Last night Santa called just as Ella put my BlackBerry up to my ear.

“Hi, Santa! What’s that? Oh, we’re not supposed to open ANY packages that come to the house until Christmas? Oh. I see. Well, I’ll tell Ella, and we’ll make sure not to open ANY packages. In fact, if Trish hadn’t hidden them in plain sight in the dining room, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we? Oh, I know. Trish is naughty. Verrrrrry naughty. Yeah, that’s why I like her. Oh. Right. Sorry. OK. Well, I’ll tell Ella not to open ANY packages.”

Ella grabs the device and starts yelling into it:

“No! No! Santa, it’s OK to open the packages! We should open them NOW! Tell my dad to open them NOW!”

The package in question was from LL Bean. It’s the kid’s new winter coat. I know, not terribly exciting. Trish wants her to have it now. Because, I suppose, it can get cold. But the kid can layer until Dec. 25. Unless it gets to zero, she’s not going to freeze. I prefer to wrap things up and put them under the tree so Ella will have a big Christmas. This way it’s more exciting for me. Trish is afraid of overwhelming Ella.

I guess the issue here is making a distinction between gift-giving and consumerism. I realize a winter coat for a child that doesn’t have one is probably not the best to tug-of-war about. (It wouldn’t have been an issue if we still lived in Maine, but we’re in North Carolina, and the globe is warming!) But on this issue Trish and I are fundamentally different, and, ironically, we take stands opposite from our usual positions. Trish is more conservative with the budget. I say, “what budget?” She’s probably right about not overwhelming the kid, but I’ll ride it as long as I can. Unless Ella starts to turn blue while playing outside.