I expected this to happen sooner or later. After all, Diego is 9 years old and how much longer could I really expect him to buy into the Santa Claus thing? He really wants to be a believer in all the holiday fantasies. He enjoys the magic of all of it. He even had me enabling his beliefs when I ran out on St. Patrick’s Day and bought him green gifts so he would think the leprechauns really did visit.
This year it’s not even Thanksgiving and he’s already asking about Christmas, and Santa. Honestly, I was just hoping that his belief would just fade away and this year he would admit to me that he didn’t believe in Santa anymore. Last year Juan and I drove over an hour to Filmore so that we could have what I thought would be our last “Santa Experience” and Diego could ride a Polar Express train. I figured 8 years old was really the end of the Santa fantasy. I thought that by now he would stop believing and I wouldn’t have to do the whole leaving cookies and milk thing or sneak around and pretend Santa paid us a visit. My three teenagers stopped believing long ago, and frankly I am kind of over it. I certainly didn’t expect Diego to ask about Santa this year, much less today. I was caught completely off guard.
On the way to school this morning Diego started asking a lot of Santa questions. He asked, “Why don’t parents get anything from Santa on Christmas? What would I want Santa to bring me?” I was not prepared to have this discussion before I had my first full cup of coffee. I just couldn’t be that creative that early in the morning. I quickly detoured that conversation by saying I had to concentrate on driving in traffic.
On the way home from work this afternoon, in the pre-holiday rush hour traffic we had a lot of time to kill. We started talking about Thanksgiving which led to a discussion of how many days until Christmas, which of course led into another conversation about Santa. It was dark and I couldn’t see his expression as he sat in the back seat, but he sounded sincere.
Diego: Do you believe in Santa? Be honest.
Me: Do you believe?
Diego: Yes, I believe.
Me: (Thinking) He’s still a believer?! How could I crush his belief? Even if he really just wants to believe in the magic, but doesn’t truly buy into the whole Santa thing, how could I tell him the truth? I don’t want to lie. But I don’t have the heart to ruin his fantasy. Especially now, when I am driving in traffic, and when I can’t see how he’ll handle the truth. And I’m tired. Can’t he just stop believing without me having to be the bad guy and ruin it for him?
So, I kind of lied.
Me: Yes, there was a man named St. Nicolas. He would give presents to kids.
Diego: (Not missing a beat). You mean used to be? What about now?
Me: (Using my lawyer tactics) Well, what do you think?
Diego: I think he’s real. My friend Nelly told me she saw him once with his elf. I think his toy bag is magic and refills itself with the toys for the kids. How else could he have toys for all the kids?
Me: Yeah. (Seriously? This kid has quite an imagination. Either that or he is really playing me.)
Me: Well, it sounds like you have it all figured out. Oh look, a traffic accident!
Crisis averted. For now. Damn.
Re-reading my last couple of blog posts, I think I need to lighten things up around here. I’m not all serious and gloom, even though I sometimes sound like it. One of the great joys in my life is laughing at my husband Juan’s corny jokes and terrible puns. His unique sense of humor is often evident in the titles to my blog posts. If my post has a corny title or a play on words, you can bet he suggested it, e.g. the titles to the last three posts.
Juan is also my tech guy. If I ever have a question about anything tech related, I ask him. In fact, nearly everyone in my family calls him when they have a tech question especially if it has anything to do with Apple. Yesterday he sent me a link about an article discussing how to make Siri, the Apple voice assistant, simplify my life. I looked at the article and just learning how to operate Siri was too complicated for me. Forget about it simplifying my life.
I am learning to use Siri little by little and thanks to Juan and his tech savvy, Siri is programmed to call me “Your Grace.” I didn’t program her this way but after watching several episodes of Game of Thrones, Juan thought it would be funny if she called me by a royal title.
Juan taught Nico how to program his Siri and now she calls our 15 year-old son, “Supreme Overlord.”
Diego and his friend are in on the fun too. One of his 3rd grade buddies recently programed his mom’s iPhone to call her “Poop head.” (He changed it back before he got in trouble.)
