Removed

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the seriesThinking back

Removed-Header

There are times I’ve found myself in moments so surreal that it felt like my experiences were happening remotely, far away from me.  I think everyone has encountered that feeling before, when you seem to be a bystander to your own existence, a fly on the wall watching yourself go through something.

 

Often, these times seem be connected to some great tragedy or hardship.  It is then, when your stomach seems to fall out, like the first great drop of a rollercoaster, or that tingly swing set feeling.  Sweat starts beading from a clammy forehead and your throat goes dry.  But even as you are experiencing this, the camera shifts perspective and in your mind’s eye you are now watching as a spectator. I had a moment like this just a week or so ago, not filled with terror but surreal in its own right.

 

I visited my grandma, my father’s mother, in a convalescent home.  Or maybe it was a rest home…I don’t quite know if there is a difference, or if it matters what we call those places where people end up getting stored as their candles flicker out.  She is by no means ignored the way many people are there.  My relatives, who just aren’t able to provide the degree of care that a Parkinson’s patient requires, visit Grandma Nina almost daily.

 

I’ve watched many of my older relatives pass away, some suddenly and some ever so slowly.  My Aunt Ruby gradually disappeared into the couch over a period of years as the same disease that is taking my grandma gnawed at her body.  I am still not sure which kind of death seems nobler, disappearing overnight or fighting with every breath.  I think the quick version has more appeal to me.  I’d rather remember Aunt Ruby playing her organ or making me a sandwich, than be stuck with the picture that is now her predominant profile in my mind.  I hope that others remember me at my best someday, as well.

 

But with my grandma there in that home I don’t have that choice.  I have very little memory of her at all outside of the other day.  For reasons I won’t discuss here, I haven’t talked to her since early childhood.  When I think back, there are only snippets in my mind of her or my paternal grandpa.  It may be sad, but it is the truth, and I have chosen not to try to deconstruct the reasons why things were the way they were—instead to deal with things as they are now.

 

So there I sat, with a virtual stranger in that place, talking about the weather and birds, and a tree that was blooming nearby.  And I was outside of myself, very far away but wanting to be close…wanting memories that just aren’t there.  And wishing that there was something else, anything I could talk about… something that had more meaning.

 

In the end as I left, she gave me a long slow look—and maybe I returned that gaze, I don’t know.  Her eyes said that she realized she didn’t know if we’d meet again, and that she also wished there was more to talk about than the weather and the birds.  I think maybe, despite me being outside of myself, that presence, us both in that moment was itself just enough. —Ryan

copyright-notice

 

Apple Juice

Back when I used to watch Saturday Night Live (before the Jamie Foxx episode that permanently changed my mind), there was a skit that for some reason I still can’t stop laughing about. The episode was being hosted by Bryan Cranston, and near the end of the episode where they put the skits that just aren’t very good, he is joined by Fred Armisen in a skit called the Bjelland Brothers.  The skit centers around a song with the lyrics, “I sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house.  Did you get it?”  But, rather than describing it to you in detail, I’ll just embed it below.  Give it a chance…it’ll grow on ya.

So after watching this and having the song in my head, I realized that the chords were really easy, and the next week in youth group, I started by playing this song and getting the kids to sing along.  I doubt that any of the had any idea what this was, but they thought it was funny.   Just like a good shampoo (lather, rinse, repeat) I’ve done it occasionally since, and the teens always think it’s fun.  I doubt that hardly any of them still have any idea what it is from.

As anyone who ever reads this already knows, I recently left youth ministry.  My teens showered me with love in ways that I still can’t put words to.  The most powerful for me are never little trinkets or gift cards (although I do like those), but the teens that tell me how something I did affected their lives, or when they go the extra mile to make me something, or do something creative to honor me.  All of the ways in which they’ve touched my life through the years I’ve known them, and even more as I’ve left will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Tonight I cleaned the last vestiges of clutter from my old office at church.  It was bitter-sweet.  Now there is nothing tangible that ties me back to that building.  As I left, I looked back into my office with a touch of sadness.  After a large part of a decade, it is no longer my place.

When I got home, I carried boxes of books and other office stuff from my car into my home office.  As I carried the last box in, I looked down and saw this on my doorstep.

