Guest Column: My Affairs with Santa’s Elves & Other Private Truths by Ms. Jennifer

Surreal oil on canvas

My publisher/editor suggested I write something “upbeat.” My affair with Santa or maybe a gang bang with the elves? I get it. But I’m a cynic in a neo-traditional sense. In ancient Greece the word cynic (kuon) was synonymous with dog. Cynics like dogs lived without shame. I’m working on being more like a dog.  I’m sure my dog dreams, but not sure if a dog fantasizes. Do other mammals fantasize besides humans? You see fantasy is fine for masturbation (although even then I just tend to slam-bam-thank-you-mam myself), then reality always bites me in my ample ass.  Especially during the holidays when my memories are so bittersweet.  

Maybe it’s more about maintaining the innocence of childhood vs dealing with the reality of adulthood? The question of realty versus fantasy also figures into my being a cynic? Maybe I am aware of the passage of time and see fantasy as frivolous?  Or maybe there is just too much bad shit going on that I can’t justify it?  On the other hand, we all need to escape the hard reality of life sometime and the holidays remind us of this dilemma–assuming we are privileged.  Everything is supposed to be happy and bright about now.  It’s a new year! That’s where my New Year’s variation of Christmas cookies come in. I’m ready to binge on them, but I can’t get into practicing Susie Homemaker at the moment.  It feels like too much effort.

Perhaps I’m sounding a tad bit melancholic and, again, why my editor suggested something upbeat.  I know the holidays are hard on a lot of people.  We remember those who are no longer with us.  We think back about all those disappointments or how our life doesn’t match up to that Christmas movie with a happy ending we just watched on TV.  How we didn’t get a “Baby-Boo doll” or whatever, when we were five.  Or how we are now living alone.  Expectations are high which means disappointment follows.  Enter Covid and we are now so much more isolated.  I’m sounding morose, but actually I’m rather joyfully embracing my current reality.  It’s just very quiet (and cold) and that’s okay. 

I can reminisce about those make-believe days when I believed Santa Claus was real and all you had to do was be reasonable and then your wishful dreams would come true in the form of a gift!   Then I grew up and found out otherwise.  I remember my young daughter asking me if Santa Claus was real and then immediately reminding me that I promised I would never lie to her. I wanted to maintain my kid’s innocence as long as possible.  Of course, with the internet now that’s impossible.  I did my best to be the perfect Santa. My son didn’t have to ask that question because he’d already figured it out.  How?  I asked him later.   Because “Santa’s handwriting looks exactly like yours,” he offered (Santa always responded to the letter we left for him).  He always was a smart kid even when the plate of cookies was gone the next morning.  

So how about I give you – the good, bad and ugly – wrapped in a shiny package with a bright bow?  It’s unbelievably beautiful and it’s unimaginably difficult.  And I have to sort out how to tolerate all the ups and downs even when they come TOO FAST and, like computer overload, and simply can’t take in all the input.  And when a huge serving of stress is added and a profound level of incompetence, no it’s more maligned than that, such privilege and racism, hatred and contempt out of our acting commander-in-chief, well this recipe ain’t making no sweet potato pie, no sir.  

So, I go back to the question is when/how should we escape this shit (those of us who have that option) and when do we need to go in deeper? It’s something about rhythm–the dance of energy, opportunity, and resilience.  

I just finished watching “The Butler” (loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen) and this basic question of how to spend our energy surfaces and the best way to affect change.  The Butler serves (what options does the son of a slave have whose father was gunned down when he was a young boy).  He has had been trained well to attend to the white people in the Oval Office and nothing more.  His quiet devotion was solid until the very end of the film when he finally speaks out asking for equal pay for the blacks working in the White House who make less than the white people in the same positions.  His son, on the other hand, joins the Black Panther movement and has decided enough is enough and the racial violence will not only no longer be tolerated, they will fight back.   

Never asked directly, but the questions looms, is it better to be inside and watch and listen and allow change to oh-so-slowly follow or it is better to push things along?   Where is the threshold where civil disobedience needs to be loud or even violent?  Does the means ever justify the ends?  Let us see how things play out on Jan 20th.  The fact we went from a black president to Trump is no surprise when you really think about it – too many chills down too many white spines.   

