Losing My Religion

Last week C announced that he had gotten in trouble in social studies.  Not trouble, really, but called out by his teacher for making a joke about something-something that to her was sacred and serious even more than doing homework on your own without any help of an essay writing service .

The Pope.

I asked C southerncivilwarmall.com what exactly happened and after twenty minutes of wandering through the story, the gist of it boiled down to this-they were watching and discussing the Pope’s visit in class and C innocently asked ‘Who is the Pope?’.

His teacher, a devout Catholic, nearly lost her head, and assumed C was being sarcastic and disrespectful.  She yelled at him (his words) and told him it was wrong to make jokes like that.

But the thing is, he wasn’t joking.

In yet another great parenting fail, my child did not really know who the Pope was.  I mean, he has seen him on TV, and knew him by sight, but he did not really know WHO he was, and what all of the fuss about his visit to the US was.

My family is not Catholic, obviously.  I consider us to be Christians, but we do not attend church, so I don’t know if I can truly say that anymore.  We did for a time, before we had children, and then for a short while after, before leaving the house took over an hour and what should have been a peaceful and spiritual start to our day became a struggle.  We have drifted in and out of churches over the course of our lives looking for a perfect fit and have yet to find one that feels like home.  Today, I consider us to be more spiritual than religious.  I believe in being kind and authentic, in helping others when you can and being mindful and grateful always. I believe in mistakes and forgiveness, and love, lots of love. I believe we are human, flawed and beautiful. I believe I see God on a long ride on a country road, in fields and flowers so beautiful they take your breath away.  He is  in the ocean, and the sound of the tides lapping the sand and in the smell of the pluff mud. I hear Him in my children’s laughter, and know He is present when they come to kiss me out of the blue, hug me unexpectedly, or take my hand as we walk through the store.

But am I failing by not teaching my children about other religions? If we were attending church regularly, would they be exposed to more than just ours? I don’t recall in any of the Methodist or Episcopalian services I attended anyone ever discussing Allah, or even expecting my children to know who Allah is.  Do other churches talk of Buddhism and Siddhartha Gotama? In Sunday school do they discuss Hannukah? As a parent, I am supposed to share my beliefs with him, but should I be sharing all beliefs?  My parents did not, nor did we attend church as children, and yet I learned-so from where?

Part of me wonders if the internet and Netflix, streaming and DVR are part of the problem.  There was endless coverage of the Pope’s visit on TV, but I doubt we saw more than 15 minutes total of it.  There are so many other options, so many other channels, if you are not interested you just move on. Click! Simple as that.  And I can promise you, a 12 year old boy is not interested.  When I was a child and the news was so big that every channel covered that one event, you had no choice.  We didn’t have 500 channels to choose from, or a dozen shows DVR’d that we could turn on. We watched the news. It preempted regular programming and you suffered through it.  We talked about it and learned from it.

Today, I am lucky if I watch 15 minutes of news a day, and I can bet my children watch none.  Mine is limited to the Today Show, which is less news and more entertainment daily.  We don’t subscribe to a newspaper, though I do try to read(skim) the NYT on Sundays.  So where would my children see and hear anything about current events?  They are certainly not searching them out on their own.

I briefly considered emailing C’s teacher an apology, and explaining he truly did not know the Pope, and his significance, and didn’t mean t offend, but I didn’t.  Part of me was angry that she assumed he would, that she was so quick to anger over his simple and innocent question.  What if I was Muslim, or Jewish? Had she considered that?  And really, the boy is 12 for Pete’s sake.  Batman and Santa Clause are important to him. Not the Pope.

Part of me felt guilty and added this to my list of personal and parental shortcomings.  Some days I swear I have retained very little from my high school social studies years, and honestly I am not well versed when it comes to current events either, so it felt a bit like she was calling me out as well. The worrier in me assumed she sat in the teachers lounge that afternoon and told everyone that my son ‘didn’t even know who the Pope was’, while shaking her head and ‘wondering what kind of people’ we are.

I know none of that is true, and I know that C now knows perfectly well who the Pope is and why he is such a big deal.  We sat together that evening and watched the news, and discussed it.  We googled a bit of information and talked about other religions.  We reflected on past Pope’s and how this one is different and why that is important.  Could he write a paper on the Pope now? No, probably not, and that is okay with me.