Bottle of Sparking Apple Juice 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle of Sparkling Apple Juice 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest, I got it.  Thank you

FreeWriting 1 Ryan Versus the Galaxy

Venus transit

Today, I was standing at my friend Andrew’s house outside, baking in the Texas sun.  He had told me that his wife was home and would be there to lend me a couple of welding masks.  She wasn’t, but that was OK, we worked it out, and he was doing me a favor after all.  I’m supposed to pick up the masks in just a bit.

But it is that time of year when the angry Texas sun starts to remind me of my mortality.  It is kind of like putting your hand really close to the coaled remains of a really hot fire.  You know that you are mere inches from destruction, but it feels good tempting fate for the few seconds that you can actually stand it.  Living in Texas after the month of May feels just like that.

I was borrowing the welding masks in order to stare at the sun.  No, not in one of those “Some guy in Indiana hasn’t eaten in 20 years because he gets all of his energy from sun-gazing,” kind of way.  But because today a celestial event is occurring that won’t happen again for another 115 years.  Starting about 30 minutes from the time I am writing this, the planet Venus will be traveling between the sun and the earth, causing it to form a little tiny shadow on the sun.

The last time I was a part of a space event like this was when I was a small child.  Halley’s Comet was arriving on its journey through space, as it does every 80 or so years.  We were really excited to see it.  We talked about how the next time it came through I would be a really old man, and my parents would be dead.  It was a pleasant thought for a small child to entertain.

My family got up at middle-of-the-night thirty in order to go to an observatory to see this ice cube in the sky.  It was a really overcast night and so the astronomer told us that we wouldn’t see anything through the high-powered telescope, that’s too bad, because if we could have “it would be super-cool.”  We looked anyway.  We didn’t see anything, and went home.  I suppose some day if I live long enough I’ll get the chance again.

The main reason I want to see this Venus transit is because Halley’s Comet screwed me over as a child.  I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that the universe has been against me every since then.  If I see this, it will be getting the galaxy back for its cruel joke ever so many years ago.  Plus, Venus is about 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is a little bit hotter than Texas gets in the summer, so I’ll feel a bit cooler.

But the clouds are rolling in.  Tonight it is supposed to storm badly.   It would be just like the cosmos to get me once more.  I’ll meet with the teenagers in my group in just a bit and explain that if the clouds weren’t there, they could see something that they will never get to see again in their lifetimes.

I’ll be the lucky one, though, because some day 60 or so years from now, I will bring my great grandchildren (OK, let’s just pretend I’m a spry old coot) at some ungodly hour to the Observaplex 9000 fission-powered Televiewer.  The astronomer will tell us that it is overcast, and if we could see the comet it would be “super-cool,” and we’ll look anyway, see nothing, and go home.  It won’t be the revenge I’m looking for, but Venus will still be hot and my descendants will get to carry my bitterness into future generations. —Ryan

—Update—

I actually saw it, and although it is a poor and grainy camera-phone image it does show that I did see the event.  By the way, no you can’t see Venus in the below image.  It is much too crappy, and Venus was a barely discernable speck on the sun.

The sun through a welder's mask

Adventures in High School – Part 4

High School Header

This is part 4 in a multi-part series.  Click here to read the beginning of the story, Part 2, and Part 3.

Note: While I have kept as many details as possible completely honest, I have changed all of the names of the people in these stories.  I didn’t think it would be fair to write about them in the way that I have if I hadn’t protected the real people a bit.  In the case of one particular person, I don’t remember his real name anyway.  Also, please don’t take anything I say in this story to be tacit approval for the way I or anyone else acted.  I was in High School, and sometimes acted like quite a punk.

The biggest caper involving Mr. Grady concerned a video that he was planning to show in our class.  We knew that a film was on the schedule because there was a TV and VCR on a cart in our room at the beginning of class.  We asked him about it and he told us that we would see it in the last half of the class, after that 15 minute break.

When break time came, Mr. Grady left the room, as people went to the bathroom, caught some fresh air, or whatever they wanted to do.  Some of the class stayed inside.  One of the other students, Shane, and I were standing near the TV and talking about something Mr. Grady had done earlier that was unintentionally hilarious.  One of us got the idea that it would be funny if we switched one of the plugs on the back of the VCR.  I honestly don’t remember whose idea it was, but I did think it was a brilliant one.

