The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Prompt #5 Before and After

Sticking to the guidelines today. After all, the prompts are merely suggestions not rules. My issues of authority surfacing again!

Many items come to mind. I could go historical and do the automobile, refrigerator, dish washer, gas stove. I could describe my yard before and after the raised beds or the aquaponic system I am learning to operate.  I could describe the canner and go into my attempts to remove myself from the corporate food chain and chemicals in my own small way.  Yet I’ve written about these previously.

I am lead to the wood stove!  I love heating with wood.  I’m not totally sure it lowers the heating costs if we don’t manage to obtain free wood which we have had a lot of! We’ve cut, shopped and split several driveways full of wood.  Rest in peace downed ash, maple, oak, walnut and Osage.  We burned the Bradford Pear that didn’t survive the four tornado day a couple of years ago.  But the money to rent the splitter and gasoline and transportation…Am I saving resources?  The process of me or anyone getting the wood to the point of use and the smokey by-product wafting into the air has to factor in.  There is an environmental cost for everything.  I feel like the burning of the deceased trees is a part of speeded up recycling!

I feel strong when operating the splitter.  It’s fun!  And hard work.  I feel strong lifting and stacking wood.  I feel strong carrying wood even though I carry only 3-4 logs at a time.  Carrying wood forces me to get outside in the cold, damp, snow, fog, ice.  so I am still connected with the outside when the windows are shut and the daylight is in short supply.  And I am moving.  I am stretching and using my body.

I cook soups and veggies atop the stove.  Cast iron.  I dry our clothes on racks in front of the stove.  I sit and stare, my feet resting on the brick foundation and browse seed catalogues and read.

The whirr and hum of the furnace is replaced by wood crackling and popping as the fire dances life.  The heart light glowing from the center of my house.

 

 

 

 

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Prompt #3 – Paint a Word Picture

Today, I am to use all my senses to describe. Paint a word picture. I think I can stick to the instruction today!
Oh, the many things I could write about. Paris. The earth beneath my feet on the Camino. Closer to home, my flowers or my bee stings.

August is a ripe and sensory month. Humidity that drips from the air and is sucked up by the heat. Heat and harvest.

Then there are the trash men who deal with all of the senses all day. God bless those brave strong people who brave the smells and weights and shapes of what we throw away. The grinding truck rolls away and my cans are emptied, ready to refill.

I settle on the green and red fruits hanging from the tall vines, caged for strength, the power of their growth so focused the plant quickly outgrows its core capabilities. Tomatoes are over achievers! Roots suck nutrition and water from the composted soil, fed with worms and minerals with one mission – grow. And grow. And grow. Product fruit, their one specific mission. Until – the cold sets in and the seeds of the unused fruit fall on cold, hard ground, waiting out winter and the return of sun and heat.

The tomato is an ambitious plant. Started from a tiny seed, raising itself to a 6’ vine giant. Green, rich is the unmistakable smell of tomato goodness, even from a touch of the seedling, then the little white flower turns into a globe of red lusciousness, their smell permeates.

A green stem reaches outside the rim of a silver washtub where smooth, red, ripe goodness waits . Abundance, sustenance, summer time, like the magic of seed to fruit, like a pizza parlor, like the kitchens of gardeners in August. Fruit flies catch a whiff, follow the trail and indulge. I will blanche, core and freeze to add summer warmth to winter soups, stews and chili.

I suggest you carry the salt shaker to the garden and capture some of the sun’s warmth as you bite through the skin of this luscious goodness. Let the seeds run down your chin. Let that ummm escape from your throat, past lips reaching for another bite.

Salute to the Goddess of the tomato!

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Writing Prompt #2 –TV/Movie reaction

Not exactly following the suggestion – but I am pretty good at “bucking the system” by twisting the rules just a bit.  There is an entire blog post on that personal revelation!

