Christmas Eve with a dog and evil Santa

It’s a fresh Christmas Eve morning here at the end of the road, the chilly breeze making my coffee smoke and biting at the doggy toes of Annie, so I heed her pleading eyes and put her back inside. Walden sits in the drive waiting an unknown departure, the little camper still having never really gone anywhere, though it’s not the same vehicle it was when it came. Neither am I. We’ve both learned great change doesn’t require miles, maybe just time and willingness to be honest.

Across the pond and past the naked rattling trees climb the empty fields where I walked as a kid. There were no houses here then–we lived across town–and my mother would drop me near here so I could trudge about with my BB gun and shoot at squirrels, but mostly I just got muddy and tired my legs on the hills. Now 20 years later I sit here looking across this pond at those fields and see that kid dreaming way back then and can’t remember what hopes I had, but I imagine them good and spectacular and momentous. Likely I was just dreaming about the day I’d marry the blonde girl who sat behind me in math class (or the day I might actually talk to her) and hating myself for being so shy.

This is the great advantage of small towns; the familiar doesn’t move so fast. tweet

Thank goodness you were so shy, kid. You would have missed many things.

Across the road old man Kenny Holland appears on his lawn. He waves and breaks a smile. Must be nearing his 90s now, often I wonder if he can even see me or mistakes me for one of my brothers. Maybe he doesn’t care who I am, just likes to wave at something familiar. This is the great advantage of small towns; the familiar doesn’t move so fast.

He tinkers with some electrical wires and a three-foot plastic Santa comes to life in his backyard. It’s placed where no one from the road or any neighbor but us can see it. At night, glowing and tucked away under the pine trees, it looks rather spooky. Maybe Kenny’s trying to frighten Annie. He’s likely succeeded; she’s a timid dog and hides under the bed when it thunders.

Kenny makes his slow way back across the grass. Before entering the house, he waves again. I wonder what changes he sees. Maybe just a new plastic Santa.

I watch you totter and stumble and fall. I watch you catch your breath and rise to a knee. I watch you stand up and move ahead. You are inspiring, though I doubt you see it. You think yourself flawed and believe your flaws have caused many terrible things to pass. tweet

Annie bangs on the window, seeking attention. She whimpers through the glass. But one more thing must I write, from a place that doesn’t change:

Thank you, my friends, for the inspirations. I watch you totter and stumble and fall. I watch you catch your breath and rise to a knee. I watch you stand up and move ahead. You are inspiring, though I doubt you see it. You think yourself flawed and believe your flaws have caused many terrible things to pass. But if you could sit on a porch and look back upon yourself, you might see your place at the center of a beautifully meaningful life. You might see how your flaws were not so wicked; guided by good intention, how they might even have contained hidden promises for a happier future. And if you can see that, then my Christmas wish is that you can forgive those flaws you currently believe true. At least for a week or two. In a week you can believe in them again and make resolutions to change them. It is the spirit of you that inspires me.

Ok, ok, I’m coming, Annie. Don’t make me take you to see Evil Ghost Santa.

Happy holidays, everyone.

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