But going forward I may just renew my subscription to the newspaper, and maybe even Time magazine or Newsweek.  Relying on the various apps I have to give me my news in 60 seconds or less works fine for me, but is leaving a new generation out in the cold and uninformed.

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Leave me alone, I’m lonely.

I miss my friends.

There I said it. Big breath. Exhale.

I miss my friends. My people. My bitches.

Some days I miss them more than anything and a text or a phone call just doesn’t help.

I miss my friends. It sounds crappy to say it, so I haven’t until now. I mean, it is nice to hear if you are the friends I am missing, but it sounds like a slight to the friends I have made here-yes? And I have made friends here. I have made many friends, wonderful and diverse friends. We share laughs, and cocktails; we do dinners and volunteer together. I am fortunate that in such a short time in my new home I have found so many women that I share so much with.

But I still miss my friends.

I had an unexpected day off the other day and had no plans and no direction. I couldn’t think of anything to do (yes, I suppose I could have cleaned, dusted or done laundry). Then I came up with a ton of things to do, but didn’t want to do them alone. So did I call any of the many friends I have made? No. I spent the day solo and melancholy. Wanting to be alone, but feeling very lonely.  It sounds ridiculous and I feel silly and petty for even saying all of this. I kept trying to figure out what my problem was, why couldn’t I just call someone?

I finally realized that what I am missing is the relationships themselves, not necessarily a specific person or people (though I do miss them too). I am longing for the depth and layers that come only after years spent together.   I miss the intimacy of those friends that have seen me at my worst with snot and tears on my face. I am aching for the people who know my moods and will  come sit and watch Netflix all day and drink wine and not talk at all. I am missing genuine hugs, coffee on my porch; drop in friends that show up when you expect it least but when you need it the most. I miss sitting at my kitchen table watching ridiculous YouTube videos and laughing until I pee, dressed in my finest pajamas while our collective children run screaming through the house. I miss walking the neighborhood baring my raw and fractured heart and getting a much-needed pep talk , no holds barred, no bullshit with the one friend that would tell me EXACTLY like it is. I miss the stories and tall tales we all shared over a fire pit in the first days of fall.  I miss being lulled to sleep by the sound of the river, warmed by the sun, and surrounded by the chatter of women I have known over a decade. I miss the messy and dirty, the sad and moody, the calls for nothing, the silly texts, the beer in the garage, the cigarettes behind the house, the crying, the laughing, the highs and the lows, of those friendships I left behind.

There are things that only life and time can give you, and that kind friendship is one sadly of them. The women I have in my life now are amazing in their own way, but it is early in our relationship and we are all still shiny and new. We still look our best to see one another, and say the kindest things, and are sure to agree on mostly everything. Our kids are still perfect, our husbands amazing and our lives are full and vivacious. It will take time to drop the mask, the pretense, and the fear of being judged or not liked for who we really are. It will take time to be authentic, to be human and fragile, to trust and have faith in the foundations we are laying. But how ironic is it that I was so ready to move away from SC and away from people who had seen me stumble and fall too many times to count, I now wish I had someone here that knew me when…

Of course I could be doing more to foster such relationships. I could reach out more to the friends I have, I could initiate and try a bit harder. I could relax, drop my guard and open up. I have come to know and enjoy the people I surround myself with so why not? What is stopping me? I suppose it could be pure laziness on my part-extending myself with new and different people, being ‘on’ for long periods of time is exhausting to me-a side effect of my hearing loss. I have to concentrate and focus so much more on what is being said and what is going on around me which some days, just wipes me out. It could be fear. I have sat in the embers of a few female friendships that went up in a spectacular ball of flames, and I am in no hurry to do that again. (Women as it turns out, can hurt each other far more than any lover or spouse ever could.) Letting someone get that close again is not coming easy for me-arms length seems a comfortable distance for now, but I know it has its price and feeling like this is it.   It could also be that now I have to stand on my own as a woman, and as a friend, and that is a new and unfamiliar feeling for me. My children are grown (enough) that my circle is not being made up of the mothers of my children’s friends. I am not being thrown together at a  or Boy Scouts or some random school function where we can bond over too sweet lemonade and that one class our kids are all struggling with.  I am choosing my own friends now, and I have to be chosen as well, solely based on ME.  That makes things different-not necessarily harder or worse, just different. Finding a common thread is not a given anymore without my children as my little wingmen.

