In early December each year, you can find The Olins digging deep into our holiday storage bins, eager to pull out a set of beautifully crafted, Santa-themed Russian dolls. Our daughter Mirabelle (now five years old) has loved them from the moment she first laid eyes on them.
And then, once she got her hands on them, it was all over. The sheer giddy delight of twisting the first one open and discovering: Santa held a secret. One Santa hid another Santa, which concealed another, which obscured yet another. In all, eight nested Santas awaited her prying digits, and she simply couldn’t get enough of them.
Never miss a local story.
But the real toddler-head-explosion moment was always predictable. It was when she finally reached the end. The core. The final doll. Or as we like to call him, “Tiny Red Santa.” A mere half-an-inch tall, but packed with power. Each time Mirabelle discovered T.R.S., it was a blissful moment akin to her winning the Yuletide Lottery.
Last year, as we unearthed our holiday boxes, Mira joyfully reunited with her Santas. And then, as she divided the penultimate one’s body, her faced suddenly dropped. Empty. Tiny Red Santa was … gone.
Cue toddler meltdown. Tiny Red Santa had run away and ruined Christmas. Now what? If there’s nothing sensational waiting to be exposed at the center of it all, what’s it all for?
This summer, I’ve been experiencing a similarly contorted mix of feelings. As one Trump Russian doll bombshell gives way to yet another lurking deeper within, sometimes I sense that I’m on the verge of my own toddler meltdown. It’s hard to keep from mindlessly bellying up to the indulgent emotional buffet of it all.
Yup, we loves us a good old fashioned game of Russian dolls, don’t we?
Whatever your reaction to each Breaking News revelation these days, I invite you to join me in considering why we delight in the game so. Or, if not delighting … are you complaining about it? Commiserating? Going off on social media?
In some way, we’re all playing the Tiny Red Santa game. And, there is a payoff. There’s a payoff in getting angry, or defensive, or righteous. As humans, we get something satisfying out of each of those responses. Maybe we get to feel right. We get to feel devastated. We get to feel a polarized sense of belonging. We get to release energy; or perhaps we derive energy from the drama of it all. People often feel close when they complain together. It's a bargain-basement way to connect.
Whatever it is, you’re getting some thrill out of it all. And I’m challenging you to take a long look at that part of yourself. If you can gain a detached, even clinical understanding of why you’re riveted to this Russian-doll-reality-show, then maybe you can begin to redirect some of that creative energy elsewhere. Into mobilizing. Into righting the ship. Into serving your community. Into working together to create the country, city, neighborhood or block worthy of our fallen veterans’ sacrifices.
Because when the entire organism works together, the foreign, malignant object lurking inside will be found and extracted. Naturally.
I'm not saying that we don't need to, at long last, get to the Tiny Red Santa of it all. The final revelation. We do, and fast. I'm just saying, how are we acting about it and what are we doing about it?
But hey, as long as it's still all Christmas-in-July around here, I’ll leave you with this. During my family’s recent move, Tiny Red Santa resurfaced. Turns out, that slippery Saint Nick was hiding in the back corner of Mirabelle’s closet the whole time. So, don't worry. That thing you want so badly? It's there. Hiding. Waiting. And it will emerge.
Christmas will be saved.
Matt Olin is producer and host of Creative
Mornings/Charlotte. Email: mattolincreative@