I have adapted the prompt to : emotion associated with a movie or TV show

I don’t watch much TV.  Movies I love if they are funny, character driven and not too violent.  I walked out of the horse head scene in Godfather and again in Black Hawk Down.  I don’t know how they even talked me into that movie.  Many a movie or show I’ve tried gets too careless with death and gore for me.  Like No Country for Old Men.  Love the cast of actors.  But the opening scene in a desolate American West.  Two cars.  Only two cars and two men.  They stop and the guy in the tail car approaches and blows the other one off the map.  Bang you are dead.  In this wide open space, full of emptiness and possibility two men and boom.  Now, granted I did not stick around long enough to see the guy hit the ground so i don’t know the when, why or wherefore.  I just know that I had had enough in 3-4 minutes.

I cringe at the violence in the 30 second advertising slots for the detective shows especially when there are children involved.

I am not denying there are terrible things that happen to people.  Horrific, tragic situations.  Still I don’t want to see imagined, horrific, tragic situations play out in a 40 minute skit broken into commercial segments selling the viewers medicine for depression.  And the next week the main players are all fine and redo to go into another episode.  There is no reality of healing time, grief, anger, frustration.  No regrouping time.  Only scenes from next week.

Several years ago, I regularly watched a show I can’t remember the name of.  Maybe you all can add the name!  (I could do a blog post on instant recall if I could remember to.)   Heroes, I found it on the web, of course.  The players had super powers.  The main character was a cheerleader in high school.  The combat between good and evil was more of a mental battleground at first but then the story line got really brutal and gory.  I quit watching.

I believe the constant depictions violence hardens us, desensitizes us, creates an underlying sense of mistrust and does little to assist in dealing with these situations on a reality basis.  And then what is the reality?  Is Hollywood creating the reality of our society by telling us this is how our society is? Oh, maybe I should just watch the news.  Oh, dear, never mind that.

And then there are the violent video games.  Teaching how to kill with animation that looks like real people.  Training for…?

Call me idealistic, a Pollyanna.  Tell me I have my head in the sand.  Okay.  And still I’ll stick with watching Antiques Roadshow and the shows about personal talents.  Why are there no more Doc Martin episodes?  I do watch Madame Secretary which can occasionally get a bit bloody.  60 minutes and Sunday Morning.  Oh, and Grace and Frankie!  And documentaries.

 

 

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Writing Prompts Day #1 – Books

I am challenging myself to write with an email prompt for 31 days. To sharp my skills, to force myself to write. Writer’s write. So if I want to publish again, well… pen in hand, Susan Rea.

The first prompt is: Write about a beloved book and relive your memories of the time spent entranced by a wonderful story.
Being the Libra poster child, I can’t pick just one. So here is my response.

The first novel I read was Old Yeller by Fred Gibson. I cried so hard. That dog became as personal to me as Dusty! I learned then the power of the written word. I was hooked. Give me a good book and a quiet spot from my early teens.

From a family of storytellers , now wishing I had listened and could remember some of them better, I thank you Uncle John for the snippets in the bundle of letters we found in your desk. I am trying to take it from there, writing little personality bio’s for the faces I have represented in the archives I have assembled.

Another book I well remember is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Life changing. The book really changed my belief system. The Goddess connection spoke to me and drew me in – connected with me. From this reading, I experienced possibility and earth spirituality. This didn’t strike me as fantasy but a reality channeled through an open mind.

The Hobbit and trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, while much more action packed and violent than I usually read, held me spell bound. I propped these books in the window sill to read while I was washing dishes! Heroes, with every character flaw and self-doubt, faith and courageous curiosity. By the way I think Samwise is the hero of this story.

I love books where the historical characters come alive, are given personality. Historical fiction – I suspect many are channeled or directed in some part by divine syncronicity. The focus of the writer on a specific character can often be too intense to not connect with the energy of that character and time. I believe it’s possible.

When I read The Invention of Wings, which I read because Sue Monk Kidd wrote it and I loved The Secret Life of Bees and the strength of the female community, I was entranced, fascinated and so angry.

Thoroughly intrigued with the book and insulted that my history lessons had not taught me, not mentioned or considered important the Grinke sisters, Handful and her mother Charlotte important enough to include in it’s references. (See my previous blog post from July 2015.) Grossly unfair to our culture’s story in both areas of race and gender.

Maybe that’s why I tend to female writers. Louise Erdrich. Barbara Kingsolver. Isabelle Allende. And…Mary Oliver’s poems. Sena Jeter Naslund’s, Ahab’s Wife. Of course, Anita Diamant’s Red Tent.  My list does go on and on and on.

