(From the Community Caregiving Journal 3-word prompt Shoulder/Expect/Chimney.)
Hey there, Santa.
I’ve never written to you, you know? I’ve never lived anywhere with a hearth, so no chimney for you to slide down. I would have expected you to come in through the front door, the way Elijah did at Passover.
Here’s the thing: We expected Elijah to sit down with us. Take a load off his spectral feet and join us for some wine. Rest with us for a while. Recline.
You know how every year they run a story with nerdy calculations about how you manage to deliver so many toys to so many children in a single night? Like this one that says you visit 1,178 homes per second (“He’s coming in, hitting and going on”). Or this one that says you travel at 24,000 times the speed of sound — requiring your reindeer to absorb so much energy in flight that they would “burst into flame almost instantaneously” were it not for your magic.
I don’t want things, Santa. In a way, I’ve been learning not to want, at all. “Expect” has kind of taken a hiatus from my vocabulary these days. So many of them have been dashed (no offense to Dasher). I’ve been learning to live with what just is.
My inner child doesn’t want things, Santa. My inner child wants your shoulder. I want your time, Santa — the one thing you have become so adept at living outside of. So adept, in fact, that you’ve become famous for it.
I want you to shuck the Arrest-Me-Red suit. I want you to pull on a pair of relaxed-fit jeans and a comfy flannel shirt. Though maybe a lighter fabric would be better; it’s still fairly warm here in Florida.
I want us to go somewhere for a long heart-to-heart over coffee. There’s a terrific family-run cafe a few miles from me, with an easygoing air and the kind of solid wood tables you don’t see much of any more, except maybe in your workshop. At least, the way your workshop used to be.
I just want to sit and talk, you know? I’ll buy. You’ve been giving gifts away like crazy.
I can tell you about Christmas Day 17 years ago, when my partner and I visited and spent time with a good friend of mine in the hospital. How we then had our own heart-to-heart over our version of Christmas dinner in a Middle Eastern restaurant, the only restaurant we could find that was open. How we then spent three hours walking along the banks of the Charles River in snow halfway up our calves. Talking. Following the Moon along the river’s curves.
It’s the kind of conversation I don’t expect any more. Though sometimes my partner surprises me and I can get a glimpse of what was. And in the midst of what our life is like, it feels like a miracle.
I can listen, too, Santa. I’ve become very, very good at listening. That’s why I crave a shoulder — because sometimes my partner’s theories and fears and correlations and emotional upheavals come at me with such relentless, chaotic energy that I feel I might combust, the way your reindeer are expected to do as you tear around the globe.
I need to unload words as desperately as you need to unload toys.
We could fill thermoses and go to the park I head to when I need to get away from the house. I’ll take you to my favorite picnic table, where I write in my journal and listen to my music. Where my music speaks to me and I speak to my journal. And instead of reindeer games I watch squirrel games and crows, and ibises in the warmer months. There’s a good view of the soccer field where children sometimes fly kites and older children sometimes fly remote-controlled model airplanes. And there’s a playground nearby for the youngest kids. You might even know them.
You can tell me about life at the North Pole and the changes you see there. I imagine you feel as helpless about the dwindling ice as I feel about my caree. It can’t be easy. Do you and Mrs. Claus discuss the state of the world? How are the elves coping?
We can commiserate, Santa. I can be your shoulder, too. So many depend on you for so much and you are beholden to the legend of You, the essence of jollity.
I’ve eaten my emotions, too, Santa. I’ve played the role expected of me, turning to food as therapy.
I want to step outside of time with you, but it would mean your spending time with me.
Really, that’s the only gift I want. Or, if not with me, then with my partner. I’ve seen how patient you are with children who struggle to get the words out, and with children who are frightened and who cry in all those shopping malls.
I want my partner to be able to talk to someone she’s not afraid of. Someone besides me, who will listen to her for as long as it takes.
Maybe you can fill some of your enormous toy bags with some of the clutter around here and take it away, but I know that’s asking a lot. I have no doubt about your abilities. But my partner is unable to let all of that go.
Maybe she can let some of it go if you sit with her long enough. Let her spend time with the reindeer, too. They can be therapy animals for both of us.
Thanks for reading. Give Elijah a hug for me. And Mrs. Claus. And everyone on the Island of Misfit Toys.
Safe travels, Santa.
Yours — ejourneys