TL Boehm - Writer

Written in my heart

Second Normal

random vignettes that coulda woulda shoulda been a book someday, thoughts on God an other devotional inspirational stuff.  

Interrupted Flow

I am reasonably confident that the porcelain behemoth bolted the floor in my sole bathroom is possessed. As I took my usual precoffee half conscious moment on bowl I glimpsed the ethereal realm of the spiritual household. Something in my aging backside reared its foul countenance and said "What if the toilet plugs" Ah I must be tapped in to the internal workings of the internal workings because the moment I touched the lever of power, I heard it. That noise. That skull numbing, gut wrenching, butt clenching noise of interrupted flow. There it bubbled, that gravitational disobedience, that disturbance in the force, the seething cauldron known as a backed up John. And I raising my self as fast as my 41 year old half clothed semi coherent self could move whilst excreting expletives stood at that toilet rebuking the demon within. Then I woke the bipedal male teen. You see it is his job to procure the implement of cleansing also known as the sewer snake.

After a few minutes of grunts and groans and guttural noises my boxer clad brave one was able to defeat my nemesis whilst I cringed and prayed on the other side of the door. It is a shameful secret that I am afraid of toilet water. Perhaps I was a victim of two many swirlies as a child.

Me: “Quit flushing it like that.”

Spawn: “Mom, its fine.”

Me: “If it goes up over the edge, you're cleanin' it. Oh no. What is that black stuff? Did you break the pipe?”

Spawn: “Somebody took a serious dump.”

Me: “Ok I'm not looking.”

Spawn: “What the hell is this.” pointing at dripping sewer sludge like artifact hanging from end of sewer snake.

Me: “Maybe it’s TP?”

Spawn: “Looks like someone flushed a bunny.”

Me: “Well get if offa there.”

Spawn shakes snake, splashing germ infested potty water on freshly clean towels whilst I emit a stream of Spanglish curse words and resist the urge to hurl.

Spawn: “it won't come off.” (Must be rigormortis in that bunny)

Me: “Son, pull it off with a paper towel. Don't flush it back down.”

Apparently, we have an infestation of rabid rabbits in our plumbing. And I with only minutes left of the morning had no time to contemplate the mysterious identity of that which constipated my day leaving me frustrated and  jittery.

Yet God is there even in the sewer of our days, when toilets plug and traffic stops, He remains constant enabling us to respond to our situations with humor, patience, and the wisdom to know He is greater than plumbing problems or any other issue facing us in our morning moments when aging brains and bodies do not comply with the difficulties of our situations. When our temporal surroundings run awry, He is there offering perfection and peace if we choose to turn our eyes from the bubbling troubles and focus on Him.    

Rain in the Desert

Our sneakers squished, soft and splashy, as we trudged on the slick asphalt.   Overhead, a sullen sky grumbled, spitting droplets of rain on my child. I was angry. Where was God’s beauty tonight? The barren ground between our path and railroad tracks was a wasteland of broken beer bottles and soggy trash.  I sidestepped a clump of cigarette butts and surveyed the sky for a sunset or rainbow.

“Mom, listen! Frogs!”  My son’s small hand slipped from mine. He pointed to an oily pool of water running parallel to the tracks. I took a step closer, only to get a whiff of creosote and gasoline. Suddenly, I heard it. One little croak and then another bubbled up from the pond. Dozens of quarter sized frogs burst forth in an amphibious aria. Their chorus was contagious as my son and I waded, knee deep in pursuit of tiny croaking choir members.  When my son carefully presented me with a tiny chirping creature, the beauty of God’s skillfully crafted  creation overwhelmed me. We live in the high desert.  How long had this diminutive frog waited for rain?

Often we find ourselves in search of water in the desert. We become spiritually parched by circumstances beyond our control.  As we focus on the myriad problems of our daily lives, God’s beautiful world blurs in the distance.  Our throats become so dry, we forget our songs of joy. We find ourselves buried in the dirt, waiting for miracles from above.