That being said, I have read many Tony Hillerman novels and love them all.

I am fascinated by books written on Mary Magdalene, her history and the theory that she was the most beloved disciple and wife of Jesus. Also, Anna, Jesus grandmother and the Essenes.

I also love stories about the English Queens, their strengths and limitations.

I enjoy young adult literature, but not the fantasy, so much.  It’s concise entertaining, blatantly real.  I did enjoy Harry Potter.  Even though – even his Owl got killed off.  Gezzzzz.

So, I am practicing with writing prompts to bring Hazel and Uncle Ira alive for those who will someday care to peruse what I have archived.

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The Camino – continued

AND… I may post several articles about the Camino!

And…I learned something about focus; about letting the extraneous distractions go.  I so often hear myself saying, “I am on an ADHD retirement program.”  Yes, I do have lots of interests and a great deal of curiosity.  I like being busy.  And I don’t sit still well.  Maybe my explorer lifetime was cut short or limited in some way.  I probably did something stupid or was ill prepared and got dead really early!

So, how do I juggle lots of interests and involvements without feeling driven and frustrated?  Maybe I drive myself because of my age and the ever-present knowledge I am on the downhill of this lifetime.  Or maybe I feel the physical limitations of aging slowly creeping up on me.

I do know that returning to my previous life from three weeks in Europe (1 week on the Camino following 10 days in France with my granddaughter’s school tour) has been impossible!  I have only a certain amount of energy to give daily and I am in a chair for an hour or so and in bed early!  Jet lag?  Walking a hundred or so miles in 3 weeks in the heat while schlepping luggage, sleeping in different beds and all the other travel factors definitely play their role in my fatigue.  The downtime has given me great insight into picking what is important for today and what I can leave until the next day… or leave altogether.

My choices are weighed.  Not all options are mandatory.  Yet, my love of moving, of doing is such a part of me…I have this journal that I make my ongoing list in.  Checking a completed task is ridiculously rewarding for me.  That part is not in any danger of being eliminated from my lifestyle!

So, I am thinking more naps and more awareness of the ramifications of my decisions and involvements.  Less multitasking.

On the France tour we went from one event to the next.  I followed the schedule.  I made few decisions.  On the Camino I put one foot in front of the other.

The measure of success is that deep breath on the pillow at the end of the day.  Am I satisfied?  Am I comfortable with what my day presented?  And if it’s a yes, I win!

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Does fear stop you from creating?

YES!!

Dare boldly

Work in Progress. No. 44
#ShePersisted Series

Over at Live and Learn yesterday, David Kanigan shares an expert from a Robert Ito article in the NY Times about funny-man Ray Romano.

“It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.”

Doubt, uncertainty, insecurity can keep me from doing things I love.

Like painting.

I have begun working on No. 44 of my #ShePersisted series.

No. 44.

It’s taken me awhile to get to No. 44. With every piece I complete, I worry the next one won’t appear. Or won’t be any good. Or won’t ring true.

I worry I can’t paint. I’m not creative enough. I don’t have any talent.

And in my worry, I hesitate. I avoid. I ‘take a break’, convincing myself it’s what I need, even though I know, that’s the lie.

Deep within me, to the farthest reaches of every cell in my body, I feel the compelling…

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Why I March

I will march with women as long as my feet will carry me. In my 67 years I have worked my way through many a gender equality issue.
I married young because I believed it “the thing to do”.

After 10 years, I became a single mother and discovered that in spite of having complete control of the finances, I was without any credit rating. After my second divorce, and while, indisputably, not the primary bread winner in either marriage, yet being again in charge of the finances, I was AGAIN without any individual credit rating.  Yes, even with the 7 years of living single between marriages. Credit ratings were attached only to the male and because my single days were previous to the 2nd  marriage they disappeared.

I worked as a banquet waitress (my second job) carrying heavy trays wearing high heels because it was the dress! Why haven’t males been expected to wear high heels to be sexy?

I lost a job once because my commissions paid me more than the boss made for a quarter of that year.

I was any number of times sexually harassed in my job. I was in sales and I certainly encountered sex for business offers. One, in particular, from a  man who was a friend of my father’s, albeit, my father was deceased.

