Saturday, December 25, 2010


This Christmas Morning

It is early on Christmas morning. A light dusting of fresh dry snow has covered the already buried ground with a new layer of pure white. The horses are calmly munching on their hay while they await the magic appearance of their breakfast buckets. The dogs are asleep in their kennels and the cats are huddled around the pellet stoves. All is calm.

During my years of writing these stories, I have told you many times of the Gilbert family on Christmas morning. My Dad drinking his coffee while he watches us quickly since he probably has been called to plow runways at the airport. My Mom as she works in the kitchen: ever present and ever worried. So sad that Dad has to leave us but always a smile on her face. Never showing her disappointment which I now know to be heartbreak. My sister, the consummate lady, with her hair fixed and her makeup on for Christmas morning presents and pictures. And me. Yes, me. All a mess. All noisy. And all about Christmas!

We would have Christmas albums playing on the Hi-Fi Stereo system that Dad had splurged on one year. The big Christmas colored lights would be shining on the real, live Christmas tree that we had cut from the back acreage. Tinsel that my Sister had hung on the tree would be glistening. The tinsel I had thrown on the tree would be a mess. The plate of cookies I had set out for Santa would be reduced to crumbs and my note - or was it a letter? - to him would be written on by the man himself. I was convinced he existed. I knew it! And Christmas morning was my proof.

Presents under the tree were left for me from "Santa". The wrapping paper I had never seen before. The bows were new! And the handwriting on the gift tag was foreign to me. The man existed. I knew it!

A half century later and I am still convinced he exists. Fifty years have passed.
And in those fifty years I have doubted that God existed. That my life was worthwhile. That my heart would survive the death of yet another. That I would find money for the electric bill. That the cold would subside. That the heat would break. That it would ever rain again. That I would find the answer. That I would ever know peace. And that I would someday, as I did as a child, believe in the miracle of Santa again.

Of all of those doubts that come with being an adult in this world, of all of them, the one I know for a fact to be the truth is that Santa does exist. I just have a gut feeling. And a heart this morning that is bursting with all kinds of emotions. And I've got to believe, that if there weren't a Santa, why would I even feel anything different on this Christmas morning?

Before my feet ever hit the floor, I realized it was Christmas. I transported myself back to the living room on Gothenburg Road. I could feel the coarseness of the worn wool carpet on the floor. The plushness of the used couch fabric. I could smell the coffee and my Dad's cigarette. I could hear the music playing the Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas album. The draft of cold air coming down the stairs would be fresh on my legs. And I could see the presents.

I now look at the picture of my dear family on Christmas morning a bit differently than I did as a child. Now, I see the strong face of my Father. The weariness in his shoulders. The delight in his eyes. The tiredness of his legs.

Now I see the wishes in my Mother's face as she longs only for one Christmas with her family together and at rest. I see her busy hands that work to keep her mind from wandering. And I see the fruits of her love in her care of us.

I see my Sister in her wisdom as she knows but doesn't tell. She knows of their love for each other and for us. And she knows of their sacrifices and dreams. But she doesn't tell her little sibling. No, she plays along so that I can scream in delight at the new game that Santa had given her.

The smells of the day are fresh in my nostrils. The new snow as we all gather by the door to kiss Dad good-bye. He heads out with his lunchbox and his newly gifted warm work gloves. Out in the dark on this early morning covered in snow. Out in the cold of the Northland. Out away from his family because he loves his family. And will do whatever it takes to provide for them. Even on Christmas morning.

I spend a little time with my family as I lie in bed this morning. I cry for them because I still miss them so. I need the strength of my Father to help me. I need the love of my Mother to console me. And I need the positive outlook of my Sister to push me forward. I miss them. And I long to see them again. Wiping my tears, I head downstairs to awake my own little family on this Christmas morning.

Christmas is full of memories and wishes from the past. But Christmas is full of dreams and hopes and promises of the future, as well.

My inside family greets me as I turn on the lights. Cats looking for morning moist food. Dogs stirring because it is almost time to go outside and play! I pause at the table with my family pictures displayed. "Come with me today", I ask of them. "Stay with me today. On this Christmas morning."

Outside we go and then my outside family greets me. Low nickers of welcome. The crunch of heavy feet on the hard packed snow as they come in for their meal. It seems the same as any other morning. Until I start to sing with the carols on the radio. Unit tips her head a bit more than usual. Spirit stands and watches me. Liz-Beth begins to flap her lower lip a tad. And PONY! stops in his tracks. They can smell the carrots and apples I have prepared. It's Christmas!

They know it is Christmas. They know because they were there on that special morning. In the Christian faith, this Child was born in a barn with cattle and a donkey and camels. The smells of a barn and the feel of fresh bedding. A hay manger for a bed. Surrounded by the innocent animals who do not judge and do not chastise. Creatures who simply accept, forgive, and accept again.

My heart is complex on this Christmas morning. Grief for those lost on one side and contentment for those velvet noses I kiss on the other. Worry for those not rescued and grateful for those under my wings. Big longing for a family still strong in my heart living right next to a big joy for my new family. Why do we Humans have a way of hanging on and not letting go? Why can't we cut the chain of the past that keeps our hearts heavy on this Christmas morning?

It is my truest wish for each of you that on this Christmas morning you find peace in your heart. Peace with where you are, wherever that may be. Where you are this morning and where you are in your life. That you somehow find the promise of Santa somewhere in your world today.

Look for him. He's there. Yes, Santa exists. I know it. How else do you explain the feel of the snow on your face this morning? How else do you explain the warmth of Handsome's breath as it washes over your face? How else do you explain the tiny, little nuzzle of Gracie's nose as you awaken her and guide her to her feed? And how else do you explain the joy in hugging Liz-Beth as she stands there? Accepting and now almost expecting the hug?

As you watch a child unwrap a gift from Santa, how can you deny he exists? As you listen to the Christmas carols and kiss your neighbor under the miseltoe, how can you say there is not a Santa? As you see an entire world pause to reflect on a single story, how can you even think that the jolly old man is only a myth?
He exists. I know it!

I will carry Donald and Violet and Donna with me today. And in their faces, I will see the winks between them and their faces as I exclaim that,
"He was here! Santa was here!" They allowed me to believe. As I child, I believed. And today, I will be a child again. And I will believe in Santa. The absolute miracle of Santa.

Wishing you peace and contentment on this Christmas Morning,
Sandy and The Herd

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