Do you know what I discovered this week? I could get in touch with Santa Claus (formerly known as “Sandy Claws” in my neighborhood) in July. You see, I need a little Christmas in the middle of summer. Why? Because the people on our planet seem to have collectively lost their ever-lovin’ minds (yeah, I’m talkin’ about you—all you Satan’s little helpers who are instigating murder, mayhem, and chaos from the Middle East to Chicago). Have you (the rest of us who are sane and loving) read the news lately? Can you read it without fainting from horror and fear? Even if mayhem is not happening in your neighborhood, how long before it seeps in and grabs you by the throat? Did you know the Ebola virus is on the loose, and Boko Haram, Putin, and ISIS have their own hashtag: #FUWorld?
I live in a suburban town that is unusually peaceful and bucolic. I earned the ability to live in this spot, in what Time Magazine calls one of the ten best places to live, because WW and I worked our asses off to get here! I was born a poor black child, and I finally crawled up out of the sewer into a comfortable life accompanied by the assist of helping hands. But after reading the news all week while sitting in my lovely hibiscus garden and sipping mimosas, I think I have survivor’s guilt—feeling real bad that others are suffering, and knowing there is nothing much I can do about it except pray. Maybe it was mimosa number two or three, but I had a brain fart that I thought would bring some clarity. I made a call to “Sandy Claws” (located him in Vienna) to see if he could make a mid-year visit to my area to provide a personalized pick-me-up.
Used by Permission: Marian Kemensky Slovakia
The connection wasn’t an easy one. Apparently, Claus goes AWOL from January through November and goes full throttle on the Keebler addiction. I put the word out on the street amongst all the hardcore cookie dealers that I needed “a little Christmas” and would appreciate it if the fat man would make an appearance to help me out. Yesterday, I got a call from a muffled voice that identified himself as Claus’ assistant, MJ.
MJ: Yo, you ET?
ET: Yeah, you bet your fat ass I am.
MJ: I’m not the one with the corpulent ass ma’am—that would be my boss. You were sent a packet with some security information in it. We’re pretty sure we know you’re you, but these days we can’t be too careful with our protective services. Claus has had several robbery attempts in the past as well as countless identity thefts. Would you please tell me the alias we assigned to you?
ET: Auntie Mame.
MJ: Password song line: (cut time, one-and-a-two).
ET: “For—we—need a little Christmas, right this very minute . . .”
MJ: Excellent. Hold please while I connect you with Santa Claus.
I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous as all get out. This would be my first time meeting the great Mr. Claus. Santa had never made an appearance in my poor Cleveland neighborhood when I was a child—ever. Trust me, if he had touched down (white man, bright red suit, sleigh full of goodies in the middle of the night) the Cleveland Plain Dealer would have led with the most salacious headline of its history the following day: “Santa Claus robbed and stripped of red suit by swarm of Coloreds; sleigh stolen, reindeer carried off (the police suspect hungry residents have eaten the sleigh pullers), and Claus left unconscious and naked while clutching a red nose of a reindeer in his hand and whimpering, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit.’” As I was thinking about the juxtaposition of my life then and now, I heard Sandy Claws’ voice on the line.
SC: Hello ET, long time no see. Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!
ET: Very funny Sandy Claws . . . I mean, Santa Claus. How you doin’ with your chubby-ass self?
SC: Well, give or take a few years, since I’m 1,744 years old, I can’t complain. But I hear you’ve got a few complaints that you think a visit from me might help. I’m more than willing to drop by in July if you think I might be able to lift your mood. Having skipped your entire childhood, I feel I really owe you this request. So sorry for the no-shows in the past—it was complicated. Deal?
ET: Deal. What you got in that giant red tote bag that will take away the fear and anguish of the troubles of this world, Santa Baby?
SC: Well, the pickings are really slim this time of year, but I set aside a few gifts that might distract you from the terrifying news of the world. How about an advance copy of the movie 50 Shades of Grey—complete with the commemorative boxed book set?
ET: Sandy, you so nasty! I never knew that about you. Does Mrs. Claus know how nasty you are? First of all, I’m way too old to be teaching my husband this woman’s weird porno fantasies—WW would faint dead away, if the truth be known. Second, what little I’ve read of this trilogy, I think the writing is really piss poor, and there are still too many good books to read and movies to see without me wasting my time. Besides, torture—be it sexual or intelligence gathering—by any other name is still antithetical to love. What else do you have in that bag?