Last month Juan spent the afternoon helping my dad buy and set up his iPhone. Juan programed Siri on my Dad’s iPhone and wanted to have her call him by the family nickname, “Chuy.” I vetoed that idea. Then he wanted to program her to call him by his given name, “Jesus,” but in English. I vetoed that idea too. I think he finally programed her to call him “Jess.”
Juan used to have his Siri call him “Lord and Master.” I guess he figured that would be the only time he’d ever have that title. Now, Juan has taught Siri to call him by his given name, perfectly pronounced, with a throaty spanish “J” sound, kind of like Hwan.
One of the ways I like to use Siri is to dial my cell phone when I can’t dial myself. I will tell Siri, “Call Juan.” Siri will then respond, “Calling One.”
I think still have a lot to learn about using Siri. I guess I also need to learn how to pronounce my husband’s name correctly.
My Sundays typically involve church. Growing up Roman Catholic, church was a big part of my life. I felt God in the liturgy of the mass, the rituals of incense, candles, and music. As an adult I have found that going to church regularly refreshes my soul and keeps me connected to God, my community and my family. For the past several months, I have not been feeling quite the same about church. I have been struggling with feeling my connection to the Divine. I know a lot of my struggle with my faith is due to the challenges I have been dealing with in my family life. The liturgy of the mass offers little comfort. I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg thing. Perhaps because I have been struggling in my family life, my church attendance has been spotty, or perhaps because my church attendance has spotty, I have been struggling in my family life.
My Buddhist friend, who knows my struggle, and feels my despair, invited me a lay Buddhist meeting. She talks to me enthusiastically about how her life and her children’s lives have turned around since they started chanting. We went to lunch one day and I met with one of her Buddhist leaders. It was an inspiring and insightful conversation. I have no doubt that the Buddhist faith is working in their lives. I accepted the invitation to the Buddhist meeting. At first I was a bit self-conscious about chanting words I wasn’t even sure I was pronouncing correctly. But, as the sound washed over me in community with the other women in the room I felt peace. It was a very positive experience that was both familiar and strange. It was strange in the sense, that the language was foreign and I struggled to find meaning in the words we chanted. It was familiar in the sense that the ritual of the prayer beads, the gong and chanting seemed a lot like the rituals I had grown up with and which gave me comfort.
This morning Juan and Diego had to go to soccer practice. The other kids were sleeping in. I didn’t want to go to church by myself, so I decided I would take Molly on a walk to the big outdoor church. Nature. It’s the other place I feel God. I don’t get outdoors nearly enough, but today the air was crisp, the sun was bright and I needed to move my body. I announced to my kids that we weren’t going to church this morning. I think they were a bit relieved they would have a leisurely Sunday morning.
I drove to nearby Eaton Canyon, took my car key off the ring and stuck it in my iPhone case. As Molly and I hiked the canyon I listened to a talk given by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran preacher who had visited my church a couple of weeks ago. At one point during the talk she explained how she had grown up in the fundamentalist Church of Christ, and then decided to become a Lutheran when she experienced and fell in love with the liturgy. She said liturgy feels like “choreographed sacredness” and that it was like a “stream that flowed long before us and will continue long after us so that we… can be immersed in the language of truth and promise and Grace.” Her words rang so true for me.
I listened and worshipped the nature around me, trying to feel the presence of God. It was challenging because Molly kept pulling on her leash and the canyon was filled with hikers, joggers, and a lot of dogs. By the time we had hiked over a mile,
About halfway back to the car it occurred to me that the key I had placed in my iPhone case was no longer there. You know the key? The one with the computer chip in it that costs hundreds of dollars to replace? I panicked. Whatever sense of peace and Grace I felt during my hike evaporated. Molly and I sprinted back to the spot where I took the picture. Along the way, I kept dodging hikers, dogs and the occasional horse and dog poop, all the while looking, hoping, praying to find the key.
I have lost a lot of things before. I have found them too, in odd, unexpected places. My mom is the same way. She has taught me to pray to St. Anthony whenever I lose things. Along the trail I prayed to St. Anthony again. I laughed at myself at the absurdity of me losing the key and the even greater absurdity of finding it along the well-traveled trail covered with leaves, dirt and rocks.