I love my life in my new home, and my new community. I love the many ways I have grown and changed since I have moved here-and I do dearly love the women that I have found and that I now call my friends. Of course I hope to never stop missing my friends back home-they have been my inside my heart for so long I cannot imagine life without them.  And I do look forward to making memories and building on the foundations I have with the new people in my life. But every once in a while I just need to say it out loud and not hurt anyone’s feelings.

I just miss my friends.

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What’s in a DISC

I took a DISC assessment last month, something I had not done in more years than I care to recall. It was for a job with a national company- job that I may, or may not even want. But I have little to lose these days so I took it and went to the subsequent follow up meeting as well.

The manager I met with is clearly trained to tell me that there are ‘no wrong answers’ and that these tests are just to be sure that I am positioned to do well within their company.  They say this politely while they scroll through all of the commentary in my file.  I  sat patiently until we got to the summary notes, the last page, the outline of whether or not I fit the profile they are looking for.

According to my DISC I am a strong IS and a not so much DC. This means that I am articulate, motivational, enthusiastic, as well as consistent, patient and loyal.  I am a good listener, and I am extremely helpful.  All good things and things that I think sum me up fairly well.

The flip side of this-because there is always a flip side-is that I am not strong willed or authoritative, nor am I analytical, precise or systematic.  This was not a shocker either.

I was surprised a little that after 20+ years my profile had not changed. Despite the many attempts at people to change these very core pieces of my personality, I am still me.

The job in question was a sales position, so based on these results I would do just fine. And  having been a Realtor for seven years I know this is true.  The reporting and forms that would need to be completed in this position? They would no doubt be a struggle for me. But I could do them, and would do them if need be, just as I had when I sold real estate.

But I have tossed those results around in my head for a few weeks now, using them to gauge my successfulness or lack thereof at certain points in my life and I see where they have worked for me and against me.  Meeting scheduled? I prep the morning of, arrive in a flurry of papers and confusion.  But when I am called on to speak? I am ‘on’.  I can connect and convey my message without all that pesky data and those boring graphs. I am a people person, not a numbers person.  According to the charts I seek reward and praise, and I readily share praise with others.

But it also explains a lot of things. My lack of D and C-Dominance and   Conscientiousness now that I have given them some serious thought, has had some not so positive effects on my life. I have never been one to balance my check book for example. The tedium, the numbers, they don’t make sense to me.  Sticking to a budget? Forget about it. Combine those two things and I am a walking financial nightmare for my husband to keep track of. A food journal or diet plan?  For a day or two. Maybe three. Even with the ‘easy to use’ apps on my phone I find I am unable to stick it out. I am not ‘systematic’ nor am I ‘results driven’ though, I would very much like to see the results. Ha!

I am looking hard at this assessment not necessarily for the job I interviewed for, but for the work that I am doing now, the business I want to start on my own, the life and yes, the body I want to have.  I used to think it was my ADD, that I simply lacked focus and was easily bored, and I still do. But when I add the results of my DISC I am at a clear disadvantage in some aspects of life. If these traits are so ingrained in me that after twenty or so years they have not changed, how can I adapt myself so that I ensure my own success in more areas of my life? Now that I have identified them how to I make them work for me and not against me?

Clearly I have some more homework to do here.  Can I change? Who knows. One would have thought that I would have by now.   Do I want to change? Yes, very much actually. Not across the board though-most of the characteristics in my IS are very favorable and serve me well. But would I like to be more assertive in areas of my life? Would I like to be more independent and strong willed? Oh yes.  Would I like to be more organized in let’s say, ALL areas of my life? Yes! Please!

I don’t know where to start, and in classic IS form, I will fall back on my ‘let me think about it some more’ behavior, and go from there….

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I am Enough.