SC: Well, I’ve got this new book on the market about a poor little black kid born in the ghetto who faced the monsters of her past and lived to tell the story. How about that book to take your mind off your troubles?
ET: Seriously, Sandy Claws—you didn’t know I wrote that book?
SC: Ho, ho, ho, ho—just checking to see if you were paying attention. (By the way, Mrs. Claus turned me on to 50 Shades of Grey—so stick that in your pipe and smoke it!) I bet I have just the item in my bag of goodies to engage your mind on happier thoughts—to lose you in the realm of amazing possibilities of things that mean so much to so many: the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game! It is all the rage this summer. It’s the top App in the Apple App Store with tens of thousands of 5 Star reviews about ways to advance up through the levels by “striking a pose,” “putting on makeup,” “getting a drink,” or “dazzling the crowd.” If you don’t believe me, check out Jessica Winter’s review: “The Kim Kardashian Game Is So Good I Had to Stop Playing It!” Mrs. Claus and I are only halfway through the game so we don’t know if one of the game requirements is to produce your own sex tape and have it inadvertently “slipped” to the public or not.
ET: That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? No offense, Sandy baby, but these gifts are pathetic (except for my book, of course). No wonder you never showed up in my neighborhood. There is nothing you could have given me that I could have used against the demons trying to destroy my life. I don’t want this shit in your bag. I’m worried about real terrors, dude—here, there, and everywhere. I want the gift of security. I want insurance that none of this murderous mayhem will affect me and those I love. Do you understand what I’m trying to get across to you old man?
SC: Not in my pay grade, kiddo. You can certainly bump your request for uninterrupted security to my boss, but I doubt he’ll grant it. Can’t see him answering your prayers for that one. There is no adventure without risk, and no strength of character without suffering. I’ve got one more gift in the bottom of my bag that might help. It’s a bottle of Calamine Lotion.
ET: What on Earth do I need a bottle of Calamine Lotion for?
SC: You’re going to need it because in about 10 minutes you will get a call from your daughter who will inform you that your five-year-old grandson has contracted the Coxsackie virus at summer camp—commonly known as the foot, hand, and mouth disease. There has been an outbreak amongst the five and six year olds in their town. He is covered from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet with oozing blisters, and he is highly contagious. You do remember he’s coming to visit you in a few days, correct? Welcome to planet Earth!
Used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star
I am discovering that there is no totally secure place on Earth. If my poverty-ridden upbringing in Cleveland taught me anything, it taught me that. But I don’t want to believe it. I am an American, and I think I can “insure” my way into supernatural security against everything that could harm me and mine. Provide me with enough insurance for safety and prevention, and I can control what affects my peace on Earth—so I desperately hope.
The other day I attended the funeral of a close colleague’s only child. He was twenty-five years old, and he lost control of his car coming around a curve, hit a tree, and died after several days in a coma. It was a fluke accident, and it shouldn’t have happened. He was a beautiful boy with a lovely girlfriend. He was brilliant, and by all accounts he was a joy and a delight to all who knew him. I can’t wrap my brain around this tragedy. As I looked into the destroyed eyes of his mother as she whispered to me, “we’re never supposed to bury our children, Eleanor”), I kept retracing the storyline to see if there could have been some insurable way her only son could have survived the curve on a road he’d driven a hundred times in his short life. I wanted to roll back the time, and let him take that drive again with the knowledge of what to do right before that moment came into play. But I can’t because I don’t have that power—none of us do. I can only pray for grace through the valley of tears for this young man’s parents and his girl. I can “show up” with the power of compassion and the healing balm of grace as a mother who mourns with them. And when I get those intermittent moments of peace on Earth in my garden, I can embrace them with gratitude and thanksgiving while using my circle of influence to finance, vote for, and work with agents of change in the areas that have been decimated by evil. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for peace in the Middle East, around the globe, and in my own back yard.
Middle East Peace Talks: Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, International NY Times
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”—Helen Keller
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey
“Pain is a pesky part of being human, I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing.”― C. JoyBell C.
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