Dear Santa,

Hi Santa,

It’s me!  You probably have me in the naughty book because you haven’t gotten a letter from me since somewhere around 1980.  I know I have been a “non-believer” for sometime, but sitting and watching my eight-year-old painstakingly compose her letter to you got me to thinking.  She is writing you with the pure faith that you are a magical, loving, grandfatherly soul who wants nothing more than to make her happy.  As I watched her sign her name and place her letter in the envelope addressed to

Santa Claus

North Pole

I thought that maybe she was onto something.  Maybe I haven’t believed in a little over thirty years, but there is more to you than a one-night-a-year sleigh ride.  The spirit of you, Santa Claus, is alive all over the world, and if I composed a letter, too, maybe my hopes and dreams would come true, as well.

Now, I’d like to say as a 43-year-old woman, I understand that my wants are much greater than an eight-year-old’s.  She asked for an iPad-mini, and rumor has it, she has been on the good list this year and that she is probably going to get it!  Don’t worry, Santa, we explained to her that it is really hard for the elves to put all of those apps inside that tiny machine, so she probably would only get one or two more items under the tree.  God bless her heart, do you know what she said?  She said, “Well, Jesus only got three presents, so I guess that will be enough for me.”

Santa, I am not going to ask for a new garage door or glass-block windows for the basement.  Indubitably, it would be too much work to get the elves to install either of these items while you are here.  I understand; I will save for those items myself.  Also, I am not as materialistic as Sally or Lucy who thought the only happiness they could find would be in the banking or real estate markets.  I have found in recent years that unbeknownst to my younger self, happiness is not found in what I possess.  It is found in what I do, who I am, and with whom I share my time.

So I guess that leads me to what I really want more than anything in the world.  Santa, what I really want is for you to visit me in my dreams and give me inspiration and courage.  Since seventh grade, I have said that someday I would be a writer.  However, I am not, well, at least not a published writer, and I fear that if I try to write anything of substance, it will be rejected.  I need you to give me some good old fashion tenacity, mix in a little creativity, throw in a dash of vision, and maybe just maybe, I can get what I want for Christmas.  Yes Santa, what I want for Christmas is to see my name in print.  No, not just in the blogosphere world.  I want to be in real print, with ink and color and pages that when you lift them to your nose they smell slightly acidic but fresh and clean and people of all walks of life can come across my words and…

Well, you get the point.  If you are real, I know my dream will come true.  If not, well then you’re just the nice whiskered man who dons my wrapping paper and my door wreath.

I just want you to know that I want to believe as much as Lizzie does, and I will do everything in my power to be a good girl this year.  Please consider taking me off the naughty list.  I know a friend of yours, Buddy, and he once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Well, Santa, if that’s what it takes!  I’m on it!

Merry Christmas, and thank you in advance for the consideration.

Love, Cheryl

Can This be Happening?

Moments exist in our memories that are indelible, memories that have great significance in our lives.  They could be personal memories, like the first time you kissed a boy or being caught with a cheat sheet in French class.  They could be historical events that changed the way in which  life existed– like watching OJ run from the police in his white Bronco or the day the towers of the World Trade Center ceased to exist.  These occasions set life on a new path, unexpectedly the reality that was is not the reality that is.  Sometimes, it is a horrific occurrence from which it can take years to fully recover.

************************************

Thursday morning, Tom was in his usual routine.   Because I leave for work at 6:45 AM every morning, he has taken on the role of early morning dad.  He gets the kids up, gets them breakfast, makes sure they are properly dressed, makes them lunches, and then drives them each to their respective schools.  At 7:45 every morning, he and Maggie climb into his car and he drives her the two miles to school.

On most mornings, Tom has said that he loves the seven minutes in the car with Maggie.  They usually talk freely about what is in store for the day.  She is rambunctious and excited and Tom has said how on these mornings, he feels blessed that she is our daughter.

However, this day was not such a day.  Maggie woke up in a foul mood and was cantankerous all morning.  She did not like any of her clothes, and she was angry at the lack of breakfast choices.  She intentionally picked a fight with Lizzie.  Tom said he could tell that something else was driving her morning outbreak, but she would not let on what was making her so irritable.

They got into the car together, and Tom tried to pry again.  He and I both worry that Maggie is a little too excitable, and we worry that she turns kids off.  He thought that maybe something had happened the day before and anticipating going to school was making her anxious.

“Honey, tell me what is bothering you,” he said as he pulled out of the driveway.

She adjusted her seat belt, sighed heavy, and spoke.  “I don’t understand why mom said Santa can only bring us each four presents.  Last year, I had a ton of things under the tree.”

“That’s true, Honey, but last year you were not asking for a 5th Generation iPod.  Santa is on a budget, and when you ask for one big expensive item, you do not get much else,” he reasoned.

She did not like his response.  “I don’t understand why Santa has a budget.  He’s Santa.  Doesn’t he just get whatever he wants? Christmas is going to be totally boring and over in like five minutes if we all get only four things.  It doesn’t even seem worth it.”