I’ve bought make up, had my nails polished -many women color their hair (I don’t. My hair is still red!) -to step correctly, ie young and perfect, into the cultural acceptance of beauty. Has a man?

So, we, across the board, earn less and we spend on looking culturally acceptable.. (I LOVE YOU, PAULA ANN, my dear friend who does nails and throws in the loving counseling because that is the kind generous soul she is). And, I really do like to have my toenails polished in the summer!

And whose is benefiting from the sale of all that make up and cream and beauty enhancer that we are force fed by our culture? A marketing plan that tells us to be who we are and shine through our God given faces?

Why isn’t there a male word with the same connotation as  misogyny?
mi·sog·y·ny — (dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
“she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny”)

Why is hysterical and hysterectomy from the same root word?

Why is is history and not her-story? Because I think they would write differently.

How many years has it been since women were chattel? Not so many.

Why isn’t there male genital mutilation?

Why is there still a sex trade using young girls as bartering tools?

Why were the girl children killed in China?

Why was there foot binding?

Need I go on?

Yes, I sill go on and I will march for the freedom/equality path I have and will continue to pave for my daughters and my granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters.

Take nothing for granted. The freedoms we have now, someone has protested to provide.

Why is this permitted?

Did you know that in 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent? While the number has gone up one percentage point from 2014, the change isn’t statistically significant — because the increase is so small, mere tenths of a percent, it doesn’t amount to perceptible change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the earnings ratio hasn’t had significant annual change since 2007. The gap has narrowed since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Still, the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.

http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

 

 

Thank you Donald Trump for bringing our issues to the open and letting us examine our values in front of the world, our neighbors, ourselves.  I am certainly more and more convinced of my beliefs – the truths I hold to be self-evident.

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My winter project – 2017

To go through, sort and organize a box of letters collected from the home office of my Uncle John, retired newspaper editor.

Uncle John died in 2007. In our disassembly of Uncle John’s favorite area’s of the house, the basement and his office/library we discovered…well, we discovered Uncle John was rather a pack rat. Not a hoarder. He had discriminating preferences!

Very notably, Uncle John collected books. Lots of reference books and biographies and books about Kentucky. Books whose information is now readily, immediately available online- at the push of a button or the statement of a command.  Articles that he cross referenced to other articles and books he had read. A newspaper man’s legacy.  (Ah, what will happen to the love and connection of the turning of a page.)

Uncle John also collected oddball stuff like swizzle sticks, matches, parts of clocks. He had one glass jar labeled “the tiniest nails on earth.”
He saved stacks of paper’s from Hazel’s, his mother, who taught him everything he knew about saving stuff. “Save it, it might be worth something someday,” I can hear her say, as plain as if she were right here beside me.

Also, we found a box of ephemera from his first wife, Janet, who passed in 1975. Her baby books, high school yearbook. On my.

After Uncle John’s passing, my sister and I spent many months visiting Carolyn, his widow. On “Tuesday nights with Carolyn” after dinner, we organized the paper and personal belongings, pilfering, plowing, crying, grieving, laughing with wonder and curiosity at our findings. I came home with 9 Rubbermaid tubs, full. Many of these items were returned to the Cincinnati Enquire for their archives. Two winters following I sorted from the late 1800’s to digital. Ten+  3-ring binders later – it is archived!

Except for this small box of personal correspondence gathered from drawers and files. Some of the letters are written to Uncle John. Many are copies of letters he wrote to others, particularly Aunt Mary. He retold many family stories and reported on his life in general.
This winter I will open the box and sort and organize. I will cry and laugh as I read and experience the calm, curious, humor and opinions of my Uncle.

I had hoped to share these moments with Carolyn and rehear the storied through her voice, but I waited a winter too long. Carolyn died at the grand age of 97, having only retired her high heels for 5 years!

My procrastination to dive into this project (which is much smaller than the first one) has found it’s way to the kitchen table for completion this is the winter.  I approach my project with fresh grief and one of the first pieces of paper to fall out of the box is Carolyn’s acceptance speech and the newsletter from the Cincinnati Junior League announcing her designation as Carrie Nowland Sustainer Award!  She notes in the speech that she, Carolyn, is the same age as the Junior League.  so, wish I could share that with her.

