Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yes, Denise, There IS a Santa Claus

...There is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
- Francis Pharcellus Church, September 21, 1897, The New York Sun

I remember the Christmas that I decided that Santa Claus wasn't real. I remember it clearly as if it happened just yesterday, yet it was 31 years ago. It was a very, very sad moment, when the brilliance of faith and belief were temporarily snuffed.

I was seven. It was Christmas Eve, 1979. That afternoon, I played over at a neighbor's house. My friend and I created this fun activity where we jumped over the couch in the basement. On my last trip over the couch, instead of landing on my feet, I landed on my chin. And my chin landed on the marble floor.

My parents were called; my chin was inspected. They made the executive decision: to the ER. So my mom, dad, three-month-old baby brother and I piled in the Impala and drove to the ER. I received seven stitches in my chin. My chin hurt. A lot. That evening, I sat in the family room. The multi-colored lights of the Christmas tree cast a magical glow across the rainbow shag carpet. I looked at my Mom. Tears streamed down my face.

"Mommy?" I said.

"Yes, Denise?" she replied.

"Is Santa Claus real?" I asked.

Her calm reply, "I believe in Santa Claus."

"Yes," I persisted, "but is he REAL? Do you and Daddy put the presents under the tree? And in the stockings?"

She looked at me, with crestfallen pain in her eyes. "Yes, we do."

Through hot tears, I choked out, "And what about the Easter Bunny? The Toothfairy?"

She sadly shook her head. "But. I believe, Denise. Faith is believing in things you can't see or touch. I have faith. I believe."

I went to bed, chin and heart throbbing, stitches bulging under wrapped bandages. The next morning, Christmas morning, felt dull. Numb. My heart ached. I remember my dad saying to me, through his own sheen of tears, "You know, Denise, I will always believe. Santa will always live inside my heart." And he invited me to continue believing, too.

That moment, I decided. I believed. And would always, always believe. To this day, I believe. I have a built-in talisman, the scar on my chin, to forever remind me that belief and faith are choices. Ones that I consciously choose every day. Now, in 2010, Abby sits on the precipice of her very own Christmas of 1979. She straddles the innocence of pure, blissful belief and the more arcane equation of faith. I can see the lightening bolts of uncertainty knit themselves into her eyebrows.

She's seven.

And when she asks me, as I know she will, "Mommy, is there a Santa Clause?" I will answer, with conviction,

"Yes, Abby. There IS a Santa Claus. I believe. I believe in Santa, magic and power and an abiding force larger than any one of us. I believe in forgiveness and wonder and love that swells larger than the largest ocean wave. I believe in faith--I choose to believe. I believe in a spot that simultaneously resides in your body, and tethers to a universal symphony and cadence of the human experience. I believe. I believe in Christmas, Santa and the mystic twinkling of Santa's sleigh bells. Santa will always live in my heart, and yours. If you so choose."

And I will invite her. Through my own curtain of tears, I'll invite her to believe.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Henry and Me and the Drive

I drove Henry to school the other morning, like I do most mornings. The road holds an eclectic mix of houses--small, quaint, farm, colonial, suburban, dilapidated--and a distinct New England air that I adore. This road opens to a cemetery, a pumpkin and Christmas tree farm, as well as a soccer field. The road curves, dips and moves with abandon. Old, distinct trees border the road--tall, stretching sentries lining our way.

The drive usually fills up a part of my soul that I often didn't know needed filling. This road provides a moving sanctuary for Henry and me--it's our quiet time, our alone time. For us. After the bustle of lunch boxes, hats, backpacks and shoe-tying, H and I enjoy our drive, when we co-exist, watching the wonder unfold outside our windows.

The car is usually quiet. I alternate between watching Henry and watching the evolving landscape. Although I've memorized the dips and topography of the land, it still manages to grab me each and every day. I admire the slope of his nose, the rose of his cheeks, the swath of his eyelashes.