Yet God knows where we are at all times.  His love permeates the sediment of sin and sorrow surrounding our souls.  At the right moment He showers us with grace, until our spirits bubble over, refreshed and joyous.

I waded around in the muddy pond with my child until the sky turned soft and smoky.  A cool breeze reminded me we should leave the frogs for the warmth of home.  I paused for a moment at the side of the road and again surveyed the small oasis in my wasteland. My son gently placed one frog in the water and sucked in a hushed breath as it disappeared below the surface.

“Wow, those frogs were awesome. Can we come back and see them tomorrow?” His eyes mirrored the same smoky blue of the desert sky. His cheeks as red as the setting sunlight. “How’d God get frogs in the desert, Mom? Where will they go when the water goes?” As he bounced down the road ahead of me, I found myself praising God for boys and frogs.  

Runs With Scissors

Mellowed by the passing of many years, most of my memories of kindergarten are but single sparkles of sunlight on this river of life. Yet one spills the banks frequently to drown me in its frigid embrace.  Welling up from amidst the eddies of me and Robert shooting paper wads at each other under the teacher's desk during nap time, and the obligatory square dances performed to tunes played from a scratchy LP - this current dragged me into the deep water of ridicule and competition. I had the basic equipment my classmates had: Blunt scissors, kaleidoscope tissue paper, and black construction paper.  From this would bloom a beautiful butterfly with black edged tissue paper wings.

With my right hand I dutifully picked up the paper and started the cutting with the surgical precision bestowed upon an unconquerable five year old artist. First inside the line, then outside the line, then on the line. Amidst clipping and oohing a bevy of beautiful butterflies filled the table, each with four perfect tissue and construction paper wings. I made the final cut and opened the paper, prepared to set my creation free - and four pieces of tissue and black construction paper fell awkwardly to the table. 

Mrs. Doyle - who's only image residing in the recesses of my brain is the pink gum tent formed over her witchy nose by the popped "biggest bubble ever" she was trying to blow - stood over me in silence for a moment before uttering the inevitable kindergarten curse: "Ok if you didn't get a butterfly, go to your rug." I set the scissors down and went to my permanent spot behind Mrs. Doyle's desk. As a young socialite, I was quite the conversationalist and this was her only recourse - to separate me from the rest at nap time. I lay there quietly, wiping away small tears with my left hand. I had failed and this failure would define me for the rest of my life. It wasn't that I was less intelligent or less cooperative than other children. I was simply not right handed.

 I never did learn to control a pair of scissors throw a ball or drive a stick shift. Perhaps left-handedness is a small issue in a world torn apart by poverty and prejudice but it is part of who I am. A little girl who wanted to cut out a butterfly.

So my impartation to you as you splash through your own life is this: Pay attention. Be compassionate. Those subtle differences (left or right handedness) that don't even ripple the water for you may be a rip tide for someone else. Do what you can to equip those around you with success.   The simple act of empowering another human being is what enables us to bring dreams into action - dreams that rise on tissue paper wings. 

Shallow Water

The azure water bubbled up in a happy circle where he dove for the elusive prize – a rock pilfered from the xeriscaped lawn outside. The lithe boy surfaced and launched the stony missile across the pool, barely missing a sedate senior swimmer. His exuberance made my teeth set against each other. He was fearless…

It was a lazy summer day when dragon flies hovered just above the lily pads and my red and white bobber hung motionless in the tea colored water. My quest for forty fish in three days was loosing its aura. I felt a sharp sting as a dreaded deer fly snacked on my sweaty head. Muttering an oath I hoped my parents couldn’t hear I grabbed the brown striped creature and tossed it onto the surface of the lake. Set on revenge I slipped off the red and white dock to wreak havoc on my attacker. I’d just pull one wing off and then watch the bug spiral helplessly to its doom. I didn’t understand surface tension. I only understood that deer flies could not swim.

