These are my children. Or rather, these were my children…about eight years ago.
I share this picture for a few reasons:
- Because it makes me smile. Every time. And for those of you with children, I figure it might just bring you back to the ages of 6 months and 3, when life was simpler. And louder. And slightly more dramatic. And definitely less cooperative. (This was our FAILED attempt at a Christmas card picture that year, by the way. While I wanted to send it as-is, the future-ex vetoed.)
- Because these two little angels embody Christmas to me. Not necessarily them at this age, but them at any age. They are my gifts, every second of every day of every year, whether they’re in my home or not. Family is the most important aspect of my Christmas celebration, and I couldn’t be more blessed.
- Because it provides some context to the story I’m about to relate.
As a family, we shared many years of holiday magic. My now-ex left me when my son was 8 and my daughter was 5. The “brick” discovery happened on December 29, 2007, providing me a tragic end to one year – but luckily, an entire year to prepare for the next holiday: My first holiday alone with the kids.
I focused diligently on what mattered most during the holiday season in 2008: family, gratitude and the spirit of the season. I would have my children with me, after all, and I was so grateful for that little slice of normal after the most turbulent year of my life.
So we did what we always do: Chose two angels from the angel tree, whose ages almost matched the ages of my kids, and we shopped for far more than the little angels asked for. I was feeling blessed beyond measure that we had gotten through the year and were fortunate enough to share our love with other precious souls who didn’t ask for their conditions. Just as we hadn’t, but in a far different way.
Focusing on the act of giving back and the importance of family has always been my way of framing the holidays. I consider myself a spiritual person, but not necessarily “traditionally” religious, and as such, I do not believe in forcing my children into a religious “box”; rather I’d like for them (when they’re old enough) to explore their beliefs on their own.
But that was the first year there were lots of questions about Jesus.
I mean, lots of questions.
And I answered to the extent I could. Those are complex topics for such inquisitive little minds, and I believed whole-heartedly in providing as much context as they were capable of understanding.
So there were stories of Jesus as real, Jesus as symbol, Jesus as legend, Jesus as guide, Jesus as inspiration to be a better person, Jesus as the ultimate giver-backer. I offered different interpretations, always encouraging them to consider Jesus (as an individual) and religion (as a whole) as something interpreted personally.
Anyhow, I vividly remember one day that holiday season while driving the children to school: It was a Tuesday, our trash day, and we were commenting as we drove about all the trash cans and the recycling bins and what big work our trash collectors have.
I was reflecting to the kids about how lucky we are to live in a community with trash service, to live in a country where garbage is collected for a nominal fee, and that there are plenty of places in the world that we were lucky enough NOT to be born that did not have similar amenities.
It was deep. But what can I say, it was the holidays, I was alone for the first time, and I was reaching. And I truly was grateful for the opportunity to share perspective with the kids.
And then, the words that issued forth from my then-9-year-old son blew me away.
“Well, Jesus is our trash man, after all,” he said with a spirit of certainty and resolve I had not yet heard from him in his less than decade of life.
I was astounded. It was such a symbol, a beautiful image of Jesus that he had clearly developed from our copious deep conversations about Jesus, his role in history, his life as an allegory for something much more significant.
Jesus was our trash man. He carried away our sins for a nominal charge – our belief, or perhaps our aspiration to be better people – and he cleaned our spirits. Heck, I even pictured him carrying away our recycling too, finding the “stuff” in our lives that hadn’t yet reached its full potential and giving it new opportunity.
“Sweetheart, that’s so beautiful,” I said to my son. “I love that you think of it that way.”
I was beaming with pride. Not only did he have a firm grasp on the symbolism of religion, but he was reflecting a certain Mikalee-ness to him. He saw beauty in something literal and transformed it through words. I had perhaps never in my life felt more fulfillment from a comment.
My ego, as it turns out, may have gotten the better of me, though. Because as I was picturing the symbol – and his future as a writer…and my future as the mother of such a brilliant mind – his little voice came from the seat behind me.
“No, mom. He really is our trash man. Remember?”
I did not. Until that very moment, when the image of the Christmas card that our trash man left taped to our trash can the previous week abruptly flashed in my mind.