So, Carolyn and John, as I review a few of our years together in letters, I am so incredibly grateful for for the lessons, the memories, the meals, the stories, the books, the editing, the Grater’s, the blueberries, the impatiens (restarted from reseeding from 1956 to 2007), the blooming of the Cereus  and…and…and…

Your written memories will soon be in linear order. I promise!

 

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Where Susan Rea Caldwell is from

Hello everyone who reads my blog!  It’s been a long time~a long time~ since my last post.  This poem keeps telling me it wants recognition not only for myself but because it will encourage you, the reader, to create your own poem about your self.

My poem is modeled after George Ella Lyons’ poem Where I am from.  George Ella is homegrown and her works, her voice certainly makes Kentucky Proud.  She is the Poet Laureate of Kentucky this year.  http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

If you read the article you will see that this poem is a favorite among her students and has been a call to writers/poets in Kentucky to honor her position this year.

I challenge you to write the poem about yourself and your past.  It’s enlightening and fun and really interesting.

I find I could write a poem about each decade and really measure the changes.

So here goes.  I am not a poet!

Where Susan Rea Caldwell is from –

I am long awaited
Kentucky Proud
Since before statehood was declared.

I am a Baby Boomer – Class of ‘67

I am from many names so reissued
The tree becomes brambles
William – John – Mary
Directly I am from
Glen Gordon and Lorel Kelly
William and Hazel Gertrude – Betty Rea and Asbury

I am marriages with unique stories
Surnames grafting to twist the branches.

I am red curls from the X and Y
Hazel and Philadelphia.
I am Scotch Irish freckles and sunburns
Forbidden to wear pink, orange or red.

I am 2nd generation from leaving the farm to become
entrepreneurs, cooks, seamstresses, bankers, beauticians,
bookkeepers, salesmen, writers,
homemakers bringing the farm habits to the suburbs.
while keeping the family rooted at regular gatherings and reunions.

I am 5th generation Disciple of Christ.
from Sunday School, choir, Brownies, Girl Scouts and Wa-Kon-Da-Ho.

I am from National Clean-up Your Plate Day,
Patience is the Prince,
God is Great,
Peace, and
Save it, it might be worth something someday.

I am from safety
nurtured and supported in a loving tribe,
running streets with no fears.

I am from a yard full of adventure and
and neighborhood housing mystery and playmates
duck funerals, pink chickens, kick-the-can, tag,
dancing with garage poles, forts, Jacks and Barbies,
the practical green bike, not the shiny pink one
A younger brother and sister (She really is not adopted).

I am from a well storied and often shared oral history

laughter and card playing
cocktails and cigarettes

I am from widowed grandmothers –
the grassroots independents
who produced we bra burners.

I am from Kanebrak and Town and Country
fried chicken from cold oil served in baskets
to fine upscale dining.

I am from practical jokers — and cancer, which is NOT –
I traded a parent for a daughter
5 years apart.

I am from being married to my step-brother and my children being my nieces.  (Figure that one out!)

I am from 3 last names
2 college degrees
I am from learning how to make ends meet when no end was in sight and
death that came too early too many times in waves of 3’s.

Yet, the shrinking tree now expands with names and faces I know only on Facebook.

I take my place as an archivist of my ancestral history from unidentifiable tin types to digital where the paper trail ends and void where the fire destroyed.

From 1-11 my history is recorded in 3-ring binders – linear – to prove that
I AM and how I got to right here!

 

Thank you for reading.

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My Christmas gift to you

I am offering you a rest.  Get yourself a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a nice beverage of some kind and take a few minuted to snuggle into your favorite chair and enjoy my Christmas short story – Rondo and the Purple Play Mobile.

The story is a result of my granddaughter’s Santa being broken.  A child who is happy, very easy going, easy to please and a joy to be around!  Here’s to you, girl.

The story says that even Santa can get too caught up in preparations for the big season!

So have a “time out” on me this year.  As I attempt to be the Peace I seek for the world in this crazy time of year.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  And may the blessings of all this is king, compassionate and brings joy come to your world.

Enjoy the show!