I had a dream this morning.  My alarm had already gone off and was set to snooze.  I sank back into the pillow and pulled the covers up tight around my neck making a cocoon of sorts and off I went.

In the dream I was curled up in the fetal position on the floor, my head resting on a pillow.  The pillow was a bright pink color and the room was mostly white.  It felt familiar, as though I had been there before, but it was not my room.  The space was full of women standing, sitting, listening to a tiny woman sitting on the floor. I knew the woman, I have seen her many times. I have heard her speak and been moved by the words, the spirit and the energy that flows from her.  Her lithe little body was sitting cross legged on the floor, knees not far from my face and she had asked me a question.

What are you afraid of?

For a moment I could not answer, fear seized me, glueing my mouth shut.  What am I afraid of? I knew she was not asking about mice or snakes or those types of fears.  She was asking about the hard stuff.  I could feel tears starting to well up in my eyes. This, I am afraid of this.  Of telling someone what I am afraid of. Of sharing my fears. Of being judged when I do. Of being judged period.

Why are you crying? She asks me.  I am sitting up and trying to muster the courage the answer her and the other woman are turning to look at me.

Of not being enough, I say.  It is barely audible. She is staring straight at me as if to say ‘yes, this is what I was waiting for you to say’.

Of not being good enough. Of not doing enough, I continue.

I feel like I am let things go, doing one thing in favor of another, that it is all never enough.  Therefore I am never enough.  It’s an endless cycle and I cannot get out of it.

I laugh, make some sort of joke of it-a typical response to stress for me and we all begin to disperse. The dream ends, drifts off like tendrils of smoke, and I am awake.

I carry those words with me all day, wondering why they crept into my subconscious.  I could start a list perhaps.  All of the areas in my life I do not feel like I am enough, good enough, strong enough, smart enough…But what good would it do?  I try to remember the last few days and what has made me feel like this, made me call forward this thought so much so that it took such vivid shape in my sleep.

Sunday I was sharing with a friend the idea I have for my next tattoo. A white one, simple typewriter font on the inside of my wrist-‘enough’. To remind myself everyday, I told him, that I am enough, I have enough, I am good enough.  I smirk at the irony of it.

Last night, I read with eagerness an article on ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and wondered if that is indeed what I am here-an impostor?  Am I pretending to be something I am not-a writer here, a photographer there.  This week I nervously handed my business cards out, wanting to draw in new clients, but fearful at the same time.  I emailed someone about freelance work-who am I to offer services?  Am I fooling myself?  Who said I was good enough to do all of this?

As I left for work this morning I kissed my son goodbye with guilt on my lips.  I hate leaving him home alone during the summer days. They should be filled with fun and adventure and memories.  Not spent home alone.  I looked around my house at the papers in disarray and the laundry stacked on the dryer.  I thought of the last time my husband and I were together, it seems like weeks ago now. Am I even getting this right? Am I good enough as a mother and wife?

The list is endless-the ways I feel less than enough. The ways we make ourselves feel inferior and smaller, our contributions insignificant, our efforts wasted-they could go on in an endless loop if we let them.  I have to draw myself back and find my faith, my balance, my center in all of it.  I have to say that word out loud and feel it, trust it, and know that I am, enough.

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Here and Now.

I haven’t been here lately. I haven’t written and I have not read.  I have fallen victim to my own lack of focus, my own pattern of distracted behavior.  It’s not that I don’t want to be writing-I do.  I have several half completed, partially edited essays on my laptop and a handful more in the Notes app on my phone.  Ramblings I’ve dictated to myself while I am driving that I fully intend to turn into something later-when I have time of course. (ha!)

But I have been busy. I am still creating, still opening my heart, still trying to convey a message, or messages, just with a different medium. I have picked up my camera after years of letting it catch dust or taking the obligatory pictures of birthday parties and bedrooms.  These days I am taking pictures of animals, mostly for the local shelter here.  I am trying to capture the personality of the cats and dogs that need homes, to help them shine and show their heart.  I roll around in the grass with them with my camera at all kinds of crazy angles trying to get just the right look-the look that says ‘take me home’.  It is rewarding and fulfilling in ways I have not felt in years.

