I'm feeling sappy and sentimental this Christmas, perhaps because things are in such turmoil for us right now. And because life comes with no guarantees, it feels incredibly precious. I'm hoping that when the fog clears and Beaux has his new liver, we're all left with this feeling of fragility and extreme value. It's wearying and marvelous at the same time. In the meantime, thanks for caring, for being friends and guides and generally good guys. May you be blessed this holiday and well beyond.
By the oddest of circumstances, Jeni saw the same Santa Claus until she was 5, so it was pretty easy to convince her that he was real. Santa's name was actually Jerry and we ran into him once at Walmart then, happy day, he turned out to be a friend of our neighbor's and he did the Santa honors at that neighbor's Christmas party. He was such a good jolly old elf, in fact, that we saw him the next year at the governor's Christmas party and at the mall. The pattern continued for a couple more years. We've taken Santa pretty seriously at Chez Collins and Kyle. For several years, Beaux also had one of his coworkers stop by as Santa. Roger'd fling open the door and kind of explode into the house, with a ho ho ho and a gift we'd given him to give the girls. But the funnest Santa Christmas was the year that one of my coworkers told me he'd just done a story on the Gateway Santa, who said to tell me hi. It was Ed, my dad's old driver. And though I'd only bumped into him once since Daddy died in 1994, I knew Ed would be just the thing to bolster Aly's faith, which was sagging just a tad. I didn't call ahead. We just showed up. I had told the kids we were going to see a special Santa, one who knew Grandpa (who died before they were born). They were perhaps a little skeptical, but curious. Ed rocked. As we walked in, he sprang up and called my name. He was happy, as a Santa should be when he recognizes one of the Good Little Girls. I made sure I called my girls by name as we drew near -- Jen, don't forget to tell Santa.... And he launched into great stories of their Grandpa Frank and Grandma Mary. I watched in joy as their faces filled with wonder. The best part was, the fictional Santa made real a grandpa and grandma who had, to that point, been like a mist to the girls. A couple of years ago, when Truth arrived, Jeni had two questions: How did that guy know grandma and grandpa, because he obviously did. And who the heck "is that guy who kept flinging himself through the front door every year?" Did we damage them by "lying?" Nope. We gave them joy. And something to laugh about their whole lives. Merry Christmas.
If you ever wonder what kind of weird world we live in, feel free to check in on my 10-year-old's prayers at night. They go something like this: God, please bless the little boy that got hit by the firework and it almost ripped off his leg. And watch over Eliza (who is dying of a genetic disease that has basically paralyzed her entirely at age 3). Keep my sister and me safe as we go to school and let the cars slow down as they come around that corner so no one runs over us. And help my daddy get a liver transplant so he won't die. And bless our soldiers while they're on war and don't let them get blown up. Bring them home safe. And God, help the children of the police officer who died in the car chase. And give Destiny Norton a giant hug. Thank you for our life and all our blessings. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Years ago, when I'd heard my 90-millionth Lois Lane joke from someone who thought he was the first and only one clever enough to crack one, I asked my dad what the hell he was thinking when he named me Lois. I was thinking you'd be an electrician, he told me mildly, the corner of his lips twitching with a suppressed smile. I wish. This has not been my favorite week as a journalist. In fact, it's a field that's getting darned near as depressing as being an American automaker. Today, one of my colleagues from the editorial department showed up to give me a heads up on a letter to the editor that's going to run about me tomorrow. The writers complain about our aging series -- of which I am actually quite proud because Elaine and I have worked like dogs on it. Bless their hearts, they're protective of their mom and disappointed that she was mentioned, rather than profiled in last week's story on nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I get that because I love my mom, God rest her soul, too. But I'm a little aggravated because all along I explained to her that we're talking to lots of people (about 200 last count) on the topic of aging and using bits and pieces. She said great. What bothers me -- and I'm trying to suck it up but not doing a very good job -- is that they didn't like the photo and said the caption was wrong. I'm not the photographer and I didn't write the caption. But I'm the person on whom the error is blamed, by name. My co-author and the photographer got a pass on this one, although I couldn't have "fouled it up" without them. Mostly, I feel bad because I really liked the woman these children clearly love, as well. Liked her so much, in fact, that I managed to squeak her in at every opportunity. She made brief appearances in three or four stories and is profiled online. Cumulatively, there's quite a bit about her. I'm sad that she was disappointed. And irritated that anyone can say anything they want in a published letter and we don't point out relevant things like the reporter didn't take the picture. This follows, mind you, on a typo in a story last week where I added an s to an email address, rendering it worthless. The point of publishing the address in the first place was to tell readers where to get a free radon test kit. I hate having to run corrections, but at least that one was my bad. My embarrassing, stupid bad. I'll own it. Mostly, I'm thinking I'm just depressed. The economy is making us all cry. My husband has a potentially deadly disease and I happen to adore him. Add in the wretched state of newspapers right now and I'm feeling a little bit lost. There's something disheartening about hearing someone who owns a string of newspapers -- and should know better than most how important they are -- say that he believes everything I have done proudly for 30 years can be outsourced quite nicely to India. It seems reporters don't need to show up to events and public hearings. All you need are press releases or someone holding up a cell phone to capture video. No context, no social conscience, no sources or institutional memory or sense of a community. And no one these days wants to hear both sides of a story. Most of us, it seems, only want to hear from people who think as we do. Did I mention that Al was trying to help me and dropped my blessing jar in the driveway, shattering it? Figures.