As the afternoon stretched into early evening I was joined by friends who summered in cottages at the corner of what I called my grandparents’ lake. We played silly water games, like “let’s see who can swim the furthest with her eyes closed and beach herself.” I excelled until I plowed into the propeller on my uncle’s five-horse Mercury motor. We decided it would be more fun at that point to jump off a recently built platform into the water. After some splashing and horseplay – my friends started jumping off toward the center of the lake into the deeper “over your head water” I was fearless. All I had to do was turn around in the water and grab the rung of the platform…

So I jumped and prepared to push off the sandy bottom to the surface, only to be surprised by a layer of muck. Unable to get my nose above water or grab the rung – I panicked. I could see my parents, beers in hand, sitting on the porch as I repeatedly flailed in the murky water. My friends were screaming…

The people in the cottage next door plucked me from the lake that day by my hair. In retrospect, I am not sure why my parents never taught me to swim. Perhaps they never expected their girl to jump into deep water, compliant, quiet creature that I was.

I never jumped into any body of water over my head again. I couldn’t even put my head under the tap in the tub for several years. The trauma of facing my mortality was cemented in my psyche. On a recent trip to Hawaii I fought back more than one moment of abject horror as my family members disappeared amongst the coral reefs; while I bobbed fanny up in my life jacket watching puffers from the surface of the water. Every time my mask filled up with water I’d gasp and grab the coral. (Never grab coral. It cuts your skin. Lesson learned) I flatly refuse to go down a waterslide, or jump off a diving board. It’s a phobia I’ve now nurtured for over 25 years.

My husband and boys are strong, courageous swimmers – built for deep water while I stay safe in the shallows – timidly wading in the surf of life. Afraid of the undertow, the depths, and the mysteries waiting…what are you afraid of? Who in your life neglected to teach you to swim, or at least tread water? Consider those like me, in the big hat and t-shirt, sitting on the beach gazing out at the blue. Life like the ocean holds more than what can be seen in the shallow water. 

A Glimpse of the Man

He stood, hands in pockets, shoulders slightly sloped. In his faded “born to blaze shirt and baggy jeans he was still a head taller than the others. Looking more like a stoner than a choir geek my werewolf-haired, big footed boy waited – second to last in line, for his audition turn.

I was pleased that he tried out. “Fred B” his named rolled from his lips and plunked across the stage toward the director like a bucket dropped down a well. Then I heard it. Not the voice of a 14 year old kid, but a rich, husky tenor resonating from somewhere deep within a wistful, weary soul. His back was toward me. I counted heads. Could’ve been the boy next to him. I smiled and shook my head when the director pulled my son and three other young men   from the 30 odd aggregation of boys – to let us hear them again. As my child faced the few in attendance – suddenly the music breathed within him. It swept across his face, settling in his eyes for a moment. Again – I heard that warm, sweet sound emanating from the stage. Poignant and emotional, yet controlled – like a long gone memory brought to light. I bowed my head, staring at my empty paper, as tears splashed onto the page. As my son took his place again on the back riser I realized I had been given such a gift – a glimpse of the good man my son would soon be. 

When was the last time the mask fell to the floor and you were blessed to view the soul of someone? Was it a moment of beauty – or a gentle transition over time? How were you blessed, and changed in your heart by a gift like this?

We all carry a song within ourselves. Yet it can only be heard when we truly pour out ourselves as a blessing to others. We share a glimpse of the men and women we were born to be.   

Addicted to the way I feel

I am an addict who has spent years feeding my inner monsters. I am nothing without that thing which I crave. That way I feel....

I grew up in a small town in Arkansas until Feb 7, 1979. I was a normal kid with what I thought were normal parents,  making A's and B's - crushing on boys, learning to dance, and playing trumpet in Marching band. Then it happened. My parents moved to the high desert and at 14 years old my whole life changed. I went from being a 'crazy, funny, goofy, talented, smart girl' who made friends so easily to a nobody and even worse - a “white trash girl,” a military brat, a smart girl and therefore hated.  I was an outcast too timid to try to fit in. I just held on to what I knew. I wrote letters. I listened to my LP's in the dark and prayed God would put me back where I belonged because I didn't belong anywhere where I was.