(Ohhhh. That Jesus. As in pronounced, “Hay-seuss.”)
My son, my precious little man, was being literal. I was the one going to crazy symbolic places.
But his innocent comment lives on. To us, Jesus is our trash man. Both literally, and to some of us, figuratively as well.
So squeeze your children if you have them this holiday season. Remember their unique perspectives if you don’t. Embrace a symbol that has deeper meaning to you and your family – whether you’re religious, spiritual or none of the above, I think we can all benefit from believing in a little bit of magic this time of year.
And before I sign off until after Christmas, I happened upon this in the store yesterday:
And given the road-kill ravage I’ve experienced this year, I could think of no better Christmas messenger to carry a holiday greeting to my amazing readers.
I am wishing you all peace, love and so many smiles that your cheeks hurt this holiday season.
(P.S. Can you believe: An entire post without a single obscenity? Must be a Christmas miracle…)
I <3 your Christmas story!!! Even shared it with a friend in St. Louis who works nights. [We chat as I wind-down from a day's work teaching English here in Korea.] Yes, I sometimes get these great metaphorical/free-associational ideas when someone says something a little out-of-the-ordinary. (That happens a lot when you're working with non-native English speakers.) One of my students asked me today how we had gotten from talking about Kim Jong il's death to talking about training white rats, and all I could say was that we got there by way of hamsters.
I love it, Sil! Of course, you’re very diplomatic — I think I’d offer a more direct connection between Kim Jong Il and rats…
Thank you for reading, enjoying and sharing. Happy holidays to you! 🙂
This is so tremendous, so tender, so wonderful. Anything I say seems trite. A Christmas card for the ages, and for all ages. And not a single you-know-what. You are so expressive even without explectives.
Aw, thank you. But rest assured, the expletives will return. It just seemed so much more reverential to tell the story without ’em. Just this once!
Thank you for reading, enjoying and commenting, my blog friend!
Thanks for the interesting and cute post- I look forward to your stories when I check the blogs because they make my day in a brown landscaped world. Thanks and Merry Christmas!
You’re very welcome. I love this story — mostly because it’s absolutely true and makes me smile every time I recall the odd way it came to be. It truly is that whole “out of the mouths of babes” quip — except he wasn’t quite a “babe” then!
Merry Christmas to you, too!
There needs to be a “super like” button. Even though I knew where the story was going, having been around a lot of Haysuess’ over the years, I just loved how you interpreted it. Children are so much wiser than us grownups in so many ways. Tell Boyfriend Brett that his sketch captures it in toto. Merry Christmas.
I’m so glad you “super liked” it — I absolutely loved his perspective, and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with all of you. Children are so great at opening our eyes and allowing us to see things differently … they’re AMAZING!
Thank you for reading (as always). Merry Christmas to you — and Brett will be super thrilled at the feedback, so thank you. He really is an incredibly talented artist.
That story is hilarious. I love that you’ve even saved the card from Jesus.
Earlier this year, my four year old nephew started asking questions about zombies, and whether or not Jesus is a zombie. It seems that an older kid he hangs out with had told him about zombies, but not with much detail. So in his mind, Jesus was a zombie. What made the whole line of questioning so funny to me is that he calls Jesus “Cheez-Its”.
Well of COURSE I saved the card from Jesus. I mean, it was from Jesus, after all.
And I save everything. Or at least take pix of everything. You all should know that by now. 😉
I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, John. And your nephew — oh my GOD. I think some of my favorite posts are when you sit down with him and transcribe the conversation. The Cheez-its story must be told … have you, and I’ve missed it?
What a marvelous, touching story. Thank you for sharing it. I hope the Jesus as trash man image sticks with me for a long, long time. It’s the perfect message whether taken literally or figuratively, especially this time of year.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Hi, Bruce — Merry Christmas to you and the family as well, my blogging friend!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the story — it absolutely warms my heart to think of it, let alone share it with my friends. My children are so special, and I loved the opportunity to provide just a little insight into who they are.
Thank you for reading — and relating. I’m wishing you wonderful things in the coming year!