I have been taking pictures of this new life I am living as well.  Four and a half hours now from the coast, I am surrounded by hills and farms and landscape that takes my breath away on a daily basis. In doing so I have been learning about my camera, my eye, my town and myself all at once.  I have found a part of me I thought I had lost and finally a part of me that makes so much sense.  I have been trying to squeeze myself into a mold-a career, a lifestyle that was the wrong size all along. I have finally realized I don’t have to ‘be’ anything. I just have to live this life.  LIVE IT.  The rest will come. It is coming.

Every week I take my camera out for a drive.  I don’t turn on the radio, and I don’t answer my phone.  I roll the top down on my little convertible and for an hour or sometimes more, I drive around and get lost.  Sometimes, really lost.  But that is when we are found, isn’t it?  I believe it is.

This past weekend my husband and I took the Miata up to the mountains.  We drove with the top down almost the entire weekend solid.  We had my camera in tow just about as much. We drove in silence, listening to the wind, the road, the trees and our thoughts. We never even turned on the radio.  We looked around at everything, pulling over so often it took us twice as long to get anywhere. We were in no hurry and had no plans.  We smelled every flower, every field, every farm and every cookout we drove past.  We even smelled the rain as it started.

Peace out.

Peace out.

I have read a ton of books on being authentic, being present. I’ve listened to podcasts and apps on mindfulness.  At the bottom of my worst days they each have helped me through-teaching me how to let go of anger and bitterness, fear and anxiety.  I have met women who inspire me and empower me and ended my struggles with those that do not. But this weekend, driving those roads and looking out at the glorious views with my husband of nearly twenty years by my side, was the first time I have really felt it down to my core, in my heart and soul, into my bones and back.  I mean felt IT. Present. Authentic. In the moment. Peaceful.  All of those catchphrases that we pin or post, I feel like I embodied every single one.

This weekend wasn’t a big romantic gesture, no grand plans for candlelight dinners or expectations of roses and jewelry.  I have come to a place where I don’t need, or care for those things.  It was just to get away, to connect with each other after months of running-or has it been years? Yes, probably years-with kids and jobs, health issues and even a lawsuit-it has surely been years.  And while I thought I needed a big grand plan-an island in the Caribbean, a week at least, a plethora of fruity drinks and someone to wait on me hand and foot-it turns out I don’t need any of that. THAT isn’t what touches my soul anymore.

It’s funny what life teaches you if you are listening, if you are looking.  I can’t put a number  on the amount of lessons life has taught me these last few years-it would be impossible to count. I can only say that I am thankful that my eyes were open.

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Make Time

Make time.

Make time. How many times have I heard this? Make time.

Make time for me. For exercise, for writing.  Make time for the children, my husband, my friends. Make time to cook, to clean. To do laundry, to put away my clothes, the dishes, the piles of papers on my desk. Build a business, have a life, relax, ride a bike, walk a dog, take a nap.  Make time.

Make. The. Time.

You can change, you can do anything you want to-if you make the time. Right?

Right now I am staring at a pile of clean laundry that needs to be put away, next to a basket of exercise clothes that don’t ever get used, while writing the blog I have neglected in favor of the business I am trying to start in between the job I have in the house I keep with the kids I raise with the husband I married.  I wish I knew how to make time.

Is there a recipe? Can I google the instructions or watch a video on YouTube? Is there a formula or equation I missed in Algebra or Chemistry? I was never good at either one of those.  Making time.  Does it require baking? Because I don’t bake.  Cooking, I can do, baking-not so much.  Good Lord, I am creeping up on 50-can someone please share the secret with me? Pass me a note-I won’t tell.

Just make the time.

How much more would I make if I could? An hour? Three? Five? We all complain there are not enough hours in the day, but what is a good number? What would work? And if we can move Daylight Savings Time around, why can’t we add a few hours?  How about six-make it an nice round 30 hours a day.  No one really sleeps the full 8-10, so let’s go with 20 daytime hours and 10 night time hours.  That seems about right for me.

Make time.

I feel like I heard it a million times, and I know I will hear it a million more. From my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my coworkers, my therapist.  Easy enough.  Just make the time.  

