Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa finds everyone somehow...

Christmas Eve is upon us. Are you ready? Do you have all your wrapping done and the cooking well on it's way to being scrumptious? Or am I asking too many questions on top of all the other things you have to tend to today? OK, I'll stop. I'll tell you a story and answer the age old question- Is there really a Santa Claus?

The van was packed with gifts for children and with children bearing gifts...for strangers. The stranger's wishes had been plucked from the branches of an angel tree- my friend Kathy and I were heading up the Social Ministries gig at the local Lutheran Church, and had installed the tree in the church lobby with many names of local children who needed a Santa. Most of the tags had been picked, and shopped for and underneath the tree- were the gifts wrapped ready for the faceless names on the cards. Kath and I- belonging to the school of Charlie Brown mentalities...picked up the rest of the tags that had not been favored. Perhaps because of the unpronounceable names or the age of the child or the gift wanted...for unknown reasons, these children would remain gift less if we didn't act accordingly. We shopped till we almost dropped as the final gift tag wish was fulfilled.
We wrapped all the final gifts, loading our modes of transportation to the brink with packages and our own oldest children.
I remember feeling good, though tired- about the whole operation. We didn't necessarily have the money to go around to cover excess presents- but still somehow, all was covered. On the way to the agency that would receive the gifts and dole them out accordingly- my oldest son seemed especially quiet. (For he was not a quiet child, he was often quite chatty- his thoughts often declared out loud.) We had Christmas music on the radio, me feeling good- singing loudly, following Kathy's tail gate. When out of the blue, the question of all questions was uttered...

"Mom, why did we have to buy all these gifts? I thought Santa looked after everyone. Why doesn't Santa bring gifts to these children? Don't they have chimneys? I thought you said that Santa finds everyone somehow..."

In all the hub bub, in all the haste and happiness- I didn't think about how this might affect the oldest thinker of the brood. In my heart I heard "this is wonderful, the right thing to do. How happy these children will be..." When the questions arose, it drove home the fact that my son was still a child, an innocent full of wonder and magical thinking. And I had encouraged these beliefs- from leaving Santa's red mitten near the cookies and milk site to actually making deer tracks in the snow and shaking loudly, bells out under the midnight moon on Christmas Eve.

Those questions needed a miracle answer, not a magical one. The opportunity was at hand to teach, (as I had thought I had done by example...but again, the child was but a child- compassion in a whirl of activity did not present the lesson I hoped it would) at the stop light, I thought too about who this Santa chap really was.

I looked at my child, really looked at that face looking upon me in trust. A Christmas story at that moment, and moments to come...would not do.

I pulled the van over at the next opportunity, Kathy's tail gate faded into the traffic line ahead of me. I cleared my throat, I stammered a bit. My heart and my head were fighting a duel and the bright face in the passenger seat confronted me with a judge's query of interrogation I could not ignore. I felt I was on the witness stand at that point, and had to testify. The Christmas music volume seemed to loud, I turned it down. There was a quiet between us now that had never been before. His eyes searched mine, for an answer- a true truth.

"Son", stammering still-"remember Missy from church? How we bought her a bear last Christmas? You know, her family is so big and they have so little, so we gave her the bear as a secret gift from us, remember?"

He did.

"Well, we did that because we know her and we like her and we thought of her when we saw the bear. Remember? We thought how Missy would love this! It was as though a voice whispered to us, only we couldn't hear the voice with our ears- it came from somewhere else..."

"Like a spirit."

"Yes! That's right, like a spirit. Well, all these gifts for all these kids we'll never know...all that comes from the spirit of giving. Beau, that's what Santa Claus really is...he's a spirit that fills us with love, with tolerance and compassion. He is everywhere all the time, but especially at Christmas his spirit is louder. We can't help but hear his voice, when we ourselves have everything we need- we feel this big overwhelming desire to give too. Just like Santa Claus."

"What is tolerance?" my son questioned.