Mikalee – on American Idol, they tell a great singer, that they’re so good “they could sing the phone book.” My friend, if they can sing it, you certainly could write it! This was so profound and sweet. You are funny, touching, and rip right to the heart of a situation with sarcasm sometimes and truth in other times.
I so look forward to reading more, and thank you so much for the blogging friendship!
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
PS Brett, you are budding artist!
Ah, MJ…thank you so much for one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received. I’m glad my writing resonates for you…which, as I’ve noted before, probably means that we’re both kinda screwed up enough to relate! Haha…I kid…
Anyhow, I’m grateful for our blogging friendship as well, and I thank you for your amazing posts and the perspective you share in my comments. You rock.
Merry Christmas to you and the fam. And I’ll forward your compliment to Brett — he really is amazing, and I keep trying to convince him to drop his journeyman electrician gig and become a full-time freelance artist! That way he could buy me all those stupid diamonds from all those stupid commercials…
Amen to the diamonds for you! You deserve it and Brett needs to spend some money 🙂 hehehe!
Great holiday post! Aren’t kids great? Can’t you imagine your son patiently listening to you rhapsodize about his pronouncement while thinking, “There goes Mom getting all weird and spiritual and stuff,”? Happy holidays–great blog (love the obscenity). Happy Holidays! Ken
Happy holidays to you, too, Ken! Thanks for reading and commenting — and yes, kids are spectacular. He really surprised me with his comment … and I can only imagine he and my daughter roll their eyes frequently at my rhapsodizing. But hey, at least we’re talking, right? He’s 12 now — I think we’re almost to the age at which my hearing anything more than a grunt from him will be alarming. 🙁
Love. Love. Love.
And I don’t even celebrate Christmas.
Happy holidays Mikalee! Go accept my Triberr invite!
I’m grateful for your love-times-three, Ruth — thank you!
…and I’m definitely accepting your invite … just wanted to do it when I had time to actually figure it all out and devote the necessary time to it, which will most likely be Monday. I still haven’t finished Christmas shopping. UGH!!! But I’m so excited to be part of a tribe. Do we get tiki torches? Shrunken heads? Drinks in coconuts, at least? 😉
Happy holidays to you too!
Mikalee, this is my favorite post of yours EVER! And I think it’s symbolic that there’s a cute, non-dead squirrel to close it all out. 😉 2012 is going to be a good year for you, I can tell. Enjoy your holidays!
Aw, Leah, thank you. I loved writing this one, yet I’ll admit I was concerned to lose readers who only read me for my snark. But this is a side of my personality you don’t get to see much — my absolute love for and adoration of my amazing children — and they really are my inspiration for everything I do and I am.
Thank you for reading and the super-sweet comment. Happy holidays to you, and may we all have an INCREDIBLE 2012!
Love, love, love! As simple as that. So glad to have “met” you this year, cyber-blog buddy. Look forward to lots of fun reads in the months to come. 🙂 Happy holidays!
I’m loving all the triple love today — thank you!
Happy holidays to you, too. I can only imagine this is a difficult time, but perhaps the United Nations will surround you with love and support? That’s my hope for you, at least.
Take care, and thank you for your blogging friendship as well. Now onto success for everyone in 2012…
Um, how very… well, optimistic of you. The U.N. is distinctly in it for themselves and aside from Denmark, there is little support. How teens show love is a whole ‘nother story, so one can only hope. They are at least trying not to make it TOO much harder. 😉
Yes, I will drink to success to us all. Submit my novel a publisher on Dec. 30th and then begin the terrible countdown to rejection. Oops.. there’s that cynical me again. I mean, publication and book tours! right.
All the best in 2012 Mikalee… whatever the Universe sends. wink, wink.
Yeah, I’m getting “hints” of that teen behavior from my 12-year-old…yet I know it will only get worse! 🙁
Best of luck with the novel! My fingers are crossed for you — and I’ll send a message to The Universe on your behalf as well. Just in case.
I love the figurative message — and also the message to be thankful for every little thing, every helpful person, every system we have that others don’t . . . like Jesus the trash collector guy. Who, if you lived in urban India or lots of other places, would be a savior of another sort.