Like many DVD players today, the VCR had 3 RCA-type plugs: a red, a white, and a yellow for the actual video signal.  The red and white were for audio left and right channels.  All we did was to switch the white audio channel with the yellow video plug—just two.  We giggled as we sat down and waited for Mr. Grady to enter and class to restart.

The rest of the class knew what we had done.  It wasn’t secret.  The problem with the class was that everyone was in on everything together.  We all had a secret disdain for him that was due both to the fact that he openly disliked all teenagers, and the fact that he had somehow created a new strain of boredom that was completely resistant to all forms of self-entertainment.  So, we were all co-partners in crime, trying to give him enough ulcers to ruin any trips to IHOP that he had planned for his golden years.  It was pure evil, but it was what we all thought.

When Mr. Grady returned class started as usual.  We resumed counting his uhhh’s and doodling aimlessly in our notebooks.  Finally, he announced that it was time to watch our video.  In many classes, messing with the video would have been social suicide.  Everyone knew that videos were more entertaining than class lecture.  But on the few occasions that Mr. Grady had actually shown us films they happened to be even more boring than his lectures had been.  They were from the 1970’s, and consisted of long-dead economists discussing numbers in thick accents.  I was pretty sure some of the economists were even dead before the interviews began.

Mr. Grady hit the play button and the VCR began its whirring noise.  The TV continued to show snow.  He looked puzzled, and he actually slapped the side of the TV, as if he needed the vacuum tubes to warm up or something.

“Is it plugged in?” Shane asked.  This was a hilarious question due to the fact that both the TV and VCR were clearly on, but it was hilarious.

Mr. Grady didn’t answer.

“Is it on channel 3?”  I called out.  Back in that day, the TV had to be tuned to channel 3 or 4 in order to get the VCR to show a video.

Mr. Grady still didn’t answer, but now clearly frazzled, he began to pull random plugs out of every possible place on the TV and plug them into other equally random places.  We continued to ask our questions.

“Mr. Grady, I don’t think it is getting electricity.”  “Maybe it needs to be on channel 4.”  Are you sure the TV is actually on?”  We were enjoying ourselves more and more, the more upset Mr. Grady was clearly becoming.

Finally, Mr. Grady gave up.  I stated to feel bad about what I had done.  I asked him if I could try to fix it.  He agreed.  I was actually his favorite, even though I was the secret source of much of his harassment, and he usually agreed to anything I asked.

I stood up and looked at the mess.  There were wires tangled all over by this point.  It now looked more confusing than an old fashioned telephone exchange.  But I began to unplug everything and rewire it according to what anyone could clearly see was the proper arrangement.  This took me about 5 minutes.

After that we watched the most entertaining video he had ever showed.  I still remember the title, Chicken-omics.

I have since thought of my time in that class many times.  Mr. Grady was one of the worst teachers I have ever had.  He expected students that he openly disliked to endure his torture without treating him poorly.  Or, maybe he didn’t—maybe he just didn’t care at all anymore.  But that didn’t excuse the way I or the rest of the class treated him.  I have felt guilty about it many times.  It gave me some fun stories, but I’ve always hoped that our class was the worst he ever had, and if nothing else, at least he had some funny stories of his own to tell about us, the class from hell. -Ryan

Stay posted for further episodes.


Adventures in High School – Part 3

High School Header

This is part 3 in a multi-part series.  Click here to read the beginning of the story, and Part 2 here.

Note: While I have kept as many details as possible completely honest, I have changed all of the names of the people in these stories.  I didn’t think it would be fair to write about them in the way that I have if I hadn’t protected the real people a bit.  In the case of one particular person, I don’t remember his real name anyway.  Also, please don’t take anything I say in this story to be tacit approval for the way I or anyone else acted.  I was in High School, and sometimes acted like quite a punk.

Mr. Grady was a Christian.  This was well known at school.  His nephew, Sterling, was an outspoken Christian student-athlete, and I found out he later became a youth minister.  Although I was a pretty popular kid, I just never had much of a desire to hang out with the preppy crowd.  It seemed to me that they were a little too shallow for my tastes, although I was on pretty decent terms with most of the preppy kids.