Typically, Henry clasps his hands and he peacefully rests his head on his carseat. He absorbs everything. The creek. The horses. The trees. The cows. The birds. My heart usually soars and repeats this silent song: I love you I love you I love you. We sit silently together, yet alone.

"I love you, Henry" I tell him, finally out-loud.

After a thoughtful pause, he says, "I love you, too, Mommy." Our eyes meet for a moment in the rear-view mirror. Sometimes I reach back and hold his still soft, still (but-not-for-much-longer) pudgy hand.

Then, the world continues by. And we watch. Together. And alone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

5 Minutes

I haven't Reverbed in way too long. So today, I did.

Reberb10, December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)
The enlightenment spreading through Abby's eyes as I finally shift the way in which I explain something, and she finally shifts the was she receives it.
When Hubby and I first started dating, we lived in two different cities. Surprise visits were the best. thing. ever. The other night, the kids and I had dinner at one of dear friend's homes while Hubby had a work dinner. His dinner finished before we got home, and he came over to our friends' house to surprise us. I didn't hear the doorbell, but as I passed from one room to the next, I peripherally saw Hubby waving wildly in the front door's side windows. The giddy delight that bubbled up seemed to come from 1999, the year we first started dating, and the time of many surprises.
Bear hugs from Henry.
Forgiveness leads to brightness, enlightenment and freedom.
My children's love, at times, crushes my lungs with its power and force.
New kindred friendships bless my minutes and days.
This lesson: when I focus my energy on something, it grows.
(Oops. That was 6 1/2 minutes.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Suffused With Peace

In the meantime, the answer to every question really does seem to lie in letting go, settling into the long, spacious days and restful nights...and trusting that, for the moment, anyway, we are exactly where we need to be. Whenever I manage to do that, when I can give myself over to the moment at hand, I am suffused with peace. - Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day

The last weeks have provided much fodder for my mind. A normal time, but not an easy one. Periods of change and transformation aren't necessarily my shining moments. Big swings of life's pendulum tend to render me weary, with uncertain footing. My kids change and therefore I, too, must change. Adaptable, pliable, flexible. I have to work hard to embody these things because often, I'm just curmudgeonly and happy in the ways of yesterday.

Katrina's warm, wise words above remind me. Guide me. Provide a beacon during this somewhat melancholy time of consideration and personal growth:

giving myself over to the moment can suffuse me with peace.

Especially the quotidian moments, the pedestrian moments, that pad my life with meaning:

During last's week deluge of, ummm, parental growth for me, this moment wowed me. There it was, patiently awaiting my attention. No bickering. No jockeying. Just peace. Peace, a fire, a book and a moment, predicated on the always-underlying connection and love Abby and Henry share.

Henry loves paper hats, made in the style of Pilgrims (I mean, didn't all Pilgrims wear hats made out of The New York Times?). His teachers made him one in school for Thanksgiving. He wanted one for his Orange Dog. So I said, "Sure, I'll make Orange Dog a newspaper hat." Henry was so overcome with happiness that he took many pictures of me making said hat.

As I continued to make Orange Dog's newspaper hat, Henry continued his photo shoot of many things. Peripherally, I watched him take up-close photos. Simple photos. Blurry photos. This one, of his snowman snow globe, well, its simplistic beauty and pure composition just threw all my bottled emotion into my throat. Tears gathered into the corners of my eyes. The snowman seems resolute. Strong. A bit lonely. Moving forward. Maybe even a bit sad. A metaphor of me.

And I remember. That melancholy moments can be tinged with grace, suffused with peace, sprinkled with seeds of possibility. I must give myself over to each moment. Every one. And the grace will await me.

(An aside: my Mom recently said to me that she senses an overriding theme of sadness in my posts. I believe that she's right...I do often write about the complexity of sadness, or of melancholy days. And I believe that I do so because although I experience many euphoric, joyful, happy and peaceful moments, those are easier to comprehend. It's the others, like those I dissect above, that sometimes confound and confuse me. And so, I write. To understand. To make sure, like Katrina says, that I give myself over fully to each moment. xo)

Monday, December 6, 2010


Reverb10, December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)


My year has been littered with wonder, laced with exquisite luminosity and ordinariness. I love the myriad of ways wonder gallant leaps, in gradual steeping, with practiced patience, like a seasoned parent. Wonder dipped and bounced throughout each day, frequently sprinkling its stop-you-in-your-tracks splendor.

