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The Case for Santa

Santa will soon be making his annual trip, so tonight I’ll share a little story I wrote several years ago. A true experience underlies the fiction. Merry Christmas!

THE CASE FOR SANTA

Madelyn F. Young

            Lisa felt her phone vibrate and retrieved it from her pocket. Glancing at caller ID, she shut off the vacuum cleaner. “Hi, there.”

“Hi, Mom. Have Michael and Ellen talked with you about Santa Claus this year?” Meredith’s voice sounded edgy.

Lisa paused. “Well, yes. Michael did mention they were not going to play Santa with Katie. He said something about them not wanting to lie to her.”

“I know! Isn’t that ridiculous? She’s only three years old, for heaven’s sake. What did you tell him?”

“I think I told him that was certainly their decision to make, but we might still slip up and mention Santa when they’re here at our house. In fact, I already have tags on some of Katie’s gifts that say ‘From Santa.’”

“What did he say to that?”

“He didn’t object too much—said she couldn’t read them anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

Meredith pressed the issue. “But, Mom! You know we will be there too. What if Katie says something to Claire about there not really being a Santa Claus? There’s no way I want our daughter to have her belief in Santa ruined. That’s one of the most magical things about Christmas for children. I can’t believe my own brother is going to deprive little Katie of all that excitement.”

Lisa had to admit she was disappointed too. She adored both of her granddaughters. Born only eleven weeks apart, they always enjoyed playing together. Last Christmas, their parents brought the toddlers home for the holidays, and Santa delighted them with many gifts. This year, Christmas would be much more complicated.

Lisa tried to soothe her daughter’s feelings. “Well, I think we can all go on like everything’s the same. Katie is still too young to understand much about Santa. Next year we may have more of a problem.”

“Yeah, I’ve already thought about that,” Meredith said. “But this year could be bad too. I’m going to call Michael and Ellen and insist they tell Katie not to talk about Santa Claus around Claire.”

“Well, be careful. Try not to sound too judgmental. They only want to make sure Katie isn’t disappointed with them later on. Michael said they wanted her to know that whatever they told her would always be true.”

“Okay,” Meredith said. “I promise not to rant too much, but I still think they’re way off base on this one.”

After their conversation, Lisa wasn’t sure what to expect on Christmas morning. However, when the day arrived, her two grown children seemed careful not to provoke each other—at least, not in her presence—and no problems arose when Katie and Claire opened their gifts.

“See, Mommy!”

“Daddy, look!”

Their little faces beamed. Lisa felt her shoulders relax, and she knew she could enjoy the day.

A year later, when Christmas rolled around, the case for Santa still remained undecided. The girls’ parents reported their four-year-olds were much more tuned in to all the Santa talk at preschool where they sang “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and other Santa songs. At the mall they saw long lines of children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap.

Meredith said she and Stan took Claire to see Santa, and she happily perched on his knee, confiding in him everything she wanted for Christmas. Lisa looked forward to the photo.

“But, Mom, I feel so sorry for Katie,” Meredith said. “Honestly! Why can’t Michael and Ellen just let her be a child!”

When Michael called, he explained what he and Ellen had told Katie. “Many children like to make believe Santa Claus is a real person, but Santa is only pretend,” they said. “Mommy and Daddy will give you your presents, not Santa.” But Michael also said they cautioned Katie to be kind and not spoil other children’s fun.

Even so, Lisa worried. What might happen when Katie and Claire were together? And what about presents this year? Should they be from Santa or not?

Several weeks before Christmas, Michael called again.

“Hi, Mom. Guess what? I think the problem of Santa is solved.”

“Really?” Lisa laughed. “That’s great! What’s going on?”

“Well, the other day, Ellen and I mentioned we were going to put presents under our tree before coming to Nana’s house. There would be some for Katie, but they would be from Mommy and Daddy. We would all open our gifts together here before making the trip. When we told Katie our plans, she frowned, like she was thinking hard about that, and then she said, ‘No, I want some presents from Santa too.’”