People generally respected The Grady family’s strong Christian faith.  I don’t recall ever hearing anyone teasing any of them for that.  It probably happened at some point, but not in my circles.  I was of course, a pretty dedicated Christian too.

We liked to do our best to get Mr. Grady off his script during lecture by asking him questions that had nothing to do with class.  We did this for two reasons.  First, the lecture was always boring and never included any information that the book hadn’t already said.  It was a far more valuable use of time to read the book while he lectured, finish, and then read something more enjoyable.  He would never notice.  But the second reason was that Mr. Grady always had a unique way of putting his foot in his mouth.

One time Mr. Grady got himself in trouble in our class by making statements about “hearing voices.”  The way he said it, it seemed clear that he was referring to hearing God’s voice in his head or in the spirit.  His wording was very strange though, and made him sound like he was somehow schizophrenic.  After that we would periodically ask him what the voices were telling him at that particular moment.

A short time after this, one of the students in our class brought a portable mini-tape recorder to class.  He turned it on for a while, recording Mr. Grady’s lecture, then every time Mr. Grady turned around to write on the chalkboard, the student would play back a piece of the tape, lowering the volume when Mr. Grady would turn back around.

His hearing must have been suffering, because he would not notice until the volume was pretty loud.  He’d then turn around and ask us what the noise was.  We’d tell him that we didn’t hear anything at all, and ask him if he was “hearing the voices again.”  This continued for well over an hour.

We eventually got bored and stopped. -Ryan

Stay posted for further episodes.


Adventures in High School – Part 2

High School Header

This is part 2 in a multi-part series.  Click here to read the beginning of the story.

Note: While I have kept as many details as possible completely honest, I have changed all of the names of the people in these stories.  I didn’t think it would be fair to write about them in the way that I have if I hadn’t protected the real people a bit.  In the case of one particular person, I don’t remember his real name anyway.  Also, please don’t take anything I say in this story to be tacit approval for the way I or anyone else acted.  I was in High School, and sometimes acted like quite a punk.

Mr. Grady fixated at the back wall each day apparently in order to spare him from staring at faces who would mostly be populating our city’s jails in the near future.  We did not have to guess at this fact.  He told us this once toward the beginning of the semester.

This did have a benefit for some of these very students he was trying to avoid.  About mid-point in the summer, one of the students, Shane, discovered that he could belly-crawl out of class below Mr. Grady’s field of vision shortly after he took roll in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever he wished.  Shane was getting valuable experience, in something that would soon be of greater help to him in prison than his knowledge of supply and demand.

Shane and his friend Eduardo were my second source of entertainment during the summer.  Eduardo was the older brother of a classmate of mine since the sixth grade.  Truthfully, I had never liked either of them.   They were never nice to me.  In fact, his little brother Paco was probably one of the worst bullies I had ever encountered.  I didn’t have to put up with Paco for too many years, as he disappeared from school early in our Freshman year, which probably meant he got expelled.

Eduardo remained in school though.  He played trumpet in band, and made rude comments at me whenever I was near.  I mostly ignored him, not out of fear, but because I felt him to be somewhat insignificant.  I had enough friends who wouldn’t let him bother me seriously, anyway.

Eduardo showed up to band camp the summer before his Senior Year* with his shirt off sporting an entire chest tattoo of a bull’s head.  To complete the look, his nipple was in the middle of the bull’s nose, and he had pierced it, giving the bull a sort of 3-D look.  It was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.

So, Eduardo had failed Economics the first time through, and was in class with me that particular summer as his last chance to graduate High School without having to get a GED.  Fortunately for him, this Econ class was a guarantee.  I got over 100% without ever doing any homework or studying, not because I didn’t care, but because I could do it all in class each day.  People passed simply by proximity to the classroom.

One day before class Shane and Eduardo were in the back talking about some caper that they were about to embark on, when Shane got up to go to the bathroom.  Shane always kept a bottle of water on his desk, the kind with a big plastic bendy-straw in a neon color than stuck through the lid.  I always had assumed that he just had a high value for hydration.

Eduardo reached across to Shane’s desk, deciding that he would sneak a sip of Shane’s water before he returned.  I saw the liquid move up the straw, into his mouth, and then seconds later comes spewing out, like he was some surfacing whale.  Eduardo started gasping and choking, and ran out the door.  Whatever was in that bottle was not water, for sure.  No one ever touched Shane’s bottle again.

