A Christmas Story

by Tim on December 25, 2011

Most of our days are filled with a variety of challenges, which often come with a mix of gifts, frustrations, and everything in between. Then there are the rare days when everything coalesces into this unending day of goodness.

Friday turned into this kind of day. It started out with a string of good happenings. Mary made me cookies. I got the stitches in my back out. (Dermatologist… again.) Pathology report was clear this time (previously was very abnormal but thankfully no melanoma). I received – and immediately deposited – a nice-sized check from a client, which will go straight toward Project Pay Off the Credit Cards when it clears. We got a startling amount of holiday and regular life stuff done. I said on Facebook after that, “It’s all gravy from here.”

So it turned out there was a lot more gravy to come.

That evening, out of the blue Santa showed up at the house in the back of a pickup truck. (I kid you not! It’s the South after all.) ‘Mrs. Claus’ and a band of assorted elvish relatives had come to the door with candy. I was getting ready to go for a run, and Mary took Dale Jr. outside to see. The J-Man at first wanted nothing to do with all this, but then I saw him peek out the window and smile at Santa. I knew he wouldn’t walk out there on his own, so I carried him out to the truck to see.

He looked at Santa, then looked at me (In the eyes! Joint attention!) and said, “Santa Claus” and “Ho, ho, ho!” He would alternate between smiling ear to ear and flapping his arms, a clear sign he’s very happy. I even coaxed him into the back of the truck, and he sat sort of next to Santa on the tool box in the truck bed. Mrs. Claus said she’d arrange to get us copies of the pictures of this since we told her we hadn’t been able to get the J-Man to see Santa (the mall = the center of Hell for him).

What they perhaps saw as a simple act of Christmas family fun going door-to-door in our neighborhood really made our day. We only vaguely know them – they live down the street from us somewhere – and they have no knowledge of our kids or our family circumstances. They were simply practicing a not-so-random act of cheer and joy, and in doing so they gave us a wonderful gift. One thing autism has taught me is that goodness and kindness often come burbling up out of the ground when you least expect it.

After they left, I got a great five-mile run in under a crystal clear, star-filled sky in perfect temperatures. I was filled with visions of the J-Man’s face lighting up and his own voice telling me about Santa. (Dale Jr. is still at that age of being rather frightened of him.) I ran without effort. I even found myself laughing.

I’ve been missing my grandmother a lot – she loved Christmas and I loved spending it with her – but I always feel close to her running under the stars. I spent the evening decorating our little “Grandmothers Memorial Tree” on the mantle, listening to Sarah McLachlan, and eating from the mountain of goodies Mary made. I thought of all the Christmases of the years gone by and this wonderful day where people who were essentially strangers brought us joy, a joy our son can now give his own words to.

I understand more each year why my grandmother loved Christmas so much. It’s a time for expecting something magical to happen. It was on Christmas Day in 2004 we told her that we’d be having our first child, and I remember how overjoyed she was for us. I always felt safe, loved, and renewed at her house, especially at Christmas. Now we continue adding on to all these memories.

As time for bed on Christmas Eve approached, Mary read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. By the end of the second reading, Dale Jr. had fallen asleep in the living room floor under his blanket. The J-Man was sitting in my lap and drifting off himself.

This is our Christmas present this year, and what wonderful gifts they are.

To all of you – I hope that, however you celebrate them, these days bring kindness, joy, and lasting memories to you and your family.

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