And those readers who have minor daughters/nieces/friends’ daughters/any girl toward whom you feel protective: send prayers or messages to the universe for them, because in the history of the world (or even contemporary Asia), they’re anomalies.
Good point, Patrice. I was definitely trying to provide the kids with some perspective of that sort. Not sure it worked… 😉
Prayers sent, by the way. We are so blessed to live exactly where we do…
Wow, what a story! I’m really moved, and I’m being totally serious. Really great. I learn so much from my kids every day. In the Beach Boys epic “Surf’s Up”, lyricist Van Dyke Parks wrote the chant “a child is the father of the man”, and that really hit home once I had kids. I sometimes lament that I will forever miss the days when I stayed up until 3:30 am on Christmas Eve to make sure everything was put together, working and ready for that Christmas morning magic. But it’s ok…i still have my three at home, and I still go broke every holiday…and I still love it.
My sincere best holiday wishes for you and your family. I hope you have enjoyed writing these entries as much as I have enjoyed reading them, and thanks for stopping by my blog whenever you get a chance. Big holiday cyber hug! Rick
Hey Rick…so glad you could relate to the spirit of the message. As literal as it was (to my son), it carried some pretty heavy figurative power in my mind. Clearly!
I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. I’m sure you did, considering you were surrounded by those you love.
Hugs back atacha — and thanks as always for reading, enjoying and caring enough to comment!
This one is great. I mean effing great, of course. You are an effing great writer. I’ve really been effing enjoying your steady blogging lately. Have you tried doing any cartoon collaberations between you and BB?–he is quite good also. Though I did it when I first started blogging a little over a year ago, I consider it icky to shamelessly promote my own posts in comments, so I’ll just say that I have “noticed” that some folks lately have been trying their hand at cartoons (or comics, whatever) in their blogs, and the artwork is truly effing horrible in some. So, with your snark and his colored pencils, you could have something fun. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.
Well, this post needed some effing “sentence enhancers” (as Spongebob and Patrick call them), but nothing effing blatant, since it is the season…..
Effing right, my blogging friend…you added just the right punctuation to the post!
Brett is incredibly talented, and I do have him working on a little something for a future post. But lest I spoil it for all of you, I guess I’ll just say: “Stay tuned.”
I’ll have to travel over to check out a certain folk and that certain folk’s cartooning. Sounds fun.
I hope you enjoyed your Christmas — and are looking forward to an AWESOME new year! 🙂
Your Brett is very talented. What a nice drawing! I hope you have a wonderful holiday with lots of love and no crazies anything. Looking forward to another great year in the blogosphere with you, my friend! 🙂
Thank you, Monica — I’ll let Brett know you said so. Or perhaps he’ll see it all by himself, considering every once in a while he’ll peruse my messages for fun.
Ditto to you, my friend: A holiday full of love without crazies. Sounds good to me!
What a great story! I love those moments when we’re getting all deep and our kids spout something totally random (i.e. my daughter announced in the grocery store today that she has a tiny vagina and I have a very large one). Merry Christmas, honey – you’ve come a long way in just a few years!!!!
Wow. I mean, WOW. How did you respond to that, anyhow? Classic kid-isms…gotta love ’em.
Thanks for the smile-inducing comment, Lori — XO right back atcha!
Merry merry happy happy to you and yours . . . it’s been a hoot being blog buddies in 2011, and I look forward to more of the same in 2012 . . .
In re squirrel messengers . . . out here in Iowa, we have these huge things called “FOX SQUIRRELS” . . . I think if I ran over one of them, it would be my car laying on its back with its wheels in the air . . . these are ROBUST rodents, that have shredded my squirrel-proof bird feeder and routinely pose right in front of our windows while the (indoor) cats go berzerk inches away from them . . .
I think the Fox Squirrels’ message to all of us is: “Live large and audaciously, just because you can, yo.”
I’m buying that. Definitely.
Reason # 1,544,681 while I will NOT live in Iowa: Fox squirrels.
They sound TERRIFYING. And given how attracted the squirrels are to me these days, I’m afraid I’d be stalked. You MUST take a pic while they’re posing, however. That’s blog-worthy stuff right there, my friend. (And for what it’s worth, I recommend we all live by their message. They sound like a smart — if not ginormous — bunch.)