Epilogue: Shortly after these events, Eduardo missed his third day of class.  In Summer School that means that you are given an automatic F in the class.  Since I knew that this was his last chance to actually graduate High School, I was able to argue and plead with Mr. Grady to not count him as absent.  Mr. Grady finally reluctantly agreed to do that.  That afternoon I was able to track down Eduardo’s phone number and tell him that he wasn’t counted as absent, and would be able to finish and graduate.  He said “OK,” nonchalantly, and never came back to class.  -Ryan

Stay posted for further episodes.

*This was the year prior to the Economics class.

Adventures in High School – Part 1

High School Header

I have often thought that real life stories are much funnier than sitcoms or jokes most of the time.  This seems to be mainly because the bizarre events of our lives are too strange to be funny if it weren’t for the fact that they actually happened.  The following is a true story from my days in High School, many years ago.  Well, it is true to the best of my memory. This is the first in series of posts about the events of the summer prior to my Senior year.  Stay tuned for more posts in the series.

Note: While I have kept as many details as possible completely honest, I have changed all of the names of the people in these stories.  I didn’t think it would be fair to write about them in the way that I have if I hadn’t protected the real people a bit.  In the case of one particular person, I don’t remember his real name anyway.  Also, please don’t take anything I say in this story to be tacit approval for the way I or anyone else acted.  I was in High School, and sometimes acted like quite a punk.

In High School I was really, ridiculously into music.  I was in Marching and Concert Band (Fall/Spring) and Jazz Band.  These 2 classes justified the energy it took for me to drag my teenaged self out of bed each morning, do homework for classes like Physics, and navigate the intricate social workings of High School society.

Also added to the mix was choir, which I didn’t really particularly enjoy, but it did succeed in getting me closer to the band room for one more hour of the day.  It also had other benefits.  For one, I could secretly laugh at the egos of the choir divas,* ninety-nine percent of whom all band members considered to be pretend musicians.  Also, I had the opportunity to continually enjoy the mannerisms of our choir director, Mr. Saxton, who seemed to be one of the few people I’ve met who are complete caricatures of themselves.  Finally, this class allowed me to have half of my entire schedule comprised of music classes.

The downside to this arrangement was that it required me to take some of the non-music classes that were required during the summer.  At that time and place there were two types of people who took Summer School classes: students who were far more concerned with building up their disciplinary record in order to give them street cred than they were in actually holding a High School Diploma, and students like me who were taking core classes in advance in order to free up their schedule.  These classes were about 70% full of the hooligans, and therefore were staffed by teachers who had somehow left certain sins un-atoned for, landing them in pedagogic purgatory.

One particular summer, prior to my Senior year, I took Economics, a class that I passed easily with a 102%.  I was never a super-genius student, but I did take advanced classes and could always get high marks if I decided that I wanted to actually apply myself.  I was however, friends with all of the super-geniuses, which made me feel slightly less brilliant than I suppose I could have felt.

The teacher of Economics was Mr. Grady, who had been teaching Economics since before printed currency.  He once told me that when he first started, the class was called Collecting Shells and Pretty Beads.  His brother was a Math teacher at my High School, as well.  Their nephew was the High School quarterback, who was dating the head cheerleader and prettiest girl in school.   Her dad was the Football coach.  Basically, it was Mayberry, or some perfect setting for a Friday Night Lights episode.

Mr. Grady was a nice enough man I suppose, but undoubtedly past the point of being able to handle a class of High School students.  We tortured him mercilessly.  First of all, since he had been teaching the same class for the last 50 or so years, his lectures were completely memorized.  He would begin the morning by standing up from his desk, finding a point on the back wall to stare at, and then launching into his talk in a flat monotone.

Unfortunately, the years of practice did not help him to speak this memorized lecture quickly.  Instead, every word was labored, and offset by an uhhh.  Sometimes his uhhh’s were offset by their own uhhh’s.  We soon began to count these over the course of his lecture.

