this story is about the Wii.

All was well. Of the 3 sets of grandparents, we were to celebrate with the family first, on the weekend before Christmas. Then the weekend drew close, and the winter storm descended. Travel was not advised. We rescheduled for the weekend after New Year’s, two weeks later.

No problem. Our daughter knew what we were getting, and would share with the other grandparents as needed. But things happen. Knowing we were getting the family a Wii, another grandma got them a couple of Wii games. Our daughter and son-in-law realized this the night before Christmas. But they were tired and didn’t have energy to search through the few dozen packages to find it. Betsie planned to ask her mother-in-law, whose gift it was, for help in finding it Christmas morning.

Alas, things happen. Christmas can get busy and full of details. And the grandsons opened these two Wii games and looked confused, since they did not have a Wii game system and had not received one and no one seemed to be passing another present that looked like it could be a Wii.

Their dad made a valiant effort, talking about how things happen, weather and so forth, and things get out of sequence but work out. Joe looked at his younger brother and said, “Ben! The La Las are getting us a Wii!”

Well, we found this out the night we arrived in the area, the night before our Christmas with the boys when we would give them a Wii. A Wii that they now knew they were getting…. What to do? What to do?

We had decided that, since the boys don’t see us but a few times a year, at best, and get all excited, they often try to grab treats out of Grandma La La’s hands when she is carrying them in. So we had decided not to take stuff in right away. I am not sure how it happened, but it then morphed into the following.

We pulled up on the Saturday we were celebrating Christmas. No one came out to greet us; we had gotten there earlier than anyone expected and they weren’t dressed. We left everything in the car except Grandma’s purse and my coffee mug. We went in, took our coats off, and visited while it was discovered the cinnamon rolls needed a couple of hours to defrost and prepare, and then while a menu was decided upon. We sat there and chatted.

Finally, a small voice asked Grandpa (me) about presents.

I said, “What did you say?” So he repeated more loudly, asking about presents, since we had not carried any in.

I said, “Oh, Grandma La La packed them.”

She said, “Grandpa La La, I thought you packed the presents.”

“Grandma La La, I thought YOU packed the presents.”

We looked at each other for a moment, then said, “Be right back!”

We got up, Grandma had her coat on and purse in hand in a heartbeat. I grabbed coat, scarf and hat, not bothering to put them on, and we hustled out the door to the car, and got in the car. We drove away with two little faces pressed up against the window.

The older grandson had appeared to be laughing as we drove away. While Ben kept his vigil at the front window, Joe looked out other windows. He told his mother that we were going to Casey’s – a chain of quick shops common to Iowa -to turn around.

His mother told him, “They aren’t going to Casey’s.” (She, after all, had seen, and been a part of, many of our pranks over the years.)

This made it seem the only option was that we really were headed back to Chicago. Upon this news, Joe got worried and a little teary eyed. Betsie said to him, quietly so that his brother still maintaining his vigil at the front window would not hear, “They are not going to Chicago.” Then she winked at him.

That was enough for Joe. Betsie was saved from resorting to the most telling evidence of all: grandpa had left his coffee mug. The ancient (probably 15 years old) Starbuck’s vente thermos mug was never out of grandpa’s reach most mornings until the coffee was gone. Betsie didn’t have to tell Joe that, but she knew what that coffee mug meant.

We drove down past Casey’s and then toward downtown Walker (an entire two blocks away) and went around the block. Then we got caught in a Walker, Iowa traffic jam; we had to wait on at least SIX cars.

We drove back and found that Ben was still waiting at the window. He turned his head and said something, and Joe appeared at the window as well, grinning like he had been when we left.

We carried presents in. Joe said we didn’t go to Chicago. I smiled and said we were on the road for several hours, hadn’t he ever heard of a time turner, like in Harry Potter?

We had breakfast, then prepared to open presents. Joe was sitting on the sofa with a knowing look. I asked him what, and he said “Nothing.” I went over and sat by him. I said, “What? What were you thinking?”


“You think you know something. What?”


“No, you think you know something, don’t you?”


“Go ahead, tell him.”

“You’re getting us a Wii.”

“You think we’re getting you a Wii?”


“Joe, no one told us you wanted a Wii.” (Technically true.) “I wish we had known you wanted a Wii. We must have walked past a pile of them in the store 20 times, right Grandma?”

“At least 20 times, Grandpa.”

“Ok. I think I know a way to fix this. I know a spell. But I have to get permission to use it.”

I got my cell phone out of its case. I looked up a number, clicked call, and put it on speaker.

The call was answered and a male voice said, “Santa’s workshop!”