I was not there, but I know the tone of her voice when she is being materialistic and bratty.  I know her body language, too.  I assume she folded her arms across her chest and looked smug, as if she had just shown Tom why four presents is a ludicrous amount of gifts and that he and I are idiots for telling her this information.  I also know the rage that rises in my chest when she speaks to me in this tone.  I know the frustration, and if I do not take a deep breath and calm down, sometimes I say things I do not mean to say.

On this particular dank morning in November, a morning when maybe Tom did not get the proper amount of rest or the most well-rounded breakfast, he could not quell the rising tide of anger.  He could not think, and thus, he did not offer the “father of the year” rational, loving response.  Tom said he stopped at the stop sign, looked at her, put his right hand on her left knee and said, “Maggie, you know Santa is just Mom and Dad, and we are always on a budget.”

The words fell out of his mouth, and immediately, he wished he could take them back.  Her mouth dropped open and the two seconds that passed before she turned to stare out the window felt like two minutes, he said.

He let silence reign for a little over a minute, and then he said, “Come on Mags, it’s okay, right?”

She turned.   Behind steaming glasses were eyes welled with tears.  Her face was already streaked with streams of wetness.  “If Santa’s not real,” she said, “that means the Easter Bunny isn’t real, either.”  Her ten-year old body shook as she looked out the window once again.

*******************************

Within three minutes, she was out of the car, wiping her face with her coat sleeves as she walked up the entrance to school.  Tom was left feeling like a shell of a human being.  Everyone finds out sooner or later the truth about Santa Claus, but usually it is the parents who try to hold on to the magic and help you believe for just one more season.

Of course, we texted back and forth about it that morning.  I was on the fence between feeling angry and seeing the humor in it.  I have often said I do not understand this deception we carry out with our children.  Why does Santa get all the credit for the back-breaking labor we perform all year to be able to provide the gifts under the tree?  I have often felt a little under appreciated, if you want to know the truth.  On Christmas morning and the two months previous to this day, the fat man in the red suite is revered, and I am nothing more than chopped liver!

Maggie has been moping around the house for three days.  Carson says she is in the first stage of grieving: denial.  She does not want to believe it.  Personally, I think she is playing it up because she is trying to shake us down for more gifts.  She is acting as if we have ruined her childhood, and she knows that no parents would ever want that on their shoulders.  The more she mopes, the more I think she thinks we will capitulate and buy more presents.

I am strong like bull (it ain’t happenin’, Little Girl.  No way, no how!)

Day 354: And It Truly Is a Merry Christmas

155808_10200282028240186_1825733461_n

I am reminded by Linus about the true meaning of Christmas.  Of course, after a weekend of wonderful family, wonderful memories, and a wonderful mass this morning, I cannot help but thank the Lord for giving me such a wonderful life.  Sitting and laughing with relatives all weekend, and then watching the pure joy of the children this morning, reminds me that I am blessed beyond measure.  I have true and pure love present in my life, and isn’t that why Jesus came in the first place, to remind us that what really matters is LOVE?

Fall through Christmas 2012 050

With that being said, I was tickled pink to place the presents under the tree.  I knew that when the girls awoke, we would have a wonderful  morning of gifts and excitement.  Unbeknownst to me that the “wonderful morning of gifts and excitement” would come at 3AM.  Lizzie woke up the entire house, and as much as Tom tried to cajole the girls back into their beds for another four hours of sleep, I knew it was for naugt.  They had seen the tree.  Santa had already come.  Presents abound with their names on them.  I forced myself out of bed, and we did Christmas at 3AM.  It was nothing less than magical.

The best gift of the wee hours of the morning was not something Santa’s elves conjured or bought from Macy’s or ToysrUs, it was a homemade gift I received from my oldest daughter, Carson.  In all of her wisdom and ingenuity, she made “Carson bucks” and a “Spend chart,” and for the next month or two, Tom and I get chores for free and without complaint!

Fall through Christmas 2012 088

I think I spent a large portion of my life thinking that what someone spent mattered; now that I am a parent, I realize the thought, the heart, and the creativity blow any dollar amount out of the water!

After the wonderful middle of the night gift opening and some sleep for the parents, we went to mass.  Wouldn’t you know, it was overcast and kind of miserable when mass started, but just as the congregation started to sing the opening song, (which I love to belt– it’s church, God doesn’t care how crappy of a voice I have) “Joy to the World,” the sun shined through the stain glass window and almost blinded us in our pew.  I looked around the church, and no other stain glass window was illuminated as bright as ours.  The pew in front of us, our pew, and the pew behind us were in direct warm light.  I don’t care what you believe, but I believe God himself shined on us, and I was reminded how awesome my life is and how grateful I need to be!  Of course, I also thought some of that sunshine was probably my parents, Tom’s dad, and my friend Kim’s mother and brother wishing us a Merry Christmas because they are always around us in spirit.  (Kim was in the row behind us.)

I feel warm and happy.  The greatest gift is not gold, frankincense, and Muir, it is feeling your heart swell because life is good and love abounds.

Merry Christmas Everyone!