So long, 2015

2015, I am glad to see you leave.

I wish I could say it’s been fun, but it hasn’t.

The past 12 months haven’t been horrible, but, they just haven’t gone as I thought they would. I had goals.

I had plans.

I had aspirations.

I had ten pounds I wanted to lose and a pair of skinny jeans I wanted to fit in again.

I had a room to de-clutter and turn into an art room.

It now has more junk in it to go through in the post-Christmas chaos.

Isn’t that the way every year goes though?

The number of people I considered to be friends has decreased a bit more, as with each passing year I learn who is really my friend and who is just around when it’s convenient.

I am fine with that.

I have learned it’s OK to have quality over quantity, especially in this area.

I found out we can endure far more than we ever imagine. I have witnessed people in my life somehow make it through things that would have bested a giant.

I have learned some people can amaze us with their strength, their perseverance, and their faith.

I think, however, there has been enough tests, and enough trials and tribulations to last a lifetime.

2015 hasn’t been all bad, however.

There have been moments where my faith in people have been restored.

Small miracles have come through.

Good things have happened, even if not on the scale we wanted.

We’ve found gratitude can help us stay focused.

We’ve learned the small things do matter and that manners make a difference.

We have more technology than we could imagine, and can watching things on demand, read books on our phones, and can Facetime with someone across the world.

And still what we crave the most is a hug from someone who really cares about us.

2015, you have been full of ups and downs.

You’ve given us horrifying, heartbreaking news any time we turned on the TV.

Then, Steve Harvey messed up announcing Miss Universe and the world had something new to tweet about.

Your weather has been moody as my Mama was my senior year and before hormone replacement therapy was widely used.

If anything, between the 70 degree December, torrential downpours, and resurgence of bugs that should be hibernating in cocoons, you are making the 1982 version of Mama when she ran out of cigarettes late one Sunday night seem more stable than your weather patterns.

No, 2015, I am glad to see you go.

I am welcoming in 2016, with open arms, great dreams, and big goals.

I am believing this year will bring in better things – new beginnings and better opportunities – and that somehow, even when we don’t believe it, that miracles will happen and good will win.

I am counting on this year being so much better than 2015.

Instead of being glad to see the year end, it will be as a year where great and wonderful things happened.

Not just for me, but for all of us.

I think we all are long, long overdue.

 

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Catching Santa (12/16/15)

My child had a plan.

It was an intricate plan, complete with several diagrams and involved string.

I watched him furiously make his plans one evening, drawing everything out, measuring distance and re-evaluating the steps needed.

I am guessing it was close to watching Einstein at work.

“What are you doing?” I finally asked when he began getting the Border collie involved.

“I’m working on a project,” was his reply.

He continued with his diagram, erasing and redrawing lines when he found something didn’t work.

The Border Collie wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but remained steadfast in the endeavor.

“Cole, you’ve got twine around Pumpkin. What are you doing?”

“I’m going to catch him,” he said.

“Catch who?” I asked.

“Santa.”

Oh, boy.

“Really? How are you going to do that?”

He stood up and surveyed the preliminary execution of his plans.

“Well, I am still working on it, but I am going to leave him a note saying there’s milk in the fridge, when he opens the fridge, it will trip this string, which is supposed to pull this down and take a picture,” he took a breath. “I’m trying to get this little camcorder to work, but not sure how I can when it only records for a few minutes. It needs to be running a while. As you can see, I am still working on this.”

“I see.”

He continued: “I am going to get proof Santa’s real, Mama. You know? I am going to get video and photographic evidence! He is real, right?”

Ah, so that’s what it was. I wondered when this day would come, I just never expected my child to come up with a plan involving video and fifth grade engineering to be involved.

“He is,” I answered. “But, he stops coming when you stop believing in him.”

“I know that,” Cole said softly. “I still believe Mama, but I hear a lot of other kids saying he’s not real. I want to prove them wrong.”

Being homeschooled, I am not quite sure which kids he is referring to, other than maybe something he heard before at school. He had started questioning then but wanted to believe so he didn’t pursue the issue when I told him Santa was very much real.

Now, it’s me wanting him to believe just a little bit longer, to hold on to that magic that we only get to have when we are children and can believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other things we lose in a less sparkly and too harshly real adulthood.

I wanted him to believe in the magic of a chubby elf bringing presents and spreading goodwill, instead of the scary world we live in, where our worst fears are becoming too real.

I wanted him to hold on to this last bit of childhood as long as he could.

I can’t remember when Santa stopped coming for me.

I had asked Mama if he was real, and her reply was the same as mine: “When you stop believing, he stops coming.” There was no declaration of not believing, no disavowing Santa, just one year, there was no Santa.