Truth is I never made another close friend like the friends I had. I never fully adjusted to life in the desert southwest. I never found my niche. But I still crave it. I still mourn its loss. I never replaced the ache, the emptiness with anything. Not my spouse, not my children, nothing. I'm addicted to feeling the way I do.

I'm not begging for sympathy. I am who I am now. I do dearly wish I did have some one who understood me deeply. I long for face to face conversation over coffee and a book of original poems. But I have grown accustomed to the melancholy in my veins. I have raised the dysfunction of my days to lifestyle. I remain out of synch, out of touch, out of fashion. Thusly, there is no personal loss in being totally transparent on the page because what other souls do I have to protect. What friends would be shattered if they read lamentations? None. Truth is, those old friends, for my three digit IQ, they are smarter than me. They moved on. They didn't get stunted at 14 and remain that way.

So here I am now. What you see when you come here is who and what I am. I have few secrets. Few areas of taboo. Few things I won’t discuss. When you have felt as though you were inconsequential for as long as I have - you don't think to put up the persona - and even if you did, you probably aren't sure what the persona is anymore.

I am comfortable in my addictions, but I watch my children carefully for the signs of stagnation and the subtle resistance to change. I don't want them to feel like the world is turning so fast they are about to be thrown from it. I don't want them to look in the mirror and hate the reflection looking back at them. It’s a rotten way to be.  Just like an addict....forever craving what she cannot have. 

In Defiance

I was ten. His name was George, and he was the bane of my young existence. Yet this prepubescent terror was more highly favored by Mrs. Hill than I, the friendly little girl who only “socialized” out of turn sometimes in class.

In retrospect - I talked constantly, and Mrs. Hill was a bigger victim than me. It was easier to put a few compliant girls in the corner for talking than it was to deal with George's explosive outbursts of cruelty and destructive behavior. Compassion colors my vision in the light of my own ten year old. At three, he threw chairs. He broke a teacher’s nose. At five he kept knives in the bed. At seven he banged his head violently on the floor.

We've run the gamut of psychologists, psychiatrists, testing, and drugs - and there has been magic fix to make my boy compliant; only diligence, love and time prove beneficial in this battle.

 During a round of testing, I met another George.  He fussing fidgeting monster of a boy repeatedly slamming the office door and babbling incessantly at his manicured mom. But this SUV owning parental example with matching purse and shoes barely acknowledged the existence of her son let alone try to correct him in a public place. My own monster sat, quiet. Polite. He was engaging to the psychologist. He was participative, communicative, and showed signs of great intelligence unusual for his age after 8 hours of testing.

Twenty years later are we truly progressing with the Georges of this world? Yes, some children benefit from drug therapies for ADD, ODD, ADHD and depression but pills are no substitute for a parent. Electronic distractions do not serve as virtual baby sitters and over scheduling each moment of the day won’t grow social skills as well as the simple presence of a loving family. In our quest to improve our children’s’ psyches we’ve spawned multiple Georges when the investment of time, diligence, and patience is often the best prescription for a George, or a girl who talks out of turn. 

Sanctuary

Life is often fraught with difficulties exponential in nature and occurrence. At the moment we need empathy we face the emotional vampires determined to suck our souls dry. We run to the sanctuary of family and friends only to find fangs and snarls. Cursing, disparaging, unruly children, abysmal debt and needy spouses drain us of our resources.

I found myself in that graveyard of the soul recently. I needed protection and was cut down at my door by the friendly fire of a phrenetic family feud. In a distinctly human response I failed to stand and defend hard fought ground. I picked up my purse, got in the car and drove away. I was without the power to fight the chaos in my house. I went back to work, parked and told God I was not moving until He helped me. I tried to pray but all I could do was cry and ask God where He was in my situation. In the silent roar of my troubled soul I considered that I was the throw away child I have always been. Alone in the dark, I was on the edge of the abyss. So I begged. Please Father, my boys deserve good lives. Even if I don't matter, they do. My tears fell as I stared at the clock. It was 6:25. How long would God leave me there in that parking lot with no answer?