Did you know there is a book on it? I want to order it, but I don’t think I will actually have the time to read it. Unless I get the flu or something drastic. Yes, there is an actual book called Making Time.  (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Time-Different-Speeds-Control/dp/1848310013 )

I envy the people who do make time.  The women I see every day in tennis outfits or running shorts (you know, the ones that really have been to the gym).  The writers that lock themselves away and write for hours uninterrupted in peaceful bliss (unlike myself who typically dictates to Siri my next essay idea, or my next essay entirely, while in the car running errands).  The photographers that get up to see the sun rise, and manage to process and post their photos all in one day, or better yet, the ones that keep up with the 365 Day or the 52 Week Challenge. I am curious what they do ‘in real life’.  Do they have a job/kids/spouse/friends/commitments that beckon them and they ignore them (because they are making time)? How do they do it all? Last week I ran out the door to drive one child to school, grabbed the camera and found myself on the side of the road in my sweats, hair a rat’s nest, standing in an ant pile with no makeup on taking pictures of the gorgeous fog rising off the fields.  I have only looked at and edited four images since then.  I have not made the time, you could say. Or you could say, I have had houseguests, work, kids, and other commitments that have not allowed me the time to circle back.

Make time.

I wish I could. I am sure you do too. I do my best, I promise.  To make time for everyone that I love, and for those that love me. I know over the years the ebb and flow of life have made one person or the other in my life have felt otherwise, but I truly do.

And now I am going to make time for bed, for sleep.  All of the things undone on my list of things to do today, will be added to the list for tomorrow.

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Birthday

It is the birthday of one of my oldest and dearest friends today.  Facebook was kind enough to send me a reminder yesterday-Outlook too.  I had to smirk for just a moment because for the first time in probably the history of our friendship, I had not forgotten. I had remembered it on my own.  He would have laughed at this, he would have appreciated the irony.  The year I finally remembered, is the first birthday he is not here with us.

My feed this morning is filled with his face, pictures of him laughing and smiling with family and friends.  Memories are being shared across the miles.  They are like a quick punch in the gut for a moment, sneaking up on me and stealing my breath.  He is in his uniform, handsome and proud.  He is dancing at his wedding, his face filled with joy as he holds his new bride.  He is on his bike in the woods, jumping logs and racing downhill.  He is hugging his girls and laughing with them.

He was my rock, my constant, from the time I was barely a teenager, to the day he died.  No matter what trouble I found myself in, what mess I made, he was there for me.  Always.

I don’t think that I said enough before he was gone-I love you, or thank you.  It happened so quickly, that I did not even get to say goodbye.  I called, and it was too late.  He couldn’t speak-the cancer had moved to his brain.  My chance to say all of the things I wanted to was gone.  Just like that.

There are so many things in life I do not understand, that I will never understand.  There are things that religion, and spirituality and faith cannot explain to me.  This is one of those things.  I struggle with the why….Why him? Why so soon after he found true love and true happiness?  Why, when he was so good, so kind? What sense does that make? How can your stories, myths, or beliefs make this right?

They can’t for me.

He died just six months after he danced at his wedding. His honeymoon was spent in the hospital.   There is no sense in that.  There never will be.

Today I will remember his laugh, deep and genuine.  I will remember his smile and his absolutely positive outlook on life.  I will be thankful for the years of unconditional friendship he gave me.  I will whisper happy birthday, and let the tears fall, and hope that wherever he is now, he knows how much he is missed and loved.

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Untitled

My dreams have brought me back again

To places I don’t want to go.

With words I shall not say

And foes I would not name.

I woke with a hand on my shoulder

An unfinished hush in the air

And I was looking for someone

That was never really there.

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Dear Santa

My husband and I have moved into the quiet synchronicity that being married close to twenty years has allowed us. We rarely argue anymore, hardly disagree. Of course there are the little things-whether to eat out or in, if the children should do x, y, or z, but for the most part, we have truly become partners. I would be lying to you if I pretended it was always like this. Trust me when I say there have been knock down drag outs that I am both ashamed and embarrassed of now. But today, today we are on the same page about almost everything.

There is still just one tiny thing we cannot agree on.