And from then on, things were so different.

My behavior – whether good or bad-didn’t determine my gifts. There was no, “You better behave if you want Santa to come.”

I had to behave because it was expected of someone my age. You know, that responsible behavior befitting someone Santa didn’t come visit anymore.

I missed those days, the sense of wonder, the feeling that somehow, miracles could and would happen. I tried to hold on to that feeling, but when you are an adult, it can be hard to cling to hope.

I wanted my child to hold on, and to believe as long as he could.

“You know, I think you may have some flaws in your plan,” I suggested.

He scratched his head. “How so?” He had even ran through a trial run with his dad acting as Santa.

“Well, for one thing, Santa is magic.”

“Yeah?”

“You can’t capture him on film. He won’t show up.”

Cole squinted his eyes as he pondered this. “You mean like a vampire or ghost?”

“Kinda. He won’t show up though. And, if he can see you when you are sleeping and watches you throughout the year, he knows you are plotting this right now. He may not come if he thinks you are questioning he is not real.”

“You’re killing my dreams, Mama!” Cole cried. “You’re killing my dreams!”

“I am not trying to kill your dreams; I am trying to make sure Santa brings you presents this year!”

He dropped his head. “It’s not that I don’t believe, Mama, I want to prove to everyone else he is real. I believe. I do. But not everyone else does.”

I kissed the top of his head, which now comes up to my chin. “And, sometimes, sweet boy, just the faith of one, can keep it alive for others.”

Santa is scheduled to arrive this year, but the string and cameras will be put away. It may be the last year he visits our home, but I am going to try to keep the spirit alive as long as I can.

Consider this a PSA for December birthdays (12/9/2015)

Like many others, I am a December baby.

My original due date was supposed to be in January, but the only time I decided to arrive early to anything was when I made my grand entrance in the world.

I don’t remember my first birthday, but have seen pictures of myself sticking fingers in a decadent chocolate cake that my Uncle Bobby got me from the Black Forest Bakery in Athens, hailed to have been the premier bakery in the ‘70s.

After that, my birthday was a flop for a while.

There was no big parties – who had time to worry about coordinating a birthday party during the month of December, let alone, the week before Christmas.

No, usually, Mama and Granny had the swell idea of just bringing cake and a bucket of chicken to school for me to have a party with my class. It gave the teachers a brief respite and then, Mama usually sprung me out a little bit early.

When it came time for my present, Granny would instruct me to go pick out a gift from under the tree.

“Not that one. No, put that one back. Uh uh. No. That’s an early Santa gift; he dropped that one off when you was at school. No – get that one back there with the green bow on it.”

A green bow that was probably older than me as it clung to life on the box with layers of clear tape (because Granny was not about to throw anything away – she could get a dozen Christmases out of that bow) was my symbolic green light to my birthday present.

I eagerly tore the paper off and opened the box – careful not to rip it because Granny would re-use the boxes for decades, too – and found just what every kid hopes they never receive as a gift:

Footy pajamas.

Footy pajamas with some kind of horrible ‘70s design – maybe a Care Bear riding a unicorn – was not a good birthday present.

“I didn’t want footy pajamas,” I would say.

“You needed ‘em,” Granny would declare.

“I didn’t want them, though.”

The old gal would snort.

“I didn’t ask you if you wanted them, I told you you needed ‘em – you done outgrown your other ones and these will keep you warmer than a gown. And lookie,” she began, pointing to the drop-seat flap in the back- just what every little girl wants to see on her jammies.

“Now you ain’t got to take ‘em all the way off to go potty.”

My sugar high from the school cake had worn off, so I didn’t attempt to argue with the woman. Disappointed, I went to my room, with my highly flammable – but with excellent traction -footy pajamas in hand.

I wondered if I could move my birthday. Perhaps having a birthday in July? No, the Fourth was then and it was hot. Plus, school was out; no way to have a party with my class. November? Thanksgiving.

What about September? Labor Day.

Was there any good month to be born? I surmised not.

I was the only child, only grandchild, and only niece – and the best they could manage was “Go pick out a present from under the tree?” To paraphrase Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,” don’t adults live for this stuff?

“Mama, something needs to change?” I said the day after.

“What do you mean, Kitten?”

“I got footy pajamas for my birthday.”

“And you looked adorable last night in them!”

That woman needed to cut back on the caffeine sometimes.

“No, Mama,” I began. “Don’t you think it’s wrong that I have to pick out my birthday present from under the tree? It’s like my birthday doesn’t get its own day. It’s not fair. My birthday should not be an afterthought. It’s not even in birthday paper – it’s in poinsettia paper.”