The juxtaposition of 2010 against past years made me realize that in the past, I didn't tap into wonder as much as I could've. I felt it--the wonder reached me--but I know that many moments passed, carrying wonder in its midst, when I could've experienced more but did not. Thankfully, wonder can hide under layers and layers of expired, antiquated beliefs. Unforgiven grievances. Road blocks.

Wonder's tenacity permeated the finicky caverns of my sometimes fearful, or negative, mind and allowed for wonder cameos. It radiated through melancholy and doldrums. Wonder provided the pinnacle of belief and the tenacity of hope.


Wonder sits in the midst of explicit ordinariness. For me, there exists an intrinsic relationship between wonder and gratitude. The more I give thanks, the more awe and wonder I experience.

So, I've contemplated wonder. Why has this year been so laden with wonder? I believe it began with forgiveness of decades-old hurts. And a purposeful cultivation and prioritization of self. Wonder--a splendid, phosphorescent jewel, just waiting to wow me. (I do wonder (predictable pun intended): do I cultivate it, or does it cultivate me? Carefully plodding and awaiting my recognition of its power?)

And so I sit, in wonder. Of each day I wake and stretch. Of the evolving complexity of my seven-year-old daughter. Of the constant progression of time. Of the smell of baking cookies. Of the power of the wind. For the much-needed embrace. Of forgiveness. Of darkness. Of the multitude of permutations of the sun's light.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Moment

Reverb10, Dec 3 – Moment.

Today's prompt: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

A solitary blanket of snow, a 40-foot pine tree and me. Cold punctuated my cheeks, blazing red--yes, from the northerly winds, but flush predominantly with unbridled joy. My black parka camouflaged into the inky night, steeping me further into the raw now. I peered from my hood, my eyes belying my calm exterior: my soul bubbled with giddy delight. Giant snowflakes, laden with hope, steadily fell. The pine tree soared, all-powerful, intoxicating with it's delicious scent. I stood, mesmerized, at the base of the pine tree. I was alone. Pores open, awareness heightened, alive. Just me, the tree, the night and the snow. My legs and feet buried in the gorgeous white accumulation. The genuine, mystical beauty quietly whispered promises of possibility--of this, of anything, of everything.

In these moments, I feel a kindred connectedness, like historical synapses, or strings of white twinkle lights, linking to the magic and possibility of the millions of brilliant moments preceding this one. Time moves, moments flee but magic always returns. I keep company with this knowledge, heeding its comfort.

(Luckily, I had my camera in my pocket, and snapped this photo.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You Don't Love Me

This morning started out cheerfully, as most mornings do. Breakfast proved a bit dicey, as it always does. I should just record myself and hit play:

"Sit down. No, I will not cut the crust off of your toast. Don't touch your sister. A touch is not a hit. Sit down. I'm not serving candy for breakfast. I don't care that your brother looked at you. The next person who removes their hiney from their seat will enter their schools hungry. Now SIT DOWN."

(I'm pretty sure that I have an amazing opportunity for improvement here, but...I'm so ensconced in the cadence of our rituals that I'm finding it hard to feel the rhythm of a new way.)

Anywhoo, the morning proceeded as usual. I asked them to please just get along. And to get ready for school. Kids went upstairs to brush, comb, wash and dress. Arguing began. Luckily for me, from my perch at the breakfast bar, the floor between us muffled the actual words. Abby then appeared in the kitchen to announce the following transgression:

"Henry stuck his tongue out at me."

As I chewed my cereal, I sat in awe. And chewed on this thought: Really? She's tattling on her four-year-old brother for that? (Side note: I've been encouraging my children to work through these arguments on their own. Another side note: You can see how successfully I've deployed said encouragement.)

