Christmas Eve. 9:00 p.m. We’re home and we’ve just finished the wrapping and the kitty threatens to dismantle our work and it’s all happiness. Isabella has already received heaps of gifts from three sets of doting grandparents. There’s nothing like grandparent love. This is a picture from today with her sweet cousins just before Santa arrived. My father-in-law has an elaborate Santa costume and he looked as if he’d just flown in from the North Pole. She jumped up and down when she spotted him from the window as he rounded the house. During the hubbub and picture-taking, I noticed her studying him closely before she turned to me and said, “Mommy, Papa’s so silly, he’s Santa Claus!” It made us all laugh, this perfect moment of recognition. It didn’t dispel the magic. In fact, it enhanced it. Santa wasn’t a stranger, but someone who loves her, someone she feels safe and comfortable with. And there we were, all of us playing this wonderful game of pretend. For my little one, nothing could’ve been more magical than that.
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Today we bought apples. Lots of apples. For eating and for making pie. Apples are my daughter’s favorite food.
On the way home from the store, she asked, “Can I have an apple?”
“Sure, bug, when we get home.”
“Do you want an apple, mommy?”
“Yeah, I should probably have an apple, too. I haven’t really been taking care of myself.”
“That’s okay, I’ll take care of you.”
Oh man, right in the heart.
I hadn’t meant to say that part about not taking care of myself. The truth just unconsciously rolled off my tongue. I keep vowing to quit sugar. Then I click on The Atlantic and see a bunch of white nationalists gathered at the Reagan building in D.C. doing Hitler salutes, and suddenly I need sugar in my coffee and a piece of buttered toast. I make phone calls and sign petitions and struggle with a helpless feeling in the swirl of this madness. None of it is okay. Bigotry will never be the new normal. I will continue to resist it with my entire being.
I will make a beautiful apple pie. I will love my family. I will resist the fascists. It’s holiday season 2016.
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I went to pull an old Glimmertrain journal from my bookshelf tonight and this childhood book, which had been stacked on top, slipped out. I could instantly feel myself sitting on the hardwood floor of the upstairs hallway beneath the skylight in my childhood home, plucking books from the bookshelf and reading for hours. Believe it or not, I pored over this one. It was less an interest in saints and more an interest in lives. I took this book to be factual, biographical. Proving that really, I’ve always loved nonfiction. The stories had an unbelievable, and often tragic trajectory, a woman living in poverty and obscurity who eventually attained sainthood, or a nobleman who gave up his earthly possessions to live amongst the poor. Fairy tales, or reversed fairy tales. I also obsessed over the names: Cecelia, Elizabeth Seton, Ignatius, Francis. And the saint my sister is named for, Kateri Tekakwitha. Her story is by far the best, and we had other storybooks about her life, too. It’s incredible the way books, images, pieces of art leave an imprint. I can feel the cool wood floor on my legs, the way I’d get lost in books, the peacefulness of being in my own world. Perhaps I should also say that My First Book of Saints was not in league with the better-loved books on the shelf like Little House in the Big Woods, Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, My Antonia, and so many others that escape me now at this late hour.
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