What Do You Get the Two-Year Old Who Has Everything?

Hello, Loyal Readers!

I’m off the road after a couple dozen stops in 12 states and 2 provinces for The Great Halifax Explosion Book Tour. Today I just sent in our last excerpt, this one for TIME magazine, which explains how you save Christmas for 10,000 children after your town is wiped out by the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima.

Here’s the latest review, from The Chicago Tribune, written by a native Haligonian, no less. We’ll take it.

“Bacon does an excellent job of bringing the century-old events to life. He has immersed himself in old letters and journalistic accounts, finding the human stories that allow readers to connect with stories of men, women and children whose lives were ended or altered by the terrible explosion…. the most compelling parts of this book have to do with the heroism of those who rush to help, the way the experience changes them and the good they do as a result of that.”

So if you haven’t bought The Great Halifax Explosion yet, available at all local bookstores, national airports, Barnes & Noble and amazon, I can only conclude you’re a card-carrying Communist. (That used to be a really bad thing, by the way.)

Business aside, I hope you’re all enjoying a well-earned break over the holidays with your family and friends.

Thanks once again for allowing me to do what I love: tell stories.


Now, onto to this week’s story. For the audio version, please click here.

Christmas is here once again, right on time.

I can’t say this is that big a deal for me. I’ve seen 53 of them – and really, at my age, if I really need it, I’ve already got it. Why I really need is less stuff, not more of it.

But my view of the holiday flips completely when I think of my son, who’s just two-and-a-quarter. He’s old enough know what gifts are, and asks for “Presents!” almost as often as “Ice cream!”

Because he’s the first grandchild on my wife’s side, and the first in a generation on my side, this kid is spoiled rotten. So, what do you get a kid who already seems to have everything?

Last Christmas we got him a mini-hockey net with mini-plastic sticks. He grabs both sticks, whacks the ball toward the net, and when it rolls wide, he yells, “Gooooooooooaaaalll!” Then he waves the sticks around, until he whacks himself in the head, and starts crying.

We’re working on the fundamentals, but I like the passion.

But these gifts also underscore a dirty little secret: our presents aren’t entirely altruistic. Many of them contain hidden messages, including every single one of my sports-themed gifts. I know you can’t push your kid to do almost anything – a lesson I’ve already learned about a thousand times. Even if Teddy goes along with it, it will suck out all the joy sports should bring.

But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if Teddy didn’t became an athlete and a fan. Not for some greater glory, but to get from sports the invaluable lessons and pleasure I have. And also, I confess, to keep us connected.

My wife, a huge hockey fan, also hopes Teddy likes the sport. But she is even more passionate about other endeavors. She has already built a pyramid of shiny, wrapped boxes under the tree filled with finger paints, a wooden train set, and a Play-Doh set based on, my lord, Star Wars. She has based her life on their teachings.

I’ve seen exactly one Star Wars movie – the first one. I saw it as many times as I needed to, which was once. I hadn’t seen the second one until I married Christie. She has seen them all as often as George Lucas himself, but has more opinions on them.  She is eager to make Teddy a Star Wars geek, too, right down to giving him an R2-D2 night light. (He calls it D2-R2, which pleases me to no need.)

To counter all this, what can I get him? Whenever we pass the outdoor rink at Northside School on our way to his daycare, he says, “That’s an ice rink,” and follows up, very casually, with, “I’m a hockey player.”

Well, sort of, but even his half-Canadian dad, who started skating at three, thinks 2-and-a-quarter is too small for skating. I’d hate to see the kid wipe out all day, cry all night, and never want to go back.

He also occasionally says, “I’m a baseball player,” as if that were a title, but he knows even less about that sport. And how many kids can catch… anything… before they’re five?

I think I’m going to have to settle for getting him a mini-Red Wings hockey jersey, and one of those King-Kong oversized plastic baseball bats, with which he will proficiently whack everything in the house except for the oversized ball I’ll be tossing him. But in this battle between sports and a Galaxy Far, Far Away, I can’t afford to waste a year.

My editor, whose three daughters are already in high school and college, tells me I’m too worked up about all this.

“You think you’re making memories that last a lifetime,” he told me, “but it never really works out that way. I can’t remember anything we gave them at age two – and neither can they.”

So here’s my plan: no matter what he gets, or how he reacts, I’m going to yell, “Gooooal!” call it a success, and gear up for the next one.

Game on.





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5 comments Leave a comment  

  • dave December 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

    What did your wife come dressed as for the UM Basketball Star Wars game this year?

  • Aaron December 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Nothing says he can’t be the next great Michigan blueliner AND a Star Wars geek. 🙂

    Happy holidays, John. Good to see you in Boston again.

  • Marilyn December 22, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Great Christmas post!!

  • Beth Erskine December 22, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Loved this column as a similarly situated grandparent of a 2 1/2 year old boy. I can suggest one present which perhaps you aren’t familiar with (I wasn’t) – a balance bike. It’s a mini bike with no pedals so operated by the feet of the rider – most are toddlers. They learn to balance and are often able to transition right to a two-wheel bike by-passing the need for training wheels. My little guy loves his and zooms everywhere on it.
    I hope with your love of hockey that you make time to read a new book “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman. It’s an incredible story with hockey in a staring role, but so much more. I think it’ll surpass Backman’s prior book – A Man Called Ove” in popularity.
    Always enjoy listening to you on Fridays and reading your books on UM athletics.
    Merry Christmas!

  • Judy Chaffee December 22, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    What a fun column. So playful and so true! I do disagree with your editor and what we may remember at the age of 2. I don’t remember anything at the age of 2, however plentiful photos taken by my parents and other relatives tell me what I got and loved.

    As I review all the photos of my children, and yes, at the age of 2, I remember what I gave them, maybe only because of the photos…who knows??

    Making memories is what its all about,

    Happy Christmas John!


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