Lisa smiled. “My goodness. What did you say?”

“Well, I’ll have to admit that comment surprised us,” Michael said. “We knew she understood Santa wasn’t real. So we asked her about that. What she said was, ‘I want to make believe about Santa too, like the other kids do.’”

“Bless her heart.” Lisa laughed. “She must have thought she was missing something.”

“I guess so,” Michael said. “Anyway, Ellen and I have decided it will be fine for her to pretend. We’ve told Katie, ‘All right, then. You can have a few presents that come from Santa, and, if you want to, we can even have some Santa gifts at Nana’s house. When Claire opens her presents, you can open some too.’ She really likes that idea. So, Mom, I guess you’re off the hook.”

Lisa laughed. “Well, that does make things easier. You be sure to give her a big hug from Nana, and I’ll see you soon.”

Lisa clicked off the phone and grinned. Thank you, Santa.

 

We thank you, God, for today, for this

Time in which we are living

Here in this place we call

America. May we

Never forget to

Keep the light of freedom

Shining for all

Generations. In this place

Individuals may raise their

Voices in protest or in praise; in this place

Inclusion of all classes, creeds, and colors is our goal.

Now we lift our hearts to you

God, the Source of all our lives and liberty.

We thank you, God, for today.

Madelyn F. Young, 2004

 

 

Many of my friends here in the Village are thrilled about the presidential election results. This is a strongly Republican community. Other friends are despondent.

I voted for Hillary, too, but after the initial shock last week, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. I’m waiting to see what our President-elect will actually do now that he’s “caught the bus.” His words and actions so far are mixed.

Last night Hillary spoke at the Children’s Defense Fund Dinner, her first public speech since her resignation last week. That’s been an organization dear to her heart for many, many years. It’s a group of like-minded folks who care for and work diligently for the welfare of children.

I thought about Trump’s campaign rhetoric—his strong, animated statements about deporting all undocumented immigrants—and I thought of the millions of children who are terrified now of losing their parents.

We must NEVER let our government tear innocent families apart.  I will do all that I can to speak to and write to our representatives, urging them to stand up against any such action.

Whether we are happy or sad about the election, it’s time now for all of us to come together to support common-sense immigration reform. Our children deserve better!

Open Mic Night

Last night, I did something I’ve never done before. I participated in my very first open mic event. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but John Swinburn, one of my Village Writers’ friends, spearheaded the show, so I decided to try it.

For the past few years, the Unitarian Universalist Village Church has been hosting open mic events at their church. However, they decided to give it up. That’s when John said he’d like to attempt a renewal, perhaps hold it in Coronado Community Center, and advertise it throughout the Village. He enlisted the help of the Unitarians and others to get it off the ground, and the Hot Springs Village POA provided free rental of the Coronado Center auditorium. They also furnished a cash bar, and John Chapman, KVRE announcer, emceed the program. Admission was free.

We had a great turnout! Members of the audience were seated with the performers at nine or ten large round tables, and, as our names were called, we participants made our way up to the lighted stage to do our thing.

I read a short memoir story, “Crime Scene,” about an incident that happened to me during the early 1990s when Robin and I still lived in Mississippi. Other participants also read original stories and poetry. A Carousel Readers’ Theater ensemble performed a humorous skit. A quartet from Crystal Chimes, a women’s barbershop group here in the Village, sang several numbers and advertised their upcoming holiday show, Cocoa, Cookies, and Carols. To close the evening, another talented duo from the readers’ theater group performed “Ring, Ring,” a hilarious skit written by one of the actors.

John hopes to have a second open mic event in January with even more acts. If you live in the Village or close by, keep your eye out for more publicity. You’ll have a fun evening visiting with friends, and you’ll see and hear many talented folks.

Photo Memories

One day I happened to mention to a new friend that I was posting recent photos in our family albums, and we talked about how people don’t do that much anymore. Instead, they’re using their phones to snap pictures, and then they’re posting them on Facebook.