"Tolerance is when you feel like hitting your sister when she teases you, but you don't right away. You don't want to hurt her, but sometimes she just bugs you to death and you feel like smacking her. But you know she's just a little kid, you know it's not right to hit her, so you go climb a tree or something. Often times, she finally leaves you alone and you find something else to do and you forget what it was you even wanted to smack her for. You do this because you love her mostly, so her behavior eventually doesn't bother you so much. Does that make sense?"

"No. I still mostly want to smack her, but I don't want to get in trouble." Beau honestly remarked.

"Right... Well does it feel to be Santa Claus?" now I was questioning, hoping for the light to go on in his young head.

I remember he was thoughtfully quiet again, looking out through the windshield, then looking back in at all the packages. By this time, Kathy had turned her vehicle around and pulled right up in front of us.

"I get it. There really is a Santa Claus, only sometimes we have to be him. Sometimes people forget to give or they don't have money and we have to help them. And my family is my Santa Claus because they love me and never forget. I know who Santa Claus is, I know...!"

"But you can't tell, OK? Only people who are ready to know get to be Santa Claus. Little kids don't understand, they need to believe in Santa just the way you always did. It makes them happy and excited. But being Santa, when you're ready- is just as exciting! What do you think?"...more questioning.

"Yeah, it's OK...but I'm still a kid and I like wondering what will be under the tree, I still need Santa Claus."

We eventually delivered the gifts, Beau asking the case worker if we could go along and see the faces. I remember her stunned look at me. She just smiled and left the answering to me.

"We don't need to see the faces, do we? Don't we know how good it will be? Don't we just feel like the best of the best right now? If we deliver them, and they're not ready to know- and they quit believing in Santa Claus...I just think it might make them sad."

My son agreed, without questions this time.
And that Christmas was no different than the previous ones- there were gifts and stockings full of Pez and toothbrushes and oranges and chocolate coins. There were the same sullen faces when it came to opening up "gifts" of clothing...of joy when they were faced with a particularly big wrapped present. And there was a knowing and a not knowing- an acceptance of a reality midst the imaginary. To my knowledge, my son never disclosed the secret to his siblings. Matter of fact, he'd get quite defensive when another not so worldly kid would spout off and tease a child who still believed in Santa Claus. He'd say-

"Santa Claus is real, if you believe. If you don't believe, just wait and see what presents you get- there are kids all over the world who believe and they get their gifts and your gifts too. That's how it works." He was good and kind and had quite the flair for manipulation when most needed. And in his time, what a Santa he was- I still to this day wear the diamond ring with four stones that he gave me, never taking it off.

"Mom, I couldn't help it- I saw the ring in a window and those diamonds reminded me of us kids, how you love us more than anything."

Of course I cried and got on him, this gift was too expensive- he couldn't afford it. In front of the family, I must have hurt his feelings a bit. I took him aside later and couldn't really speak well of how I felt. Again, a quiet between us- I looked at that face that said everything there is to say about the selfless act of giving a gift just to share in the joy of the receiver. I must have smiled the right smile, he returned it and we hugged like two big old bears. Best of the best feeling of all.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

thin in it's branches

Ever since I put up the little scraggly Christmas tree, the dogs have been acting weird. The kids usually pick out the tree and have it cut down, but this year the act caused a commotion and the sibling rivalry got out of hand, two of the three are not talking to each other now and the house remained tree free. Yesterday, I took it upon myself to pick up a tree from a local grower. I picked a precut one since it's demise was already assured and I felt less guilty taking it home. I am not the one to pick trees, I feel sorry for the ones that surely no one in their right mind would choose. So of course, I picked a little winner- when the lady showed me the price tag, I said- "C'mon, I'm taking your Charlie Brown tree...", so- when we got to the price register she told the gal there to knock off nine bucks.

As I drove home through the back roads of the country, in 4-wheel drive High- the sun glistening off the iced road grasses and snow dusted fields, I felt like a million bucks. The tree was going to a place that the children might marvel at it's tannenbaumish quality- yes, it is small in demeanor, thin in it's branches- but just like good Ol' Charlie Brown, I could see it's potential. Why, with tinsel and bright lights, ornaments of past children's masterpieces and that big old shiny gold star at the top, it could be the best tree ever!

