The Christmas Chief on Writing and Momdom and Mortality and Magic

I was talking to a friend the other day about my writing. I had taken a writing class that was a bit of a drag, but affirmed for me that I both have stories to tell and raw, perhaps somewhat polished, talent. I didn’t need to shell out $300+ (some gifted to me by supportive friends) to be told those seeming truths. However, the class reiterated for me that I need to be writing. I need to be telling my stories. I need to continue to put one literary foot in front of the other. It is my greatest desire to use my gifts in some larger capacity.

When I expressed the frustration I felt about struggling to find the time to write, my friend suggested that perhaps I could hold off a bit, perhaps I could wait until my son was older, out of the house even. My first thought, and I erred on side of tact and didn’t vocalize it, was “Yeah, if I don’t die first.”

I have really been feeling my mortality lately. When speaking about the sense that I don’t have time to waste, that I could go at any moment, and that I don’t want to die with “my song still inside of me,” I quickly came to the realization that it may not be the will of God, the Universe, the Powers that Be for my voice to ring out in the world. At least not in a grander sense. I am so driven to write that it seems almost life or death to me. I have thought for some time that it was not only my calling, but my life’s purpose. Yet, who am I to set those parameters, to think I know my life’s destiny? The reminder that I have little control over my fate brought me some peace. Still, I write. I will write until my last day comes.

How was that for being dramatic?

The title of this post promised talk of mortality and writing (I have given you some of that), of momdom and magic (yet to come), and of the Christmas Chief. Ah, the Christmas Chief!

It is that time of year, I suppose.

I am generally a Christmas gal. I love sparkle and twinkle and carols and cards. I have been dubbed by my family The Christmas Chief which means, I think, that I am both extremely festive and terribly controlling. Every year, I have this expectation, this vision if you will, about how the holiday should feel and look, how it should play out. I am the one who has traditionally, on Christmas morning, placed felt antlers on my family’s sleepy crowns and welcomed them to Christmas. I am the one who hands each person their packages, insisting that everyone open their gifts in turn so we can all enjoy whatever lay beneath the shiny paper and stick-on bows. I was the one, or at least I think I was the one, who, when we were all childless and too old to believe the magic, started the tradition that each one of us act a Santa and stuff stockings anonymously in shifts throughout the night. Yes, I am the Chief alright!

Yet, I confided in someone today that I wasn’t feeling the holiday spirit. They reminded me that it was only December 1st. I guess I have plenty of time.

(Or, do I? Sorry, I had to…)

How does a Christmas Chief, feeling her mortality, watching devastating news programs on TV and then seeing it blow up in so many ugly ways on social media, who doesn’t feel like shopping and cannot find the time to write, live up to her own festive expectations?

Fake it til I make it? One moment at a time? Staying all wrapped up in the present moment? (That was not meant to be a pun.) Hot chocolate? Prayers for serenity and snow?

I’m not sure. I’ll finish decorating and then decide. In the meantime, I’ll keep moving that damned Elf on the Shelf.

My son is a believer. He’s just like his mom. I was a believer. A 100%, no holds barred, believer. I never questioned the magic of Christmas and defended the reality of Santa with a passion and a fervor that could be viewed as a touch insane. I remember the day that my mother spilled the beans. At the risk of being dramatic again, I have to say that my world crumbled down around me. I locked myself in my room. I gasped and sobbed. I mourned not only for Santa, but for the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and for any other bit of magic that I held in my heart. I believe that I was, probably, far too old to be carrying on in such a fashion. But, I had never considered that Santa and all of the holiday magicians weren’t fact. It affected my relationship with God. Seriously.

For this reason, I almost didn’t tell my son about Kris Kringle at all. I was going to spare him the devastation. But, I would have spared him the joy as well. We all need a little joy, don’t we? And, joy always has a shadow side, doesn’t it? This is one of the great lessons in life.

Yet, despite the idea that almost every adult participates– from news anchors, to those military personnel you can call for Rudolf updates, to the CEOs of those companies that send you video emails of Santa talking directly to you, to the conductors on Polar Express ride on the Great Smokies Mountain Railroad– in a massive, collective deception (What does that teach us about honesty?), there is still magic to be had.

Truman Capote wrote this lovely collection of short pieces that has been compiled under the title  A Christmas Memory. When I first read the collection, I brushed it off. When I picked it up the next year, I couldn’t stop crying. It is beautiful and compelling and honest and I recommend it wholeheartedly. In the story “One Christmas”, and I hope this isn’t a complete spoiler, an elderly cousin says to a young Truman: “Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do. So the Lord has spread the task among us all. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus. I am. You are. Even your cousin Billy Bob. Now go to sleep. Count stars…”

I’ll take it. I’ll more than take it. I was thirty-six when I first read those touching words and they restored my faith in, well, humanity perhaps. Or, God. Or, jolly Old St. Nick. The job is just too big. It takes the news anchors and the CEOs and the military personnel and the conductors to spread the love around. And, it takes me. The Christmas Chief in all her jingle-belled glory.

I must admit that this post just sort of rolled out of me. I had no sense of direction aside from the title. I just had the itch to post something. I am feeling better now that I have written something. I am not afraid to die. I have a restored faith in magic. And, I am so excited to share that with my wonderful still young son.

So there. Writing. Momdom. Mortality. Magic.


Now, off to find another hiding spot for that friggin elf!


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