Dear Santa,

How are you?

It’s been years since I’ve written to you.  I think the last thing I asked you for was probably a baby doll with real eyelashes that opened and closed and one of those plastic baby bottles with pretend milk that looked like it was emptying out as the dolly was “drinking” it.  Thanks, by the way.  As you are aware,  that baby doll was replaced eventually by two living dolls.  They were cuter than the one you left,  and louder, and a lot more work.  But they were gifts, too.

I’m sad to report that they didn’t believe in you long enough.  I tried, Santa.  I really tried.  But then you got outed.  I don’t remember who told them, and it doesn’t really matter now.  All I know is that one year they were still residents of  that warm and wondrous village known as ChildrenwhostillbelieveinSantaClaus, and the next year, they were not.  They were older, wiser.  A Little Wise Boy, and then a Little Wise Girl.

And while Christmases after they left the village were still wonderful,  some of the Christmas Magic left and never returned.

Children want to believe in you, Santa.

Moms do, too.  Moms, maybe more.

And this Christmas, I think I speak for a lot of Moms I know when I say we would like a favor from you.

There is a young woman just entering adulthood in Fargo (which, I’m sure you will agree,  is a whole lot like the North Pole) who has been in the hospital a long, long time.  Her mother needs a gift this holiday season.  She has been waiting  for her daughter to wake up.   A lot of people have been praying for this child, this mother, every day and every night and every moment they can.  And God has been listening and answering prayers.

People toss the phrase “It’s a Miracle!” around a lot, don’t they?   A basketball player makes a mid-court shot to win the game and fans walk out of the arena calling the shot a miracle.  College students pass an exam they weren’t prepared for and call it a miracle.  The “M” word is used to explained good things that happen when they shouldn’t, and the repairing of things that appear too broken to fix….like countries, and marriages, and people.

And then, of course…there is Christmas.  That season of legit miracles.  A Mother and a Child.

That girl in the hospital I told you about a little while back?

Her recovery is a miracle-in-progress.

I know that miracles aren’t your department any more than they are mine.  That’s cool.  We can’t all be good at everything.

But Santa?  I haven’t asked for anything from you in a long time.  My hair is grey.  I have everything I need because  I have everyone I need.   They are mostly happy, and quite healthy, and thankfully, blessedly, whole.   Sometimes they make me mad or sad or tired, but even when they do, I would never think to return them.  In a life of shiny objects I couldn’t care less about, they are my gifts.

Which is why I’m asking for a gift for that other mom.  The one with the daughter who sleeps.   The one who sits by a hospital bed….holds a daughter’s hand….rubs her back….paints her toenails…prays…and hopes….and faithfully waits for her own baby girl to come back from the slumbered journey she’s been on for too many days and nights now.

When you make it to North Dakota on Christmas Eve, can you stop in there?  Park the sleigh at the hospital door?   Leave a gift of Christmas Magic for that mom?

And Santa? Please cross me off your list.   There is no room in my Christmas stocking.

It is already full.

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Oh, Christmas Tree….

One of the perks of moving back to the woods has been that I no longer have to put up a Fake Real Christmas Tree.

You know the ones I’m talking about?  Those trees that start appearing in Kmart parking lots the week after Halloween?  They are grown in captivity.  In rows. Thousands of them are harvested and sold to stubborn souls like me who refuse to walk INTO the KMart to plunk down cash to buy a Real Fake Christmas Tree.

When I lived on the vast tundra….um….prairie to the west,  the closest forest was two hours away.   Some of the trees I bought over the years from parking lots were okay.  Some were pretty awful.  One, purchased at a General Store/Machine Shop in 2003 smelled like snowmobile exhaust the entire holiday season.  Pretty sure that even if that tree hadn’t been cut down, it would have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.  And then there was the Crime Scene tree of 1999.   It had been tinted green.  I didn’t know this until it began to thaw out in the house and bleed green dye.  Drip. Drip. Drip.  On my living room rug, which thankfully, was also green.  I put a shower curtain where the tree skirt was supposed to go. It could have starred in its own CSI special.

Each tree I bought during those years  had exactly the same shape.  Apparently, tree farmers do not know what trees that grow up naturally actually look like.  A lot of tip sheared trees have no soul; they are symmetrical and perfect and boring.  This makes them look kind of embarrassed when they are naked, and self conscious once they are dressed with whozits and whatzits and baubles and strings of popcorn.  The worst of my live fake trees through the years looked a lot like Las Vegas women of ill repute – conspicuous, made up, tawdry, and overdressed.

However,  we moved “up north” two years ago. To the land of lots and lots of trees.  Now, rather than paying about 80 bucks for two weeks of penance with the rotund holiday Hooker in my living room,  I can purchase a five dollar permit from the US Forest Service  that allows me to go into the forest, find a real tree, cut it down, and bring it home.

I do not look for  perfect trees  because I want those to remain where God and the red squirrels planted them.  I want them to grow taller and stronger and more beautiful with each passing season.  Instead, I look for the tree that looks like it is being crowded or stunted by the other, stronger trees around it.  I choose the imperfect one in the group.  Sometimes, that means that there are bare branches  that need to be pushed toward the wall.  Sometimes, the trunks are crooked and make for holidays with a Christmas tree listing to the left or the right.

And while Martha might not agree, I think my imperfect trees are very good things. Their long branches hold all the construction paper ornaments made by small hands of two children now grown,  and the tarnished strands of tinsel garland saved for years by a grandmother who remembered trees in a log cabin on her parents’ homestead nestled in that same forest.  My imperfect trees perfume the air on Christmas Eve with that wonderful aroma that no candle company has ever been able to reproduce:  a pine grove after a thunderstorm.

Choosing a tree to cut from a forest makes one feel omnipotent.  Who lives?  Who dies?  And for what purpose? It is heady stuff.  When I am standing in a silent cathedral of trees on a cold December afternoon by myself, I am mindful of this and I try to choose well.  And right before I begin to saw, I always apologize to the tree.  And thank it for the joy it will bring to me and to the people I love who have been blessed with one more year together.

In this season of manic consumption and glittery nonsense,  the trees remind me that Christmas isn’t really about any of that no matter what that skinny blonde twit in the red track suit in the Target ads says.  It never was.

It is about miracles in an imperfect world….simple gifts….silent, holy nights.  An angel.  A star. A manger.

And a tiny, perfect Boy.