RONDO AND THE PURPLE PLAY MOBILE

By Susan Rea Caldwell

 

Rondo came zooming into Santaland one August day on the snappiest purple moving vehicle ever seen by any of the Elves gainfully employed by S. Clause Industries, which by all opinion far and wide was the very jolliest place to work in the whole of the North Pole. The boss was reputed to be a “right jolly old Elf” himself although his clothing and size did not exactly fit the genetic dispensation.

Rondo went straight to Human Resources, knocked loudly on the door and presented himself boldly.

He said to Carla, the clerk, a cute, dark-haired, red-cheeked Elf, “I am here to revolutionize the world of children’s outdoor wheeled vehicles. Stop the toy makers until you have seen my plan. Please look outside at my Purple Play Mobile and see what you think.”

Carla walked to the window, looked out, “Sir, you can’t just come buzzing in here all souped-up about your Purple whatever and expect the Santa Industrial Machine to come to a screeching halt.”

“But, I have the newest innovation ever to hit the South Pole.”

“This is the North Pole, sir.  Maybe your Purple what’s it needs a newfangled thing called GPS.  The Get Places Safely system.”

“My dear, little clerk Elf, I’d like to speak to your manager. I’d really like to speak to Mr. Santa Claus, CEO, CFO, Owner-Operator Himself.”

“I bet you do, hot shot.  What is your name?”

“Rondo.”

“Please take a number and have a seat.  Someone will be right with you, just after all these others ahead of you are seen.”

Rondo looked around to at least ten others waiting very quietly on red and green benches.  Each carried cases or boxes holding their presentation.

Rondo sat next to one very eccentric looking gentle elf who spoke in whispers about the toy camel he was presenting.  The camel had a bendy straw out of its mouth.  The hump raised up to hold water.  He told of his plans to create a variety of animal water bottles beginning with African animals and, depending on the success, perhaps going from country to country.  “They can learn geography while collecting!”

Seriously, thought Rondo, hoping he had not said that out loud.  “Seriously?” he burst out.  “Kids today want to ride.  They have places to go.  Kids today move fast and they are smart and they want to crank a lot into this life.”

“Then they will need to know where they are going and they will need a drink of water,” the man said dryly.

The door opened suddenly, blowing in sun kissed snow crystals.  “Rondo, I thought I would find you here.”  A bedraggled Elf, shoulders stooped, grey hair uncombed, stood before him.

“MOMMMM???”

“Rondo, you know your purple riding toy concept has not been fully tested.  Why just today, trying to follow you, I had a flat tire in mine and the fuel fill up meters didn’t have the equipment to fix it. I had to go back to Bob’s Basics.  I had to get the tires completely unscrambled and then rescrambled back into working order by a very confused tube inflater Elf.  He says the verbonic valve vibration will not withstand the Starlight Shrinking process required by Santa Industries specific guidelines.”

Rondo’s face got redder and his cheeks got puffier and his ears turned greener as she talked.  “Mother, I told you I have fixed all that. The Purple Play Mobile you are riding hasn’t been upgraded.”

“Well, thanks for doing good things for your mother,” she said in that aggravating Mother tone.  “Your mother always did the best for you and what does she get in return?  The old, inferior version of Purple Machine.”

“Mom, Mom, can’t you see I am busy here in a crowd of people ready to present my latest and greatest to Mr. Santa Clause, himself?  Do you have to do this now?”

“Son, I have watched you invent many a thing that has worked, shall I say politely, less than perfectly.  I want to make sure you have considered every single-bingle thing that could possibly go awry.  You are dealing with Christmas here and Santa and you know that I know that you know how AWFUL it is to be a disappointed kid.”

“I did, Mom.  I fixed all the problems.”

“It doesn’t seem like testing time has been adequate to have worked through any problems.  You just dreamed this up four weeks ago when the snow apples were ripe and you claimed to be too busy to help me pick them. Being brilliant is your greatest gift.  Being patient is not.”

“I did test it.  I did. I want Santa to have the Purple Play Mobile for this year.  Then I will be rich and I can get my own factory and live in my own house and hire someone to pick snow apples and cook them and clean up after me.”

“I am your warning system, Rondo.  I always have been, whether you like it or not.  Don’t fool yourself.  No creation is finished before its prefect time.  Think it out. Think it perfect.”