However, I began keeping our family album/scrapbooks way back in 1958, the year Robin and I married, and now it’s a “tradition.” I can’t stop! Would you believe we’re now up to Album #78? That’s kind of mind-boggling, even to me. We have a family history recorded in these albums—all the events we’ve experienced for almost 60 years now.

Last night our friend came to supper, and she said she’d love to see some of those old pictures of Robin and me. We dragged out Album #1, and we all had so much fun, laughing and remembering

One picture shows me in a strapless formal with a full skirt, crinoline petticoats underneath, corsage at my waist, sitting in a swing at a sorority dance. Robin is standing behind me in a suit and tie, hands on the ropes of the swing. He has almost a full head of hair, although even then, in his twenties, it was beginning to recede.

Another picture shows Robin and me as newlyweds, standing in front of our first little apartment in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was attached to the side of the owner’s house. We had a tiny living room with a half-wall divider separating it from our bedroom, with only space for a double bed and small dresser. The bedroom opened to a tiny bathroom. We also had a small kitchen. The entire apartment was about the size of our living room now— our first little “nest.”

Later, I showed our friend a more recent album. This one features mostly our grown children and their families. The years go by. Someday, these albums will pass into their hands to share with their children and grandchildren and friends.

 

Robin and I have fun recalling all the “8’s” in our history.

Today, August 8, 2016, is our 58th wedding anniversary. We were married on the 8th day of the 8th month in the year 1958. August 8 was also the date of my parents’ wedding. They were married in 1935, and the “3” and “5” in their year also add up to “8.”

Our first child, Steve, was born on August 26, 1962. There’s that 8th month, again!  And the “2” and “6” in his day and the “6” and “2” in his year each add up to 8.

Our first grandchild was born on March 18, 1998. More “8’s” in that date.

Recently, our daughter, who has 2 daughters, married a man with 2 daughters and 4 sons, so now they have 8 kids, just like her dad’s family. Robin was one of 8 children.

Robin will turn 84 this year, and I will turn 78.

Who knows? These lucky “8’s” may just keep coming. “Double Lucky Birthday 88,” here we come!

On Monday, July 25, I led a two-hour writing workshop at Coronado Community Center here in Hot Springs Village. About 35 writers and would-be writers attended, and we had a great time together.

The “five secrets” we talked about are not really “secrets,” of course. These five essentials to writing a good short story are well known. But we all need to be reminded of them from time to time:

  1. Create complex characters.
  2. Develop the story arc.
  3. Show, don’t tell.
  4. Write realistic dialogue.
  5. Maintain consistent POV.

I spent the first hour giving pointers and presenting examples to illustrate each of these. After a break, we came back together during the second hour and heard Village Writers’ Club member John Swinburn read a short story he had submitted for critique following our club’s writing workshop in May.

We all discussed his story, paying special attention to the POV. From whose “point of view” was this story told? Was it from the perspective of the female protagonist, Faith? Or was it from the perspective of another important character, Lucius? The story seemed to slip from one character’s POV to the other’s. That kind of “head hopping” is a common mistake that novice writers make. Normally, a well-written story has a primary POV character, from whose perspective the complete story is told. That helps a reader become emotionally invested in that character.

However, we noticed the opening paragraph seemed to be written from the author’s perspective—he spoke directly to the reader, asking the reader a question. Also there were other parts of the story where the author presented information about the characters, and the story did not appear to be written from either character’s point of view. Finally, we decided this story must be written from an omniscient POV—a viewpoint not often used in a short story, but one that is still a viable option for a writer if he wants his reader to view the characters “from a distance.”

We closed our workshop by reading and discussing a piece of historical fiction written by my longtime writer friend Ellen Withers, from Conway, Arkansas. She had given me permission to use her story, “Discovery at Idaho Springs.” Ellen used every one of the “five secrets” to skillfully develop a truly memorable short story.

Many thanks to all who participated in the workshop and to John and Ellen for sharing their stories. Now, I hope all who attended are inspired to sit down and soon create a tale that will entertain their readers. Happy writing!