Christmas is past and the New Year is here. How much time do I have? A young man was shot three days ago two-blocks away from where I live.  His name is George. The name is common.  I was outside walking the dog and heard the shots.  The white people I asked all reassured me it was fireworks.  I called the police anyways and asked had anyone else called about this.  Funny, 911 is about getting information not giving it out.   It didn’t take long before I started hearing sirens, but I saw two young white women walking casually, as if this was nothing unusual, and I asked them.   They also assumed fireworks.  Perhaps I’m more paranoid but when I saw some young black kid walking towards me. I uncharacteristically crossed the street.  I watched every car that drove pass me ready to hit the dirt. I take this shit seriously.  

I typically walk out my door and take a right.   Had I done that instead of, for whatever reason, walking the other way (yes, it was a beautiful, bright sunny day) I would have been right there.  I wonder if I would have seen it, or if they wouldn’t have killed the kid if there was a witness, or maybe they would have shot me?   Someone on Facebook commented it was an automatic, not a semi-automatic (not sure the difference), but it was a lot of shots and the kid apparently had no chance.  The news said a “man” was shot,” the guy was 22 years old. 

“This had just gotta stop.”

But how?  And then I started thinking more about poverty and slavery and the violence and discrimination and I thought about collective trauma.  For three days I wouldn’t pass the site where this young man was killed.  First, I was afraid.  How do I know they won’t come back?   And I’m still afraid, but it morphed into something different like I didn’t want to walk through that Karma or walk through a crime scene.   

Last night I got close (across the street) and noticed someone had left some flowers where he was killed.   This morning I went there.  There was a stuff animal and some plastic candles and two offerings of flowers.  The most starling things was there were photos, but the wind had mess them up and they were all over the street. I began collect them and put them back and put the candle on them so they wouldn’t blow away, but as I kept walking, I kept finding more… like his ashes …so I pick them up and decide I would take them home and frame them so they wouldn’t blow away.

The photos are right next to me as I sit here writing.  Some small dignity.   Because “all lives matter,’ but specifically this black live mattered.  After I finished writing it, I went and found a frame and framed the photos.  They were of a wedding.  I both wanted to look, and I didn’t.  Not just because I felt like a voyeur, but I didn’t want to guess which one of those young men all dressed up was now dead.   My reprieve came when it was time for Nola’s walked.  We walked out the door and turned right.  It was eerily quiet.  I was armed with poop bags in my one hand and the framed photos in the other and quietly approached not wanting to run into anyone.  Someone had turned on the candle lights.  Someone else had been there that eve.  I stood the frame up and kept walking looking around making sure I wasn’t being followed. I walked away thinking some family will be sending the rest of their Christmas’s without George.    

  I must leave you on an uplifting note. The day after this happened, I went to Walmart for some last-minute sugar.   My daughter is on strict instruction to drive here on her way home, but we will only visit outside, six feet apart with masks on.  She’s been with her boyfriend’s family in TN where wearing a mask is an unpopular fashion statement.  I bought her a pinata “taco” and needed to fill it up with chocolate.   I was on a mission, but some person in a car rolled down their window and asked:

“Where did you get your tights?”

Rolling down your window is no longer a benign activity still I was able to compose myself.

“These old things?”  I realized maybe it’s because my leggings were red.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I went on…and then they went on.

And then some guy behind me said:  

“You know he’s was flirting with you?”

“He was!?”

“Yes!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!”

“I don’t think so,” I replied, “it was a couple.”

“No, the guy just had really long hair.”

“Wow, are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

I explained, “It’s been 20 years, so I didn’t know that’s what was going on!”  Now I was looking around… where did they go?

He thought that was the funniest thing, but I was serious.

The woman with the guy offered “well, maybe he just was really curious about where she got her tights.”

The man was adamant.

“Okay, I’ll take it! ” And for a second I felt “hot” and in my red sweatpants, I mean tights.

I have to go back to remembering some people roll down their windows to give you a compliment or because it’s hot outside.

My closest friend here also lost her friend to Covid the day after George was killed and she’s moving back to California.  Shit is happening so fast there’s no time to react, respond or recover.  

“I’m leaving just in time,” she told me.  

Jesus.  Maybe, but is someone going to check out and comment on her ass in the suburb of San Diego?   That’s the other thing I almost forget to tell you that the guy told me “he was checking out your ass.”  I mean at my age that’s funny.  The “absurdity of life” as my dad used to say. Maybe I should make those Christmas/New Year cookies before it too late?  Here’s wishing for more sugar, peace and love in 2021…for all of us.