As most folks know, Christmas is not my favorite holiday on the Christian calendar. I am not nearly the Scrooge that I profess to be. Indeed, I was pretty much outed on this score by my alleged friend Phil Martin in one of his recent columns. But it ain't my favorite season of the year.
I try to adopt the attitude of my friend Marge who says that since it comes once a year whether we want it to or not, we might as well have a good attitude about it and try to enjoy it as best we can. And I try to follow her lead although I don't know how successful I am at it. But this is also the only time of the year that I have bad dreams on a consistent basis. Dr. GG says that this is a common occurrence during the Holidays. It's hard to have a good attitude about that, boy.
Attitude problems or no, there have been some nice moments this Christmas. Don, my old buddy from our Tulane days, gave me one of the truly more beautiful presents I have ever received: a copy of a cookbook he wrote for his daughters Caroline and Annie. Each recipe is prefaced by a story. It is a moving account of a Father's love for his daughters as much as it is a recipe book. Further, there are passages about me and our friendship over the years that are far kinder than I deserve. I will write more about this later after I have digested it further if that's not to punny a term for a recipe book.
One of the nicer moments, and I can't imagine anything that will top it, was the Christmas party we had for the Easter Seals kids at their campus out in West Little Rock. Many of the kids that live out at Easter Seals play ball with us in the Miracle League. So I knew most of the ones that were at the party.
Kids are funny. Before Santa arrived to pass out the presents, I walked around and greeted my Miracle Leaguers. I was wearing slacks and a blazer. None of them had ever seen me dressed up or not wearing a baseball cap before. It took them awhile to retrieve who I was from the mental Rolodex. Oddly enough, the boys tended to recognize me at a faster clip than did the girls.
We were all given a list of names to buy for. I picked Britney, the kid pictured above. I picked her in part because we don't have any girls in my family and I was sick of buying boy stuff. Mercifully, I have female friends, who even though they love me, were horrified at the notion of me buying for a 13 year old girl. So Jenny volunteered to get Britney the toiletries she wanted and Renee at Gallery 26 said she would pick out a necklace and earrings that she thought would go with her based on a picture I sent over there. I was entrusted with getting the MP3 player.
A motor vehicle accident put Britney in the chair. She is better off than some in that she can actually walk a little and can sit in a chair. But I gather that this is a work in progress and that she spends most of her time in the wheelchair. Britney is far and away the most sweet natured and polite teenager I know. To maintain this graceful disposition under her circumstances is more than I can fathom. Indeed, I am known far and wide for my dyspeptic temperament and I lead a practically charmed life. But maintain it she does. She, and many of those kids out there, possess more strength of character in their little fingers than I have in my entire body.
When she opened her present, you would have thought that 100 bucks worth of jewelry was the Hope Diamond.
" Thank you, Sir," she said, after one of the ladies placed the necklace on her. " This is the prettiest thing anybody has ever given me."
"I'm glad you like it. And don't call me Sir."
" You're such a nice man. I can see why everybody likes you."
I hunkered down next to her where I could look her in the eye.
"Look, sweetie," I said. " I appreciate the compliment but there's a whooolllllllle lot of people that don't like me."
She let this bit of information sink in. After a moment she spoke.
"Well," she said. "Everybody here likes you."
She waved her arm toward all of those kids with their broken little bodies happily playing with their presents given to them by total strangers.
I tapped her shoulder with my knuckles.
" And that's all I need to know," I said.
I gave her a hug and said goodbye.
" I love you."
"I love you too, honey."
" Those folks that don't like you?"
"What about 'em?"
" You don't need to worry about them because I got your back."
" I'll keep that in mind, honey."
Christmas is pretty much an awful time. It really is. But every now and again, some goodness
Why should I toil and spin and have bad dreams? After all, Britney's got my back.
And now a message from the Gratuitous Plug Department: The " Tales From The South" Holiday show will air Thursday night at 7pm CST on radio station KUAR FM89 here in Central Arkansas. I will be reading another story. Those of you who want to hear the show on the Internet go to http://www.kuar.org/ and listen to live streaming of the broadcast. Or, you can get it from the archives at www.kuar.org/Tales.html . They told us during the taping that it will also run Christmas Day but I can find no evidence of that from the website. I hope you enjoy it.