(The star bends the top over, the tinsel looks like jewelry on an old drag queen, and the ornaments? Two were put on and the tree actually quivered. Maybe this little old evergreen just needs a little more love...we're waiting to see if it stiffens up a bit before adding more decor.)

And the dogs? They sit on the stairs opposite the tree and gaze upon it with interest, I think they're secretly placing bets with one another on it's sure demise of tumbling over if just the right pup in the household should grasp it's tender branches in her little puppy mouth and give it a bit of a shake. (I've placed the tree on a table top, Miss Etta would have to jump up about three feet to get to it...although a leap from the stairs might do it too.)
With all the house lights off and only the tiny little colored lights twinkling, and if you squint...hard, it is a beautiful tree.

But those dogs keep staring at it like it's going down...the stake out started last night and continues on, the big dog tempting the little one- I swear, just look at the pics, there is evil in his eyes.

Oh Christmas tree, poor Christmas tree-

How spindly are your branches...
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...
The canines are entrance-ed!
The father dog is whispering to

His offspring saying, "I'll bet you...

just one good tug will bring it down,

And there'll be Christmas on the ground!

Oh Christmas Tree, Poor Christmas tree-

You fill my heart with mischief."

A little Christmas spirit to brighten up your day...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa Claus Syndrome

Good morning. Chilly morning. The temperature dropped 40 degrees here last night. And I forgot, or rather put off till today- replacing the ice melter thingamajig for the water trough. I'm sure it's frozen solid through and through and the little machine I'll add to the water/ice later won't do a thing but sizzle on top of that ice unless I chop Monday goings on.
To town we'll head today to sign two of the younger sect up for the January semester at a community college. First stop though will be to the post office to send off the final installments of Christmas goodies to the Big Fish out East and friends. I made molasses cookies yesterday, froggers as my Granny called them- and I made candy, though the peanut brittle is more like laffy taffy, if you slap it against the counter it does crack, but it's more pliable than usual. Tastes good though. And my infamous chocolate fudge with walnuts and a smidgen of Baileys Irish Cream, delectable and habit forming which leads to Santa Claus syndrome- a round little belly...
And the real reason for my post today- my little brother sent me this in an email. If it isn't the darndest, cutest, wackiest thing. Try this link and do as the prompt says. It's addictive, so go ahead and try to stump the "singers", they'll take it on the chin and crack you up.

And I'll be bringing you more Christmas spirit here as it moves me.

Have a good one, take care-

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

lovely people

Good morning. I would have written yesterday, but the wintry mix in the morning took away my satellite connection.
Monday found me contemplating my Christmas list, short it may be- still someone had to fill it. Have I mentioned I hate shopping of any kind? Browsing for antiques is different, that's an adventure into history and I do love old things. Anyway- on my way into town, my youngest daughter Lily called me. She had a headache. A migraine. Could I please, if I was in the area- run her some ibuprofen? Not a problem as I was just five minutes away. Not sixty seconds later, the old electronic leash rang again- this time, a bit more urgent was the call.

"Mom, I've kind of been involved in a fender bender."

Oh my.