I may not have been quite as logical and eloquent in my delivery; I was 11 after all. But Mama understood.

From that year on, Mama decided to give my birthday gift either before December, or after – my choice. Instead of poinsettia paper, it’s usually still in the bag from the store she bought it, complete with the receipt in case I want to return it.

She even will call me when she is in a store and tell me what she is looking at or sends me a picture, asking me if it’s something I want. Needless to say, she’s gotten better at the birthday gifting thing over the last 30 years.

Granny wasn’t on board with the whole separate gift idea until Mama pointed out to the old gal, who’s birthday was May 13, that maybe she would be fine with a combo gift for Mother’s Day.

“Oh,” Mama said, in her genteel passive aggressive way. “So we can get you a pair of footy pajamas, too, then?”

“No, I was a-born a long time before I was a mother,” was her reply. “And I expect something nice for my birthday and something nice for Mother’s Day. And don’t you get me no footy pajamas – you get me anything to sleep in, it better be a gown.”

A gown. The old gal wanted a gown as one of her gifts.

Because no one wants footy pajamas for their birthday.

The wisdom of a child by way of a jelly jar (12/2/2015)

It started with a jelly jar.

Not just any jelly jar, but those cute patterned ones that previously held some delectable concoction from my best friend’s kitchen.

I pulled the empty containers out from the fridge and placed them on the counter, asking Lamar to “please don’t throw them away.”

I said it twice. For emphasis.

Because, he is a male and doesn’t always listen.

He heard me because he replied: “Sara said she didn’t care if she got them back, she’s got plenty of jelly jars.”

“I know what she said,” I told him. “But, I want to keep these. So please, don’t throw them away.”

That was the third time I made my request.

Little jelly jars remind me of my childhood when Granny would save and re-use everything she could. And a little jelly jar, particularly one with a quilted pattern on the exterior and with the lid had many purposes. She could store buttons in there, use it as a juice glass, or even re-use it for her own jelly.

I was planning on making candles and gifting one back to Sara Jean, my partner in crime and grand jelly maker.

And, I just like them. I like little glass things and these were cute.

I went to find them one morning, thinking I would put them with my craft supplies for later and could not find them.

I checked the dish racks – no little cute jelly jars.

I did find seven straws, because it makes perfect sense to wash and re-use straws when you can get a pack of 2 million for a buck at the Dollar Tree. I am probably still using the first pack of straws I bought when Cole was 3.

But no cute little jelly jars.

I had asked him three times not to throw them out. Surely if the man will save a dingdang straw, he will save a jelly jar.

“Where are those jelly jars I asked you to save?” I asked him when he got home.

He didn’t answer at first, he just got a glass of water and drank it very, very slowly.

When he finished it, he got another.

“Lamar,” I began. “Where are those jelly jars?”

“What jelly jars?” he asked. “Did Doodle go out yet? She’s got that look like she wants to go. Doodle, do you need me to go out with you?”

He was not going to use her as a pittie-adorable shield.

“Lamar.”

“What?”

“My jars.”

“Did you want to save those?” he asked.

I swear, he pulled Doodle closer. An adorable chunky pup was not going to save him.

“You save straws and lids to yogurt containers – there’s no bottoms to the containers, but by golly, we’ve got 20 lids. But you threw away those cute jars I asked you to save?”

“I didn’t know…”

“You didn’t know! I told you – three times!”

The pittie mix sensing my upsetted-ness, sat down on his foot and pawed at me, as if asking me to spare her big human; he didn’t know any better.

Realizing it was futile, she went behind the couch to hide.

“I will find them,” he said.

But he did not. The jars were not found in the trash can inside and he even checked the garbage outside, not before looking in at me through the window to see if I was watching. I was.

“Are you really going to be mad at me over those jelly jars?” Lamar asked.

I said nothing. Silence speaks volumes.

“I had no idea you would want to keep those. Why did you want to keep them for anyway? Don’t you have enough glass jars?”

Still nothing. More volumes. He’d figure it out. Maybe.

“Don’t you have some other jelly jars somewhere?” He opened cabinets as if searching, knowing there was no jelly jars. Maybe he was praying the jelly jar fairy had put them there.

“Daddy, you don’t get it, do you?” Cole asked, not even looking up from his tablet.

“You gotta listen to your girl – heck, I know that, and I’m only 11. It’s not the jelly jars. It’s the fact that you didn’t listen to her. She asked you not to throw those jars away and you did. You didn’t listen. You gotta listen to your girl. I’m not married yet, I haven’t even been on a date yet with a girl but one day I will be and I will know, you gotta listen. You don’t, and you gonna be in big trouble, Daddy. Big trouble.”

Big trouble, the child said. And he was right on all counts.