That thing is Santa Claus.

C is twelve this year, next week actually and still believes. Yes, yes he does. Last year he saw the ‘Santa paper’ in the closet, recognized his father’s handwriting on the note and asked me tentatively if Santa was real. I could see the fear, hurt, and sadness in his eyes as he posed his question, and it tore me up. How could I crush him? How could I take the magic from him?

I could not. Oh, I did not promise he was real, living in a real house in the North Pole with Mrs. Clause and the elves. But I did tell him the magic was real. That if he wanted to believe, then yes Santa would continue to bring him gifts and yes, Charlie the (damn) elf would still appear December 1 and hide all over the house making sure he behaved. I told him that when you don’t believe, you still get gifts, Christmas is still about our traditions and the things we do as a family and that most things would not change at all. Except for the fact that mom and dad would now bring his gifts. He pondered this, big fat tears welling up in his eyes.

“But I don’t want Charlie to go away.”

I do. Of all things Christmas, that is the one thing I would be happy to let go of. But what could I say?

I reassured him once more that we would continue our traditions, Santa or no.

He looked at me for a long time, and I felt my own tears starting to fall. This was worse than watching him walk onto the bus for the first time, his backpack almost as big as he was, his tiny little smile and chubby hands waving at me from the window of the monstrous yellow bus.

This was worse-for both of us.

Our conversation went on for a few more minutes. I gently tried to lead him to his own conclusion, to his own realization of the truth. The wheels in his head kept spinning.

Finally, I asked him outright.

“Do you want me to tell you yes or no? Real or not?”

He looked at me for just a moment.

“No, “ he said. “And I don’t ever want to talk about this again.”

And so it was. He continued to play with whatever toy he had in front of him. I hugged him as hard as I could and went out to the garage to cry.

This year I wondered if he would let it go on his own. I wondered as the holiday approached if he would come to me and tell me he knew, just as he did with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Matter of fact.

But he did not. And as I tested him in tiny ways, he let me know unequivocally, that Santa still lives.

“Do you want to sit on Santa’s lap?” I asked at the Christmas tree farm. He did. A pinch of embarrassment for being one of the oldest kids to do so, mixed with a spot of excitement because even to me, that Santa looked real.

“Do we need to send Santa a list, and let him know we moved?” I prodded tentatively. We do not, because Santa sees everything he told me. “He knows where we are. “

My husband does not believe I should be continuing this charade. C is twelve, he argues. It is time.

But, why? Why is there a time? Why is there a deadline for magic and childhood? I don’t think there should be. I look at my son and I can still see his doughy feet and little belly. I can still curl up with him spooned into my body and smell his stinky boy smell. Why can’t we savor this to the very last? Why do I have to take the last bit of wonder and surprise away from us both?

I snuggled with him this morning, our daily ritual after the alarm goes off, and thought about other families and what they have told their kids and I would be lying if I did not think about the parents in Ferguson and Cleveland, and all of the other communities where violence and is the norm. I closed my eyes. What do they get to hold on to? What magic is still in their lives? Do you still believe in Santa when you watch your friends gunned down in the street? Do you care if Charlie the Elf knows you’re naughty when you don’t have heat, or enough to eat, or your parents don’t have a job? Is there magic in watching drug deals on the corner, or riots, looting, and protests. As a parent do you just tell them, flat out that there is no Santa, no magic man bringing Christmas, that this is life and all it’s ugliness so get used to it?

The thought makes me cringe, and want to cry once again.

This is why I believe. And this is why I let him believe. There is time enough for his childhood to be filled with tragedy and realities that I cannot take away. There are children that I cannot protect, that I cannot hold and comfort. There are parents that have no choice, no way to bring peace and calm and traditions home to their family this year, or any year. I do, I have a choice. So on this one, I will not concede to my husband and his sensibilities. I will diligently move the Elf, wrap the gifts in ‘Santa paper’, and leave out cookies and milk, and I will hold on to our magic just a little bit longer.