At 6:28 my family pulled in to the space beside me. No accusations, no questions but "Slide over, let's get to church."   It is such a profound thing that my Father did for me that night. He reached down into my mundane life and reminded me that HE does indeed love me. He brought my family to me. I questioned my worth - and He gently wiped away my tears - and showed me the depth of His love for me.

Difficulties exponential in nature and occurrence still loom on my horizon. The vampires lurk, debt accumulates and children wax unruly but God is a God who cares enough to bring a family together. In the parking lot, in the sanctuary, in the midst of the cares of this world - God brought forward the love I could not recognize on my own. I am not that throw away child, and neither are you. God is you in the midst of your daily life; desiring your love, your trust, and your worship. Run to His sanctuary and be truly protected.  

A Matter Of Faith

So often I find myself walking against the crowd of family and friends when coursing the path set before me. My steps of faith are a hard lean into the wind of the world.

I was a child who only experienced God through a matriarch who sent two dollars and a religious Christmas card every year, talked about her church and vilified my heathen mother when the family wrecked her dream wedding by forcing her to carry a Bible down the aisle and talking about her in Norwegian. Her only goal and I quote was to "Get down and worship the meat god." The Jesus in that family Bible was distant; God was an Old Testament wrathful behemoth, in a collection of boring stories traded on Sundays by people from another century than my own.

I grew to marry a denominational man from a solid family similar to the Bible believing denizens of my ancestors. Like lambs we aligned ourselves in a common fold. We struggled as cookie cutter Christians in a chaotic world. Thousands of dollars in debt, distant from each other, friendless, alone - I determined myself to stand by my husband - and I launched a desperate volley of prayer to a distant Savior I did not know. I watched as my young son spiraled out of control - unable to determine anything scientific - struggling and unhappy.

At the end of the school my child was asked not to come back to the only school he had ever known. The only church I and my boys had ever known rejected a young lamb they could not help. I could not stay where my child was unwelcome. I felt at the lowest point in my life.

Weeks later through a series of events I know were orchestrated by God - my husband and I were brought to another place of worship. As we stood amongst a different flock the tears flowed. From that moment forward - things have changed. Principle teachings we never could have embraced are now matters of reality. We tithe. We read our Bibles daily. We spend time in devotion. My children have a prayer language. My husband has walked away from habits he had since he was an early teen and has not looked back. We aren't perfect. But we know the LOVE of God, which is not protocol, or religious doctrine, but a relationship that changes and grows over time. A relationship that heals and realigns the upwind steps of faith. Simply stated, Christ starts in the heart, and then you see with your eyes and comprehend with your brain.

I have finally learned to love beyond the boundaries of religion and doctrinal position. On my own with all my skills, my intelligence, my logic I still would be faced with the mirror, my mortality and the burden of my genetic heredity - which includes drug and alcohol addiction, incest, mental and physical gross malformations. I have learned to shift the burden to the One who is able to carry it. I have learned to walk in the light, even if it means walking upwind in silence with a friend who does not yet know. Love is unconditional and faith…sublime.   