So, I told Abby that I thought she was being ridiculous and tattling.

Folks, that's when the wheels fell off the bus.

Her voice went up two octaves. And the rampage began:

"You don't love me as much as you love Henry. (Sob, sob.) Everyone likes him more. (Drip, drip.) You don't love me. No one in this house loves me. I'm going to run away from EVERYONE and from this house."

And my lovely maternal response? Silence.

And Abby screamed, "Why aren't you answering me?!"

So I said,

"Are you done? Cause if you're not, could you go somewhere else and cry?" (Another aside: Does my response seem harsh? Mean? Well, let me tell you, it may have been. But it was better than the response running through my head. Yup. Much better. I am just SO done with the wha wha wha whining. Every morning I'm asked to mitigate some grievous, outrageous event that is neither grievous nor outrageous. Usually totally benign. And I'm done. I'm toast. DONE.)

"NO!", she hollered. "I'm telling you HOW I FEEL!!!! You don't love me and aren't even saying that you're sorry I feel this way." Huge tears continue their descent.

And I responded, "I'm sorry you feel that way." (And I then thought that maybe I should actually feel sorry that she felt that way. But it all seemed so nonsensical to me. Henry's tongue sticking out to nobody loves me? Huh? Maybe this is how hubby felt when I was preggers. Huh. Spinning head. Check. Crazy irrationality? Check. Hormones? CHECK.)

Where does she pick up these theatrics?

The good news? I stayed calm. The bad news: I stayed calm. She saw my actions as insensitive, uncaring and mean.

The storm clouds passed. I offered a conciliatory hug with these words:

"I love you."

When she got out of the car, I told her that there was one thing she needed to remember today: That I love her.

I've spent my quiet hours today digesting her outburst. A ploy? Displaced emotion? Her truth? I'll excavate, gently, trying to find clues providing insight and tender awareness. I'll try my best. I'll look for that different rhythm, a new synchronicity to guide us through. And I'll love her. Whether she thinks I do, or not.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Encapsulating 2010

Reverb10, December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

Trying to choose one word to describe and encapsulate my 2010 proved a difficult challenge. But, since I am completely smitten with the
Reverb10 initiative, I bit. (In summary, they serve up a writing prompt each day to inspire reflection "on your year and manifest what’s next. The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what's happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead". Perfect.)

As I reflected on 2010, I cringed, I cried, I giggled...a small smile tugged at my lips. Many fabulous and descriptive words danced and shouted in my mind, cajoling and begging for selection.

I can best describe your year! Choose me! they yelled.

, I told them. You're all lovely, but I can only choose one of you. (Ummm, yes, I just admitted that I talked to words.)

Finally, the most appropos, the most singularly accurate word came to me:


In past years, I skirted the edges of living presently. Although I physically attended each moment, I didn't mentally inhabit each moment. Many moments I spent thinking about the past or the upcoming, and in so doing, I missed the Now.

But in 2010, I inhabited Now. The ugly nows. The epiphany nows. The blah nows. The euphoric nows. The grieving nows.

There are so many wise people and objects whom I wish I could thank for this awakening. The writers I read, the books I inhale, my children, the trees, my friends. I must especially thank Karen Maezen Miller. During her Boston Plunge Retreat, she welcomed us to Now. And then asked, "Have you ever been anywhere else?"

Yes! I wanted to shout. Many times, too many times, I wasn't in the Now because I was There, rehatching, rethinking, redoing...or I was There....planning, worrying, wondering. Not Now, but Then.

Her words reverberated with truth, and acted as a catalyst, a spark of sage connectedness in which all the messages and reminders culminated, returning me to my Nows. I was in that moment. And this one. Now. Wicked winds. Hypnotic candle flame. Classical music. Warm glow of my favorite lamp illuminating my white desk top, littered with cookie crumbs. Words flowing. Fingers typing. Now.

As for the future, in 2011 and beyond, well, I'd like live presently, in each Now that each of those years delivers. Perfect, on time and satiated in the present.