Sunday, December 25, 2011


It’s Christmas day, and I’m taking a little break from all the excitement. The nieces and nephews have opened their gifts here at Grandma’s house, after a big brunch. Paper and boxes are strewn all over, as in houses everywhere this morning.

These children who have always had more than enough, now have even more. I don’t begrudge them this, of course--they are seriously good kids. They are grateful kids. And they are also, even at a young age, giving kids. They are eight-year-old triplets, an eleven-year-old, and a seventeen-year old. Though their lives are not trouble-free, by any stretch of the imagination, they have never gone to bed hungry, thank God. They have never worried the roof over their heads would be gone, and any doubts about the ground beneath them have probably been fleeting. Still, there is always great joy in seeing the delight in their faces when they open a box to find revealed something they deeply desired. There are smiles, even the occasional squeal.

My partner and I don’t have kids--by choice--but we love kids. Especially these kids. We’re glad to share in their Christmas excitement, even as it becomes rather raucous. But in between the gifts and the crazy quantities of food, something else this year has brought me to tears--the good kind--more than a few times.

This morning, in Staten Island, there is a child I have never met, a boy of three years, whose parent or parents are struggling, like many in our country now, and like I would be, too, but for some effort and even more good luck, over the course of my entire life. Perhaps for this boy and his parents Christmas feels like something of a crap shoot--maybe they’ll get lucky, maybe they won’t. Maybe the boy is too young to really think about it in those terms. I don’t know. But I do know that this year he was hoping Santa would bring him a toy car from the movie “Cars”, and a tee-shirt from the same.

I know this because not too long ago the man I love and share my life with told me he had bought a toy car and said tee-shirt for the boy in Staten Island. Through his employer, a company which encourages charitable giving, he found out about the boy and his Christmas wishes. He mentioned this in passing, really. He’s a modest sort, not one to call attention to himself for good or ill.  This is a man who insists on us having a portrait hanging in our kitchen of famous curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf, of Muppet fame (actually, he wanted it in the living room, right over the couch, but the kitchen, kind of tucked behind a door, was my compromise). He likes to say he models himself after them--and he can definitely be prickly at times, even in his humor. He doesn’t want you to know the truth about what lies beneath. But he can’t fool me. 

I watch him in summers walking along the beach with my nephew who worships him, and digging in the sand with all the kids, giving them his attention in a way that I think is sometimes hard for him with adults. I watch him this morning patiently and meticulously helping my niece fix her new gumball machine that isn’t working the way it should, and I know he has a long way to go if he wants to hang with his friends Statler and Waldorf. But deep down, I don’t think he really wants a seat in that balcony. That’s no place for a guy like him.

He is on the phone now with his family in Italy and Germany, loved ones far away, so perhaps he understands something of “doing without”--just like the little boy who desires a toy car that might otherwise be out of reach. Perhaps this big boy desires that he could be in two or three places on the globe at once.

This morning and this afternoon, amid time with family, I keep seeing this three year old boy. I keep picturing him, now driving his parents nuts as he pushes and drives this car along the floor of their apartment, making car noises, smiling, laughing. I picture his parents, perhaps relieved that “Santa” found their house, their son.  I see the boy’s mother smile, perhaps close her eyes, and not knowing to whom she owes this gratitude, she gives thanks anyway, for whatever heart has delivered these smiles and car noises to her home today.

And I give thanks, too. I know that heart. 
I know it well
And I give thanks.

To all those, like my sweet partner, who reach out beyond their own lives to touch those they may never meet, to give in big and small ways at Christmas and throughout the year, I give thanks for your spirit moving through this world.

Merry Christmas.


  1. a lovely tribute to a lovely man, who I'm happy to know just a little better.

  2. Great, I thank you. Happy new year
    Mike AT hiker


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