Accidental Life

I remember the day I danced across the floor with destiny. The light steps prior to the myriad spirals my accidental life would make. I was 4th grade the year Mrs. Hill assigned us the project of making “career hats.” What hat would you wear in your job when you grew up? I could barely reach the plastic cups over the counter let alone think of adulthood. Steve B the object of my unrequited preteen pattering pulse planned to be an archeologist and dutifully sketched a safari pith cap; while my buddy Norma opted for the usual nurse’s hat. In ’75 we dreamed of nursing, stewardessing or perhaps a “Baby Alive” type bundle of joy after marrying some boy like Steve B. So I set my course and drew a nurse hat too, but labeled it instead a veterinarian’s hat. I wore it mentally for the next six years until as a sophomore I missed a step in the dance and failed Geometry. I spent awhile mourning my loss, realizing I didn’t have the grey matter to conquer the math and science required go into any medical field. The dance floor suddenly seemed dull and small when my skill set (English and writing) was out of step with my dreams. Then I bumped into a new dance partner: Music. Determined to shine – I changed tempo and planned to be a professional musician. My best friend had a beautiful voice. Another played piano. We formed a band. It gave me hope since I was never a beautiful person physically that when we achieved wealth and success so many would stop and reconsider the invisible geek who only circled the perimeter of the party. This time the music and the dream faded gradually and in my 20’s I realized I was no longer on the dance floor or even the parking lot but wandering through an accidental life. I progressed from cleaning motorhomes, to telemarketing, cashiering and rental clerk. I fell in love, married, had a baby – sweet blessings I never wanted. I started over, after a year of unemployment, as a service writer. I called  people for money for three years in three different trucking companies. Along the way I learned about mundane things like accounts payable and payroll and human resources. I had another baby – a mixed blessing but so loved.  I went back to school and got a degree in accounting. Now I am a Business Manager for a successful company. Thirty years ago, this was never my dream. Suffice it to say – still isn’t. Perhaps I could have been a musician or writer given the right support at an earlier age. I will never know.  My parents had their own issues.  So when I consider fulfillment – I don’t dream of corporate ladder climbing but poetry and prose. I am a soul out of sync and here I remain – on the edge of the dance floor waiting for a partner who left long ago.

If I have learned anything, it is to be careful with my children’s dreams. I offer encouragement and support. I give them opportunity to experience, and room to develop their skills. I see them through the rainbow colored filter of a mother’s love; these blessings for which I never asked. For them I swallow the sadness that permeates my spirit. I wonder what your dream is or was? What direction has the dance led you? Are you leading or have you completely left the dance floor?  

Where Wings Come From

Where Wings Come From

             “Ron’s not really your Dad,” Mom said it flatly, like she’d asked me to pass the salt at the dinner table.  “Only reason I married Ron was to get out of Howard City. Here, you remember George, he’s your real dad. ”  

            I studied the picture of mom’s soldier sweetheart.  This dark, furry werewolf in navy dress bore no resemblance to my freckled, [horse-face] . and straight brown hair. Was this lie her capstone in a life dedicated to destroying her daughter?  Did she really despise Ron so much she would take his only child from him? Mutely, I placed the picture on the table, biting my lip so I wouldn’t cry.

            Before our first Bible lesson, our first Sunday school class, our first anointing of the Holy Spirit, as babies we are shown love. Studies indicate the basic need of all humans to be touched, nurtured, and loved. As we grow, we look to our earthly parents as our front line of unconditional love. Yet, my mother shared her pain with me more than her comfort.  She did not understand unconditional love; therefore she was unable to give it.  Instead, she taught me that love was reserved for people who were more beautiful and well behaved than I could ever be.

Christians fortunate enough to have always known our Savior, struggle with God’s abandonment of His Son on the cross.  How could a loving parent abandon a child?  The loneliness Christ felt is incomprehensible to those who have always professed to know Him. For me, this pain drew me closer to Christ. As a child often abandoned in the wake of my parents’ chaotic lives, I thought I suffered in darkness alone. My parents did not know Christ, and therefore could not teach me.  Yet, God never abandons His children.  He was there, in the darkness beside me. His gentle voice breathed hope into my barren soul.  He carried me through every torment, sheltering the fragile seed of love He planted before my birth.

Although I was an adult when my parents finally divorced, I was just a baby in my faith. I was still unaware of God’s unceasing presence in my life.  I felt unique in my suffering at the hands of a woman who was supposed to love me without harming me. Her final betrayal of my father seemed unacceptable.  How could God allow her to do this to me? I wanted retribution.  She deserved some Old Testament, wrathful consequences for her actions and I was the Christian to ask for it.   