She gave me the directions and I got there just as the police officer had arrived. There was Lily's car at the curb, a big Mercedes behind it. Oh no! I looked it over and didn't see a scratch on it, I thought this is good- no damage to speak of. But then a little wiry man said, "No, that's not my car, it's over across the street."
So- off our little parade of people went, the police officer, Lily, me and the man. There at the opposite curb set a Toyota Celica, circa 1988. It was pristine, white and seemingly unhurt too. Then this wiry chap began to he loved this car, took very good care of it, and it may not seem like much but he'd worked hard to maintain it's integrity. Oh great, I thought- just what we need! A man and his car and bumper bruises on his sweety.
Well, we worked it out somehow that both of the drivers were at fault, Lily a bit more ahead in the running. The man kept chattering away, I could tell Lily was having a hard time asserting her position. Finally, she said-"Yes, I didn't see your car come around the big brush truck that you passed, you could have slowed down a bit." The mouse roared. Believe it or not, I kept my mouth shut. The policeman was a kind, gentle man. He suggested as minimal as the damage was, perhaps we could all work it out. The old man agreed. But would I really pay?
"Yes, of course." I said.
"I know an old oriental guy over on Cook street, maybe you know him? He's really good, shouldn't be too expensive. Can you meet me in an hour?"
Well, I didn't know this guy from Adam, he was a bit odd and perhaps a bit overbearing- so I said "here's my cell number, just call me and we'll see what can be arranged."
Lily went back to school, (she was on her lunch break- she's finished her senior year in Springfield so she could graduate early)I went on with my shopping, more uneasy now with this new twist to my day.
The first phone call was weird. No estimate yet. The second phone call was more of the same and I thought, "We're going to get screwed."
The third phone call didn't make much sense at all, with the exception of lawyers mentioned, and would I truly follow through.
Geez...give me a break. Here we go again- attorneys, snakes-vampires with a blood lust for money.
The fourth and final phone call came while I was in Barnes and Noble Bookstore. I'm sure I groaned out loud. I felt my ire grow, and I was going to let this old chap know where to get off and just particularly how to get there...
"Hi Teresa, well- I just want to say you and your daughter are lovely people, I saw my friend, he buffed it right out. I told him how sweet and respectful your daughter was and how you both seemed like good people. Your daughter is a bit naive, Ma'am- but I think she learned a lesson today. No charge."
"Oh, well...I don't know what to say- that is good news. Do you think I should tell here there was a charge so I could at least get some work out of her?!" Ha, ha, sneer, sneer- I'm so witty and clever and feeling oh so stupid that I doubted the goodness of this man, so I made a joke.
His response-
"Well, Ma'am, I am only an average father, but I'd say you're better than that at parenting, but- it's up to you."
"Thank you sir, happy holidays to you, you're very kind."
"Good bye-"

I use to only see the good in people, and often I was voluntarily blind to their obvious character flaws. Then as I matured, grew wise- I began to suspect that everyone had a secret agenda. A bit more cynical in my observations. And now this. From everything I had observed, from every note of melodrama in this man's voice- I truly thought the worst. Every time my phone rang, I felt agitated. Boy oh boy- was I ever wrong. What a sweet man with odd tendencies- I read the cover completely wrong. Just goes to show you...good doesn't often shine as bright as annoyance, but sometimes- it is the silver lining after all.
Have a good one, take care-

Friday, December 5, 2008

drop cloths

Good morning. I have been away with the family- to Maine for Thanksgiving. Beautiful as always, not as cold as it is here and the lobster's were mighty fine. Every time I go, I am on a see food diet- which consists of seafood and chocolate. There are too many wonderful shops with far too many chocolate makers, like pushers- the smells coming from those shops seem to say, "Here kid, try this...go ahead it won't hurt you, there's more where this came from." I am hooked, a chocolate junkie- jonesin' for the Peruvian lady's urchins made with homemade caramel, dark chocolate and walnuts.
We arrived home to a mess, still- in the remodeling project going on here. Drop cloths cover all the furniture and plaster dust covers all the drop cloths...and the computer, and the cups and saucers, silverware...everything!!! And there's this little annoying varmint named Etta who seemingly loves chaos, her puppy printed plaster dusted paw marks are everywhere.
To top it all off, I hurt my shoulder. I have been winged by bustling through airports with luggage swung over my shoulder, to many close calls of getting to the proper gate on time, and someone pulling on one of my bags attached to my shoulder, and bam...out of the socket the shoulder is meant to be snugly fixed into. Nothing major, but just enough to be a lefty for a few days. And this typing isn't working out for me either, so...I'll end and perhaps in a few days I'll be back with some adventurous tale. Like the lady I met on the plane from Maine...kindred spirits I think. Anyway- have a good one, be well.
Take care-