“This is all I have been thinking about for four weeks, Mom.  All.  Nothing else.  I am ready to be famous and successful.”

This conversation went on while the others in the waiting room were called back, leaving only Rondo and his mother, Matilde alone.  Rondo’s rage was subsiding as his mother blathered on and on listing the projects he had started and did not complete or that didn’t work properly.  Like the glow in the dark flashlight that was too hot to hold for a flashlight. Or the snow apple picker that broke the branches off the tree.

“Rondo, I am begging you to be sure you are prepared. This is your big Santa moment.  Is your Purple Playtoy ready?  Let’s not disappoint the big guy.”

“Mother, go home.  I am 143 Elf years old.  Most Elves leave home at 144 or 145.  I can make my own decisions.”

“Then I am going home.  I have snow apple compote baking for dinner.  You are on your own.”

“Rondo, you are next,” the Carla clerk called out.  She looked at him, “This is about responsibility, Elf.  This is creating Christmas for others, not just for the glory of yourself.  I hope you are being honest.”

“Why is everyone challenging me?”  Rondo said under his breath.  “Is the world full of mothers?”  Yet, Rondo knew full well why.  He did have many failed projects and he wasn’t completely sure about the capability of the verbonic valve to withstand the vibrational pressure of the Starlight Shrinking process necessary for all the toys to go through in order to fit into Santa’s sleigh.  And, of course, then expand back to original upon delivery.  Santa-shrink is what the Elves called it!  It is what makes the magic possible in one night around the globe.

Rondo followed the Elf clerk down a hallway lined with pictures of toys from the past and present.  Lincoln Logs. Train sets.  Davy Crocket hats and toy rifles.  Red wagons.  Gerber babies.  Cabbage Patch kids.  The first Barbie and Ken.

“I know mine works.  I know that when the tests come back from the famous and expensive ‘You-build-it-we-test-it’ Shrink laboratories over in Flake City they will prove me right.  The tests were due back day before yesterday and did not arrive. I couldn’t wait another day without telling Santa.  So…here I am,” he whispered walking down the hallway.  “My mother is right,” that voice in his head kept repeating.

And he walked into a glorious room filled with toys moving about, twirling from the ceiling.  Ticking.  Jumping.  Rolling across the floor.  All colors.  Lights and sound.  Toy heaven.  And at a huge wooden desk with papers all around him was a giant bearded Elf dressed in green and blue flannel with black fuzzy boots.

Rondo made his presentation to Santa, invited him outside for a ride.  They drove around the factory of Santa Clause Industries passing his Mother whose  Purple Pain Mobile (she was now calling it) was being pushed by a handful of Elves.  Rondo and Santa even drove through the peppermint milk shake plant for a tall drink with a blinking straw.

Santa was thrilled.  He asked to drive and drove so fast through the fields he scared the reindeer.  Blitzen shook his head, “Santa is the biggest kid of all, heh, Vixen?”

“The biggest!”

They got back to the office and Mrs. Clause had a contract ready for Rondo to sign.  In it Rondo agreed that all the appropriate tests had been passed and all was in perfect work as a Santa approved toy.  Rondo closed his eyes as he signed and his mother’s voice inside his head was screaming, “Don’t do it.”

“You seem a bright fellow and if this Purple Play Mobile becomes a favorite with the kids, well maybe we will have a place for you to work next year at Santaland.”

Rondo was so excited he barely remembered doing cartwheels to the Purple  Play Mobile.  He passed his Mother about half way and waved at her gleefully.  She was at the fuel fill up meter again.  Probably just for a fill up, he thought.

He got home in time to hear the timer go off for snow apple compote.  He saved as much as he thought his Mother should eat.  She had been talking about losing some weight.

Meanwhile, back in Santaland . . .

Christmas Eve and the builder Elves became Starlight Shrinker experts.  Taking the toys and putting them on the Shrinker conveyer in alphabetical order so that when Santa called the name of the child requesting the toy it could eject through the modified Starlight Shiner reverse module attached to the special magic expand-a-Santa bag.