Each day a new student would be assigned to tally the day’s uhhh’s.  It was determined by vote prior to his arrival (always at the exact moment of the bell) and no student could be handed the position twice.  Double uhhh’s were celebrated by the students out loud by lightly slapping our desks for a few moments.  His record for the summer was 243 uhhh’s and 81 double-uhhh’s during a single class.  The class erupted in applause at the end of that lecture.  -Ryan

Stay posted for further episodes.

*If there is a male form of diva I don’t know what it is, or if it matters.  But I secretly laughed at the male divas even more than the female ones.

Of Holly and Mistletoe

Holly and Mistletoe HeaderYoung Timmy stared wide-eyed at the mountain of tightly wrapped presents under the tree.  It all looked so beautiful to his young eyes.  Each little light reflected off of an ornament.  There was the small glass globe that he had received from Ma-ma two Christmases ago—‘May the glory of advent fill you with tidings of great joy.’  Next to it, the small brass shepherd shape from some time before his birth.  Then there was his favorite, a small Woodstock with a Santa hat, that he sometimes delicately removed to play with when no one was looking.  This was just a sampling of the keepsakes that decorated each branch, a growing beacon to the promises of great joy that lay in each parcel underneath.  They were all reminders, and each Christmas, one more was added to the tree.

“You know the rule, Tim.  You can pick one to open up tonight before we go to Christmas Eve service,” Dad said as he sat down the book he was reading.  Mommy came into the room with her new red sweater and green dangly earrings, now ready to go to church.

“I want the red one in the back!”  Timmy bounced.

Mommy shook her head. “Why don’t we leave that one for later.  It is so far back, we’d mess up the whole living room,.”  That one was the show-stopper for tomorrow morning, the Red Rider BB gun of Timmy’s wish list.  This year, they had to visit 4 stores before they found the singing little bear-thing that all the commercials had convinced every child in America they had to have.  Timmy would certainly shriek in joy when he tore off the paper.  He would forget all about it by mid-January, most likely.

“Before we open anything though, let’s talk about why we celebrate Christmas,” said Dad.  “Come up and sit next to me.”

Timmy crawled up, as Dad opened the Bible that always sat under the coffee table below the current issue of O magazine Mommy received every month, yet seldom actually read.  He grabbed the little ribbon marking the book of Luke, chapter 2.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Dad closed the Bible and returned it to its proper place.

Timmy understood a lot of this.  He had heard this read each Christmas in church and on the DVD they watched a week ago.  He knew that it was the same story that was illustrated by the Nativity figurines on the little table by the front door.  He had heard that Jesus was the reason for the season. But the story did have a lot of big and weird words, and he didn’t get what shepherds had to do with it all, or even why everyone kept discussing a baby from long ago that was born in a barn.  But this is what they were supposed to talk about before they went to that little church full of people he didn’t know.

The adults made sure that all of this was done before they got to do all the fun parts of Christmas that he looked forward to.  If they didn’t read this part and light the candles at the church, maybe Santa wouldn’t come, the presents would never get opened, and they’d have to throw away the cookies now cooling on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes, you had to do the stuff the adults wanted to do before you could have fun.

“Who else was there at the manger, T?”  Dad asked.

“There were those 3 smart guys with camels,” Timmy answered proudly.

“Yes, the Wise Men,” Mommy said, smiling.  “And what did they bring?”

“They had gifts for the baby,” he answered.

“Right, and that is why we get gifts on Christmas,” said Dad.

“Santa brings us gifts because of that?”

“No, Santa is different.  He brings you gifts if you’ve been a good boy.  But yes, Santa is bringing us gifts because of that story.  See Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Dad looked at Timmy with a smile and a pat on the head.

“Can I open that one, then?” Timmy jumped off the couch toward the tree.  -Ryan

Fall Again

Fall Again Header

Fall descends, a blanket lifted

The stuffy wool of summer gathered up and put away

Fresh air breathes in puffs, the evening sun in golds and cherry reds

The light filtered through trees and clouds, showing a new deep content

Leaves rain on each new breath, and we laugh and sigh, with ciders, and coffees, and baked goods with pumpkin and spice

It will end, the world will turn, and new blankets of frost and snow, like the tightly made beds ready for sleep.

But in this time, lengthened and melancholy, all is just good.  Not shouts of Summer, or Christmas revelry

This still moment, content in itself.