in which she meets Santa: and I thought I wouldn’t care.
On Sunday we were at the Christmas Festival at Canuck Place, and there were tears. If you don’t know by now, I cry often, and I’m starting to like it.
There were tears when the carolers burst into song on the staircase outside, and Florence said, “mo,” when they had finished. And when she looked intently down her nose, trying to catch a better glimpse of their rosy cheeks and Santa Claus hats, I felt them rolling down my cold cheeks. She could barely see anything in her flat stroller, but she didn’t mind. I kept thinking: we are here, we are celebrating, and it feels really good.
Quite unexpectedly, there were tears when she saw Santa for the first time. I cried and she didn’t. I thought she would be terrified by this jolly man in a red suit, but he sat her upright on his lap, with no sputtering or choking, and we even managed to get a big smile out of her. Santa wasn’t phased by her inability to sit up on her own, after all, he is the Canuck Place Santa. I was rearranging her arms and trying to get her comfortable, when he said “it’s okay, I have her.” Well I lost it, bit my lip hard to keep the dam from opening, and felt like I was given the sweetest gift. I thought I wouldn’t care about Santa Claus, I thought I didn’t care about festive parties.
She’s young, she’s often nervous or moody and it’s a lot of work to push her to do certain things. We are used to being excluded from normal baby and toddler activities, and so, I figured we wouldn’t see Santa in a mall, since I’m not brave enough to take her there, and I knew she would probably freak right out by the fumbling, awkward Santa that gets paid by the hour. Plus, I’d probably be paranoid that Santa had some other child’s contagious snot on his fur trim.
I suppose we have become somewhat numb to the sting of exclusion. Santa? No big deal, I don’t believe in him anyway.
Oh, but how my heart longs for her to understand Christmas, to revel in the twinkling lights and make snow angels and dress up as Mary in a church play one day.
This heart of mine is being bent and turned in all sorts of directions this season. I want less commercial Christmas, and more of the eye swelling, deep feelings that come in the still of the holy night. I have a gaping hole where pain has made a home, and the longing for heaven often takes my breath away, and yet this is the season of joy. I want a candle lit, and a heart tuned to hear the Spirit’s whispers. But most of all, I want her to live a long and healthy life.
At the festival, she was alive and alight. I was thrilled down to my frozen toes and proud of my girl. I thought I didn’t care about these things because we have been in survival mode for so long. Just survive, just breathe, just make it through. Lately though, joy has been welling up inside of me. Perhaps it’s because she hasn’t been sick in the last month or so, and we are starting to feel invisible again, or because we have tapped into the true source of joy. You see, when we ride the wave of normalcy for long enough, we begin to feel normal. And then she gets a runny nose, and we end up in the ER.
But in this moment, this Christmas season, we are living life, enjoying the smallest things, thriving even. Canuck Place has helped us a lot, given us opportunities to join in and empowered us to celebrate the small and big milestones–like meeting Santa for the first time, having our picture snapped with him, and getting a gift bag with toys, a tutu, princess hat and dolly from Mrs. Claus. We haven’t celebrated crawling or walking milestones, we haven’t celebrated her sitting up on her own or feeding herself, but we have and will continue to celebrate her.
My heart was deliciously full the entire day. I didn’t have a care in the world. It was just my family, enjoying a Christmas festival, in a safe and accessible place, and that made all the difference.
We drank cups of hot chocolate, and waited in line to get her face painted. She didn’t flinch when the cold paint touched her cheek, and the overly cheerful lady fluttered her hands to and fro. Florence watched herself in the mirror, enthralled by the strokes of the brush on her chubby cheeks.
Santa came upstairs after the festival was over, on special request for another family. While he was waiting for the other little one, Florence managed to have some one on one time with him. She stared intently at him, allowed him to stroke her hair and tell her jokes. He didn’t ask her what she wanted for Christmas, or if she had been good. He simply spent time with her, poured out the gentlest love on her.
This is a gorgeous hand knit toque, in the colors of our Vancouver Canucks. One woman spent a whole year, crocheting blankets and toques and scarves for all the kids. We got a lovely heavy blanket in faded reds, yellows, blues and grays, and two knitted ducks (her favourite animal as of late).