            I was a young mother, with a small child and a difficult job.  Many nights I spent hours stroking my sleeping boy’s butterscotch curls and begging God “please don’t let me hurt my child. Don’t let me wreck his life like mom wrecked mine.”  In the midst of my desperation, God heard more than I could say. He had been waiting all of my life to give me the thing I needed most – His unconditional love and healing. As my family grew, so did my faith.  God opened my heart to love my children unconditionally.  My faith became the steady flow of water, wearing away stones of anger in my soul.  Rather than changing my mother, God changed me.  He prepared me for the opportunity to plant the seed of love in another broken heart.

            “I cannot believe I am going through this on my own.”  My mom choked back tears as she told me of her latest crisis. Yet rather than listening politely, I heard myself telling her how strong she was. I reminded her that she raised me to be the woman I was: a businesswoman with beautiful children and a faithful husband, a college graduate, an officer in my church.

            “Yes, but when did you get your wings?” She asked. “When did you get your wings, my angel?”  There it was. Simply stated, as though she had said it to me a thousand times. In my mother’s eyes, I could fly.  At that moment I understood how much she needed unconditional love, and I was the child of God to give it to her.  

I no longer regret those painful years.  Christ brought me through all my suffering and filled my broken soul with unconditional love. I have no room in my heart for anger, or bitterness.  God’s love is complete.  It is this awesome love that not only enables me to forgive and love my family; but more importantly enables me to forgive and love myself.

I know some of you are not Christians - don't like to discuss faith - and that's ok - because this isn't about converting the unwashed...Its about healing the broken child. This Mothers' Day - if you're fortunate - you'll have a mom - in the physical or in your memory that you remember as your sanctuary - but if you didn't - if you had the darkened room....the pain. This is for you. I wish you healing. I wish you reconciliation. I wish you the safety found in the arms of a loving parent. Peace.   

The Best Gift

“Mom, Dad, its Christmas!”  Fred squealed as the boys tumbled like puppies over their sleeping father.

            “Okay. We’re up.”  I yawned and grabbed my terry robe. The boys raced to the living room, laughter bursting up between them like popcorn kernels in hot oil.

            “Look Mom, snow.” Fred’s sky blue eyes were full moon round as he opened the front door.

            “Oh snow.”  Eric’s breath rose like choo choo train puffs in the morning air.

            Fluffy lamb clouds slept low in the woolen sky as a pale sun stretched amber fingers over the mountain to tickle them Christmas crimson and gold.   Fat flakes of snow sifted down, frosting the ground in dollops of sparkling stuff.

            “Mom presents. Can we open them now?”  Fred ripped open nearby box before his groggy father could snap a digital image of Christmas morning rewards revealed.

            I cupped my hands around a mug of cocoa while I my boys unwrapped myriad treasures:

            Books from Mom and Dad…a sweater from Grandma …Candy from Santa…

            Each gift was greeted with a duet of oos and ahs until the floor was heaped with shredded foil and bright bows. I sipped my cooling cocoa as Dad and Fred trudged toy dinos through wrapping paper volcanoes.  Eric wrapped himself around a lollipop and closed his eyes.

            “Wait, mom.” Fred held up a rumpled drawing.  “You didn’t look at my gift for you.”

            “Thank you Fred.” I squinted to decipher my son’s crayon pictographs.  “What are these?”  I pointed to a herd of brown scribbles.

            “Cows, Mom. And that’s the manger, and oh yeah, that’s Jesus with the halo.”  Fred pointed to a yellow circle.

            “Where’s Joseph and Mary?”

            “Oh, they’re outside ‘cause Jesus is asleep.”

            “So you drew me a picture of Jesus for Christmas?”

            “Yeah. I wanted to give you Jesus for Christmas. That’s my best gift I had.”       “Thank you, Fred.” I hugged the artwork to my chest. “That’s the best gift I’ve ever received.”

            As you share the season with those you love, remember the gifts you have already received.

circa 1999