Best to you and yours as well, Mr. Smith. I hope you enjoyed your first Iowa-mas.
Merry Christmas Mikalee! This really brightened my day, and I had a shitty one. That little squirrel looks so cute and innocent in that picture. And that one of your kids is super cute, I would have used it as a Christmas card. Bah Humbug to your ex for veto-ing it. Bah Humbug to him pulling that crap a few days after Christmas. Meh, his loss right? I hope you have a great one this year!
Right on, Dana — I’m glad I could make you smile on a shitty day. But what’s up with having a shitty day right before a holiday? Not fair. 🙁
You’re absolutely right: Bah humbug to him/them, and only good things from here forward. Right?
Merry Christmas to you Mikalee! May peace and love fill your house.
Same to you, Harold — thank you! 🙂
Love this story, and you know what? I wish you’d overruled the now-ex and sent out that photo as your holiday card that year. There’s more truth in that there picture than in any other you could have taken at the time. Then again, I’m a sucker for nontraditional poses and anything unexpected.
I’m also impressed that your garbageman gives you a Christmas card. I once got a card from the newspaper delivery guy, but that was nothing more than a shameless attempt at a holiday tip.
He was pretty adamant about the card — very concerned about appearances. I guess that should have been a red flag, but of course, I had no idea what was to come!
And yeah, I think the card from Jesus the trash man was also a shameless attempt at securing a holiday tip. But he gave me more than I gave him that year (though if I recall I left him a plate of brownies and some egg nog).
Merry Christmas, Mark!
What a great blog and cute kids! Looking forward to reading more of your writing!
Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! Look forward to seeing you around here again…
I had a good laugh there.
I’m so glad — the story always makes me smile. It’s like a holiday classic in this house!
I really enjoyed the story, but what’s up with no secret ovaltine message (lol)
Merry Christmas to you and your family
…well, I was trying to keep the post free of expletives, and I had a feeling that a “Christmas Story” style Ovaltine message might inspire an “Oh, fuuuuuuuudge.”
Merry Christmas to you as well!
Absolutely wonderful. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and your family.
Same to you, my blogging friend!
Well, I doubt if the pastor in my local church would ever preach Jesus was our trash man. Sounds sort of irreverent. The sentiment holds true, though. Jesus cleans up our hearts, or that’s what Christian believers would say. Real greeting card, or fabricated for the blog?
Definitely sounds irreverent, but I always appreciate how pastors can take something literal and make a beautiful symbol out of it. It is a fun sentiment!
Real greeting card. Found it at Barnes & Noble, and just had to get ’em…
So handbreak Harry didn’t let you send out that cool card? Where’s his sense of humour? I sent a card out to just my bestest friends after the brick knocked me flying. It was the happy family of 4 but with the red circle (& the cross through it) over the ex’s face. (Usually no smoking or dogs but it was no husband/father in this family any more in our case.) Very symbolic I thought. And heck, I had to use the fab photo since we’d just had a great sitting & photos that cost over a $1000 as couple of weeks before. Shame to waste them. Great timing huh? Fabulous expensive family shots in matching jeans & white t’s and a week later, no more family. Go figure. Wonder what he was thinking as we were all snuggling up and cozying on in together . Maybe he was humming the sesame street song’ One of these things just doesn’t belong’ and I didn’t hear it??
And what do you do with all those family photos? Grandma just gave my adult son a large picture of the 4 of us because she obviously had to whip it off the wall, being the ex’s mother and all. What would his Marilyn think looking at that? So years later she presents it to my boy. He’s asked me what should he do with it. Your answer? A/. Hide it for years (Worked for Grandma) B/. Cut out each individual as individually we all work it’s just that some of us shouldn’t be near certain others now, let alone touching and god forbid smiling! C/. Garbage day’s Thursday, make sure it’s in it….
Oh wow — what shitty timing. I can’t even imagine shelling out that kind of money for a symbol that would hit you square between the eyes during the dissolution of your own formerly-picture-perfect family. Yuck.