I arrived at the spot where I had taken the picture. I looked among the shrubs, under leaves and turned over rocks. It wasn’t there. I made the walk back to the car my eyes downcast, searching for the key, missing the beauty of nature and ignoring the presence of God around me. I thought of the irony in losing the key in my quest to find God. By the time I reached my car, I still hadn’t found the key and felt resigned that it was probably gone. I called Juan and told him the bad news, and ask that he bring me the one spare key we had left.
Juan and Nico arrived, prepared to do one more sweep through the canyon. I refused to go, saying it was a lost cause. Before we left, I decided I’d go into the ranger station to see if the key had been turned in. The ranger told me that no one had turned in any keys and asked me for my name and the key description. Just then another ranger walked into the office. The second ranger asked, “You lost a key?” Then she pulled out my key from her shirt pocket. She said someone along the trail had just turned it in.
I took the key and in a moment of evangelizing told the ranger about St. Anthony. She said I should go buy a lottery ticket. I replied that I was going to light a candle instead. Nico drove home with me and along the way we laughed and talked about the miracle. In my best Southern evangelical preacher voice I shouted, “Allelulia!” I asked him “Can I have an Amen?” Getting into the spirit of it, Nico shouted “Amen!” I enthused, “See? You just need to have faith.” Nico asked, “Well, what’s the lesson here?” I paused and thought about it. Then, I replied, I guess the lesson is that I just need to have faith that what has been lost will be found.
When Juan and I married and blended our families we decided to remodel my two-bedroom, one bath house into a four bedroom house. There would be one office/guest room, one room for the boys and one for the girls to share. Juan and I would have our own master bedroom, which we have since learned we have to share with our dog Molly, and occasionally Diego, whenever he has a bad dream. Our house remodel also included a master spa bathroom, which we have since realized is not for our own exclusive use.
Whenever we complained to the kids about them using our bathroom, they protested that we had the good shower, more bath products, and better towels. True, I did splurge and furnish our bathroom with plush linens. I wanted to create a spa atmosphere. Maybe if the kids actually hung up their towels instead of leaving them on the floor, I would be inclined to splurge on their linens too. Last week I had to replace our bathmat. I splurged again and bought a nice plush one. It had a thick pile and matched the palette of our bathroom’s warm gold color.
This week, our Southern California weather and its endless summer finally turned to Fall. I came home from work and turned on the heater to take the chill out of the air. When I walked into my room, I smelled something musty. I shrugged it off as the heater firing up. Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed I went to my bathroom to perform my evening ritual of brushing, exfoliating, moisturizing and all manner of fighting against the aging process. Again, I smelled something odd. I noticed that the toilet seat was up and looked at Juan
accusingly suspiciously. He assured me that his aim was perfect. We complained to each other that Diego was probably using our bathroom again. He must have missed the mark. To his credit, Juan cleaned up around the toilet. Better. At least it smelled like disinfectant.
The next day, after work, I walked into our bedroom and again detected a musty odor. I looked at the pile of shoes on Juan’s side of the bed. Could it be? No, foot odor is distinctly different. That night Diego again used our bathroom for his shower. After his shower, as I trimmed his nails I smelled it again. I sniffed his hair to make sure he washed it. It was fine, like coconut. I smelled his hands. His nails were still a bit dirty, but his hands smelled fine. As I bent over to trim his toenails I smelled his feet. Musty! I sent him back into the shower since I was sure the feet of a 9 year-old soccer playing boy needed more scrubbing.
That night we fell asleep to the sound of our first Fall rain. In the morning, as I was taking a shower Juan groggily walked in and nearly slipped on our tile floor. He looked down and saw that the floor was damp. I got out of the shower and stepped onto my new bathmat. My feet felt like they were stepping into a puddle. The new bath mat felt wet, actually soggy. Hmm, that’s weird. Wet floor, damp mat. Could we have a leak in our roof? Juan and I started inspecting the ceiling to see if we could find the source of the water. No leak.
Suddenly it occurred to me that maybe the source of the leak wasn’t the ceiling. I looked down at the new bathmat. I remembered that Molly, our fox terrier, had been housebroken on pee pads. Juan grabbed some paper towels and as he cleaned up the wet floor, we discovered what he was mopping up was not water. It was yellow and had a musty smell.
I guess I will have to buy a new bath mat. Maybe this time I’ll buy one that’s not so plush.