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Hidden Treasures

I have a love of antique shops; their dusty windows and creaking doors beckon me from the roadside whenever I travel. I cannot resist their hand painted signs that call out ‘Come in, we’re open!’ as I drive along. I have to stop. I have to go in. They are calling to me. I can hear the tinkle of the tarnished brass bell hanging above the door even before I turn the knob-the sound is that familiar.

The signs outside say ‘antique shop’, as they always do, but they rarely offer real antiques. They are more like junk shops, and honestly more of a shed than an actual shop, but the lure is the same.   Before I know it my hand is on the knob and I am calling out ‘hello’ to some shopkeeper hidden by dust and drapes.

I am comforted the instant I walk in. It is an odd aromatherapy for me inside these shops-the odors surround me and I cannot help but smile, relax and take it all in. Cedar and leather, stale paper, and old book bindings, ink and mothballs. The combination makes me dizzy with reflection.

It takes barely a moment before I am back at my grandparent’s house in CT. The setting sun across the street is stretching through the bay window, and it has lit the formal room on fire. The crystal on the hunt board, the one that now sits in my dining room, cracks and fractures the light and makes it dance on the keyboard of the piano against the wall. The dust is floating like glitter in the air, so slowly it almost looks still. I can see into the living room and my grandfather is there in his chair. It is plaid, the colors of fall-browns, red and gold; worn in the places his bony body sits most, where his elbows rest on the arms. His side table is heavy with his drink and his ashtray and a tendril of smoke carelessly makes its way to the window beside. I can smell the salt of the olives in his martini and the Sound in his clothes. His hands stink of tobacco and fish, of ink and paint. He has drawn all morning at his drafting table, and then fished all afternoon out on his beloved boat.

I can see her too, my grandmother, around the corner sitting on the long floral sofa. It’s garish colors-orange, green, day glow pink, make me wonder if long ago they had bright parties here, entertained their friends and filled the house with laughter. I can smell her perfume, delicate and soft, lightly floral, mixed with a fine dusting of baby powder. I can see her wild gray hair and bright red lipstick. She is doing the crossword, her glasses resting on the end of her nose, tall glass of seltzer on cobbler’s bench she uses as a coffee table. It is sweating on an aluminum coaster, like the very set I place my hand on just then in the junk shop.

I laugh out loud and startle myself, and the shop owner. He looks at me like I am a tad off, and maybe I am. I can’t help it. A set of aluminum coasters! An aluminum tray etched with a floral pattern barely worn! The floral pattern that matches the one on the bowl I have carried with me since she passed. How funny! My eyes start to scan the rest of the shelf and find it littered with memories that make me long for them, make me wish I could be with them both one more time. The Corningware casserole dish, the wooden level and planer, the aluminum percolator, all right here… just as they were there in their modest home and musky garage.

In the corner of the shop is a small cedar chest and I cannot stop myself from opening it. I am not at all curious what is in it-I don’t even care. I want to smell it. I want to take it in. Its contents are of no concern to me, for when I close my eyes and breathe in the richness of the wood, all I can see is corner of the living room where my grandmother kept the ‘toys’. Toys to us, though I am sure not what my children would consider entertaining now. No, these treasures, often scavenged from thrift shops themselves, were books and games, crayons and puzzles. Paper dolls and dress up clothes. And in a cedar chest, just like this, were old rubber stamps and inkpads from my grandfathers office-the most coveted ‘toys’ of all. Hours we spent with playing with them, until the light was too dim to see in that little corner of the house.

How strange I must seem to the man behind the counter. I have bought nothing. I have been in here for 15 minutes, or has it been more, and I have done nothing but laugh and smile, touch and smell the wares he has. I have been visiting with the past, spending time with my memories. The aromas that waft in and out of my mind rock me like the tide and have calmed me. I am leaving empty-handed, but full of gifts nonetheless.

I wonder where my children will go to remember me. What place will they wander when they want to be close to me? Will they too walk into a vintage store or antique shop and remember me, smell me and feel me in the air? I hope so. I remember for a time being saddened that I had no place to visit, no place to feel close to my grandparents. Both of them were cremated, their ashes scattered in the waters they worshiped, and when I moved away from the coast they felt lost to me. But they are not lost. I can find them anytime I want to-hidden in the least likely places. When I need to feel close to them I now know just where to go.

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