I had such a hard time with the family photos, post-divorce. They represented almost 13 years of my life … and yet looking at us all happy and together made me want to puke. Of course, there were pix on walls, in albums, in meticulously crafted scrapbooks, etc. I ultimately ended up slowly exchanging out photos-with-the-ex with the lesser puke-inspiring photos-without-the-ex, in the hopes my kids wouldn’t notice. The only sacred territory that remained: the kids’ rooms, where of course I allowed them to keep pix with their dad. Funny how, over time, they voluntarily removed those and stashed them away.
Now there is a giant bin in our garage with all of these pictures. I figure that someday, my children can have them and decide what to do with them. My gut reaction was a bonfire, but I knew I would someday regret that
And I absolutely LOVE what you did with your bestest friends and the photos. Heck, if we didn’t laugh about our situations, we’d be crying … right? 😉
You totally made me smile – with the squirrel and Jesus, who has helped me out this year no doubt (Jesus, not the squirrel). I needed that smile today, so thank you for that:) May the New Year bring many smiles to you and yours…and happy non-squished squirrels!
Aww, good — I’m so glad the post made you smile. It makes me smile just remembering the exchange, and I loved sharing the literal and symbolic meaning with all of you!
Happy New Year right back atcha, Ashley!
Jesus takes away our garbage if we are willing to leave it on the curb. Your post made me smile. After all Christmas, bombarded with Santa Movies, Christmas Sales, stress, and having to pretend to enjoy the staff christmas party, it was surprising to find me being reminded of why the celebration exsists at all, here, of all, places, in your blog. Thanks for the message. (and I didn’t even need my little orphan annie decoder ring to get it)
SO glad you enjoyed the post, found a smile or two in it, AND understood the Christmas Story reference, Blockader!
And yeah, I definitely see the irony in the idea that MY blog, of all places, provided such a feel-good inspirational message.
hehehe the squirel one is so sweet 🙂 happy new year
And same to you!
This is such a moving story with a funny twist! Kids are the best gifts of all!
Thanks for sharing!
They certainly are — I’m truly blessed.
Thank you for reading! 🙂
In between the sneezing fits… from my cold… I laughed and felt connected with this story. Kids are so sweet and simplistic arent they? I learn something new from my three every single day! I have to say… this was truely entertaining. Have a safe and blessed New Year!
Well, definitely feel better — and I wish you a happy New Year too!
And yes, the simplicity inherent to children is AMAZING. I love learning from them as well.
Thank you for reading and commenting!
I missed this as I was away this Christmas but love love the story! It reminds me of a friend who was trying to get her kids to understand the real meaning of Christmas and talked about “Jesus Birthday” when her 7 year old interrupted her and said, “It’s Jesus Birthday? I think I know him! He’s in my class…” Your story is far more profound. Thank you.
Oh my GOD that’s adorable — it’s such a great reminder to enjoy the simplicity of life. We grown-ups tend to over-think things just a bit…
I’m so glad you enjoyed, Marilyn!
I love being away from the blogosphere for a while, because then I get to come back to gems like this! It’s a shame it was the brick that brought you to this place – I think we all love the “Mikalee for the masses” that you’ve become, but it wasn’t the most fun way to start out, I guess.
This Christmas tale is brilliant, and all the better for being true. We had some big old discussions about the nature of Christmas and religion this year with a friend who was raised part Hindu, part Muslim and part Catholic. She said she realised she’d been a bit lax on the religious instruction of her own kids when she heard the eldest explaining how Jesus was Santa’s son….
Why thank you for the kind words, Damian! I’m glad you’re enjoying my evolution — however it was inspired. Thanks for being there and supporting me along the way!
And I laughed out loud at your story … yeah, I’d feel a little guilty if I overheard my kids saying that, too. You can’t make that shit up, right?
Happy New Year to you and yours!
You know I’m a groupie and I know you’re already a big, shiny fish… but, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award. You know, it seems to be award season! Here’s the link, but feel free to do what you wish with your green, cyber statue. 🙂 Happy New Year Mikalee!
You are far too kind — thank you!
And I don’t know about the whole big, shiny fish thing. All I know is I love the fact that I’ve formed a genuine written connection with so many amazing souls — just like you.
This is so sweet. When I read the title of your post I automatically got a philosophical. Your children sound wonderful 🙂