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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Polar Express and the Magic of Believing

Today was Polar Express Day at my daughter's school.  The kids all got to wear pajamas and bring a stuffed toy or doll for a school-wide viewing of the Christmas classic movie, The Polar Express.  It was a happy, festive morning with all the teachers and administrators sporting ugly Christmas sweaters, Rudolph antlers and all manner of holiday bling.  With promises of  abbreviated academics, hot chocolate and popcorn, her day is certain to be a fun one.  It feels like the perfect way to kick off her holiday break. One again I am thrilled with our choice of school and filled with gratitude for a staff and school community that provides days like this for the kids.

I'm pretty sure this will be our last year for Santa.  My daughter is a thinker and she can only hold her pragmatic reasoning at bay for so long.  I get the sense this year that she is avoiding the obvious questions, the "holes" in the story.  On more than one occasion, she has started to question one thing or another, but changed the subject herself rather than pursue the line of reasoning past a certain point. In her heart of hearts, I believe she already suspects
but is not ready to bring herself to the truth. I'm relieved she has given herself this one, last magical year to believe.

To our credit, we have taken full advantage of all the seasonal delights.  We have listened to Christmas carols every morning and afternoon on the drive to and from school. We have driven around looking at the holiday displays in our neighbors yards. We have done the Festival of Lights and the Nutcracker, eaten too many candy canes and torn open the paper doors of our advent calendars each morning.  We have watched countless Christmas specials and movies and drank eggnog dusted with cinnamon from our Christmas patterned china mugs.  It has been a wonderful season and she has enjoyed every moment.

This year I have taken extra care to also talk about the real spirit of Christmas.  I've told her about Mary and Baby Jesus.  She knows about the Star of Bethlehem and the meaning behind all those Nativity scenes where a bed of empty straw awaits a child king on Christmas eve.  While I haven't the foundation to educate her in all the church's mysteries, she understands that this is a time of celebration in Mommy's church, that something wonderful began the night the Savior was born in that humble place. In a marriage of mixed faiths, my husband and I respectfully keep the fundamentals simple for her, finding the common ground between the religions we were both raised with.  We instill in her the belief in one God and the understanding that there are many paths to him, many ways to celebrate our Faith.

My daughter also understands that Christmas is a time of family, of charity and giving. She has taken notice of those people asking for money or work, holding signs and standing in the cold as we drive past. She has taken special pride in putting her coins into the red buckets of the Salvation Army bell ringers outside the stores. I believe she knows what Charity means and why it is particularly important this time of year.

Mostly, I believe she has a good understanding of what really makes Christmas magic, and knows its much more than the man in the red suit and presents under the tree. My heart feels full and certain with the knowledge that she will let Santa go when she's ready and when she does, she will have enough magic and wonder left inside her to believe in things even more magical and special.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stuffed Dates and the Siberian Snow Queen

In the hustle and bustle of a typical December, I have found exactly no time to write. I have watched a distressing amount of prompts pass me by as I struggle to keep my head above the volume of work on my desk. I almost welcome the lull that mid January will bring me as a true New England winter settles in. I tell myself I will get back to my submissions and deadlines then. We will see what the new year delivers...for now, I'm happy to find a little pocket of quiet before the onslaught starts today to get one or two entries out.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1496 December 20, 2016
What's your favorite Christmas, Hannukah or Winter recipe? Does your family have a traditional recipe that is served whenever they get together?

To be honest, I'm not fully aware of how the dates came to grace our holiday table. It seems that they were always there, making their humble appearance between the rolls and cranberry sauce. It was my grandfather's thing, those stuffed dates. I remember watching him make them. I remember having him teach me to stuff them with just the right amount of peanut butter so that when you rolled them, they would get coated with just the right amount of sugar. When I was a child, I never ate them. The shriveled fruit held no appeal, not even covered in a healthy dose of sugar. He loved them though, and would pop them into his mouth, ever third or fourth one made. Then he'd place them, in a little glass dish, in the center of the table where they would stay untouched for most of the night. I never saw anyone but my grandfather eat them and maybe my grandmother, who would eat one or two mostly out of obligation I believed. For me, it was always the creation of the treat that I grew to enjoy, that connection to something that was just simply always done out of tradition.

After my grandfather passed on and my parents divorced, the holidays were very different for a long time. Then, my Uncle brought Christmas Eve back to my grandparent's house and those stuffed dates reappeared again on the Christmas table. I think it was a collaborate effort between my Uncle and I, a shared memory that connected us to man who was a complicated but central figure in both our lives. Making those dates feels like a way of honoring the father and grandfather that we both believe he wanted to be, even if he failed at times. As I watch my daughter making the dates now with her cousin, I am taken back to the days of my childhood when it was me that dutifully took the sliced dates from my grandfather to stuff with peanut butter. I watch Jaden take them now and delicately roll them in the plate of granulated sugar and proudly line them up in the glass dish. I started eating the dates at some point after my grandfather was gone. Over the years I've grown to like them. We don't make a lot, there are still only a handful of us that will eat them, but they get made without fail each year all the same.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1015 December 20, 2016
Prompt: How would you like to ride in a “one-horse open sleigh” on snow and ice with the cold Siberian wind blowing at your face? Can you come up with a story, a poem, or an essay about it?

The frigid wind penetrated my fur coat like icy talons. I hunkered lower in the sleigh, drawing my heavy hood closed, restricting my vision but protecting more of my exposed face. There wasn't much to see anyway but a wide expanse of a frozen wasteland, stretching as far as the eyes could see. The Snow Queen's domain was devoid of color and definition, with the barren white ground meeting the ice blue shy, the horizon barely distinguishable. I closed my eyes briefly over my burning irises, felt a solitary tear slip free and slide down my cheek, freezing before it passed the tip of my reddened nose. I flicked in away with my gloved hand and cautioned a look at her, worried that she might have seen.

My Queen was a blindingly beautiful vision. She rode with her back rigid, her gray eyes intent on the path forged by the racing sled. Her long white hair whipped out behind her just as that of the albino stallion that dragged our sleigh in its powerful wake. Her skin was so pale, it was nearly translucent and the delicate veins in her hands looked like think lavender ribbons traveling beneath the flesh. She wore no fur over her dress, the gauzy lace hugged her curves and looked like it had materialized from the falling snow itself. The hands that gripped the reins were bare with the exception of a silver ring with a single, large sapphire stone. The jewel blazed and flashed each time she flicked the reins and called to the horse to hurry. Her lovely face betrayed no hint of urgency much as her startling beauty hid the great well of cruelty inside her.

The sleigh raced forward across the Siberian plains and the end of the world never seemed so far.