But…when the Elves switched from manufacturing to Shrink loading toys, Clyde the Controller Elf got injured.  His toe got smashed when Sammy Psycho was bouncing all over on a pogo stick instead of concentrating.  Sammy was sent to tend the reindeer and Clyde was asked to go to the kitchen and chop greens.  (Elves must have their daily portion of greens to keep that lovely green complexion, you know.  If not they fade to pale white and they disappear in the snow.)  Clyde could sit with his foot propped up and chop and then be back to work in a couple of days.

That day the Shrinking Machine made very unusual popping noises.  Frank the Freekizoid Elf heard them, stopped the machine twice to examine things which backed up the entire two mile assembly line and caused cosmic confusion and complaints.  He checked inside the Expand-a-Santa bag.  He checked the gears and conveyer of the Shrinker.  He found no problems and ordered packing to be continued.

The Santa sendoff was spectacular.  Red and green fireworks lit up the snow brighter than glitter on aluminum foil.  The fireworks banged louder than all the Elf bells put together.

And so Santa called to the reindeer and the sleigh and carrying the Santa-Expans-o-matic bag lifted off and up they flew.  Santa circled back twice to wave and cheer with the Elves, proud of another successful toy making season.

Rondo and his mother joined the crowd to celebrate.

Santa flew first to New Zealand and went about his work with ease and a tough determination.  All the toy drops worked well except at a few houses he noticed some strange hissing and popping sounds as the toys came through the Expando-matic mechanism on the toy bag.  But each time he checked the toys before moving on and they checked out.

By the end of the night somewhere over the Hawaiian Islands where he was offered coconut milk and macadamia nut cookies he realized the noise was coming from the Purple Play Mobile.

And just then the first sun ray popped over the horizon and Donner, the reindeer in charge of directions, and Vixen, in charge of velocity, brayed to Santa that the magic night was over.  They had to move, and move now.  The other reindeer pawed and pranced and Santa had no choice but to proceed swiftly back to the North Pole before being spotted by kids getting up early.

Meanwhile, back in the North Pole, the Kid Satisfaction Machine was blaring red, recording disturbed, sad, mad, unhappy children.  It glowed so brightly not one Elf could sleep.  They were waiting for Santa in the send-off yard.  When he heard, Santa was appalled.  Santa didn’t know the meter was capable of recording such a level of frustration.  But he did know the toy that had malfunctioned and before he even settled down into a long winter’s nap he called for Rondo and the manager Elves to come his office, immediately.

“This is what happens when we do not pay attention to the details.” He pointed to the button that was glowing nuclear.  “These are kids we have disappointed.  Kids!  It’s an abomination.  Have you ever seen a child cry over their Santa present?  Have you ever shared the heartbreak and disappointment of a child?”

“Well, let’s have it, Rondo.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

Rondo began to hurt so badly in his heart he had to hold onto his chest to keep it from breaking.

“I did this, didn’t I, Santa?  Because I. . .”

“Now don’t go on with that ‘feel sorry for me’ just now, Rondo.  What is done is done and we need to know how to fix it.  How are you going to fix this?”  Santa asked very loudly.  For now he was getting very sleepy and he knew that across the globe children were sad and mad at Santa and having someone sad and mad at you never makes for a very good night’s sleep.

So Rondo paced and paced.  He thought and thought.  He drew a plan and handed it to Santa.

“This doesn’t help now, Rondo.  The night of magic has passed and Santa failed some of the children.  We have to leave it into the hands of the Daddy’s now.  The dads and the stores.  We have to trust that the children are patient and understanding and forgiving.  The Dads of the world will step up to make it right for their sad children and the Purple Play Mobile will become one of those Christmas stories families tell and retell every year.  And the sad/mad at Santa will lessen with each telling.”

“And for you Rondo, to make retribution…  Well you will come up with three plans and I will come up with three plans and I will talk to you as soon as I have an extra-long winter’s nap.”

“So, take this macadamia nut cookie to your Mother and have as happy a day as you can.”

“Macadamia nut is my favorite,” claimed Rondo.

“This cookie is for your Mother, not you.  Think of someone besides yourself, Rondo. And if you eat even one crumb of this cookie.  Even one crumb. . .”

 

AND SO I SAY “JOY TO THE WORLD!”

 

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