“Hi, Santa! This is Ron. I have a problem here and I need your permission to use the Special Emergency Spell.”


“Yeah, I have kind of an urgent situation here.”

“Okay, just how urgent is the situation?”

“Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, probably a 14.”

“Oh, my. You know this is really risky?”

“Yeah, I’ve read up on it. Timmy got doll clothes.” I am told that at this point, the boys looked genuinely worried.

“That was a real mess,” said the voice on the phone.

“Yeah, I know it was.”

“Well, if anything goes wrong, there won’t be anything I can do,” said the voice of Santa.

“I understand.”

“Ok. Well, good luck and Merry Christmas!”

“Thanks, Santa!”

By then the boys were yelling, “We love you, Santa!” But Santa was gone. Already on deadline for next year, no doubt. I am CERTAIN it wasn’t that Santa was about to break character. No, absolutely not….

“Ok, if I am going to do this spell, I will need everyone to be absolutely quiet. If anything goes wrong you could get doll clothes. Probably Malibu Barbie with the cosmetic kit.” (Totally making it up as I went, of course. I have no reason to believe that there ever was a cosmetic kit with Malibu Barbie.)

Talking to Joe, I said, “Actually, a little blue mascara there under the eye might look nice….”

“Ok, I need a wand….”

I began to wave a black and white wand over the package. “I’m not sure this wand can handle the strain…”

Suddenly, instead of a black and white wand, I was holding a red and a yellow silk, one in each hand. “Mmmmm. I didn’t think that one could handle the strain.”

I put the silks away, and got out a wooden wand with the grain showing. “This wand is better. Okay, here goes.”

– Carpe diem Caveat emptor
– Semper fidelis In Vino Veritas
– Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
– E pluribus unum
– Curriculum vitae
– Pro forma pro rata pro tempore quid pro quo

About this time, IN SPITE of my warnings, the GROWNUPS were beginning to laugh. I am told the boys were starting to laugh a little because of the grownups.

“Hmmmmm. This part is hard.” Fortunately my back was to the boys so they could not see me struggling not to laugh. Those grownups…. I continued.

– Status quo summum bonum subpoena summa cum laude
– Per annum per capita per diem per se
– Tempus fugit terra firma terra incognita
– Veni vidi vici viiiiiiiiiii

“I think it worked. Dad, open the present.”

Mike proceeded to open the present. When the “Wii” name on the box appeared, everyone cheered.

I have to admit, Grandma La La and I were pretty proud of ourselves. As we drove back to our room, we were high fiving and laughing so hard that tears ran down our cheeks. We had not pulled a prank like that in a long time, and never one so truly in the service of the spirit of the season.

We had managed, if not to surprise the boys with something they knew they were getting, then at least to overcome the certainty of it, to salvage a fitting build-up to the main present. In our minds, we had saved a bit of the magic of Christmas.

In our room at the hotel, I coined a phrase and texted it to Betsie during our customary texting chat. It immediately had her delighted blessing and brought back many fond memories for her of earlier shenanigans. Our new motto:

Grandma and Grandpa La La – messing with young minds for 23 years!


  1. Bets said,

    January 16, 2014 at 12:55 am

    I love it Dad! Yeah, a couple small details are flip-flopped but nothing that detracts from the fun and the spirit of that weekend together. You nailed that! I salute you Chief Dadeo Bunikens!
    Ooooooh say can you seeee, by the dawn’s early liight…… 😉

  2. Ron Clayton, aka Grandpa La La, Chief Dadeo Bunikens, Wyrd Wanderer, Ron the Wizard, etc.... said,

    January 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Thanks, Bets! Yeah, it was just about time to reprise some of that silliness, wasn’t it? We do have some great memories!

  3. Santa said,

    January 16, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Santa is glad to see that you pulled it off just in the nick of time. we figured if anyone could do it, it would be you. it is my personal opinion that the use of the ‘in vinum, veritas’ incantation in the altered form may have been the pivital moment in the whole spell….thats what ‘sealed’ it.
    we will be forwarding that discovery to the Wizard’s guild book editors for possible publication!

    • Grampa La La, Ron the Wizard, etc., etc.... said,

      January 16, 2014 at 8:41 pm


      Thank you for your kind words and your assistance in the matter. Know that you have my appreciation and that of the particular children who benefited from your help! It seems a wonder to me that we had not realized sooner the efficacy of In Vino Veritas. I suspect that it has been inserted in spirit into a lot of spells! I suspect that it will now receive its due place in a good many spells. Thank you again! I look forward to using that invocation with you in person some day.

  4. December 22, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Really sweet. I love it.

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