Friday, December 13, 2013

I believe too...

Part One: I believe...

Part Two:

"Hi, I'm Bob, and I'm a drug addict."

"Hi, Bob."

"I always like that part." (laughter) "So first off, Merry Christmas. I would guess most of you are here because you really need a meeting today. I can understand that. I'm here because I run this meeting every year. Today is my anniversary. It's been 22 years since I last used cocaine." (applause) "Thank you. So today we're talking Step 3. Turning our lives over to god as we understand him. The higher power step. Now I'm going to tell you a little secret, we are in the place for that after all."(laughter) "My higher power is Santa Claus." (laughter) "No really. Santa Claus.

The last day, the bottom of the barrel day was Christmas 22 years ago. I had gone to midnight services with my family the night before and then ducked out to 'pick something up at the store'. They all knew that the odds of me coming back weren't good. And the odds of me coming back straight were slim to none. My mother pulled me over to the side and told me if I went out and got high to not come back to the house that day. She wouldn't have me around the rest of the family like that. She had to think of her grandchildren. Now this just set me off. My father had been an alcoholic the entire time I was growing up and she had never seemed concerned about him being around us, but now all of a sudden I wasn't good enough to be around her precious grandchildren? Well fuck that. I didn't need any of them anyway. So I went to a bar to get a quick drink to take the edge off. I would show her I was just fine. Logical right? Instead of getting high I would get drunk and that, that my friends would show her." (nods all around)

"So after a couple of drinks I decided that what difference did it matter anyway? I wasn't going back to my mother's house that day so I might as well do what I wanted. I headed downtown. Found a friend who was looking for a party. Hey I was also looking for a party so yeah, come on along!" (laughter) "My new friend knew someone that was selling, which was great because she and I used up the stash I had pretty quickly. She made a call and we set off to meet up with him. Now by this time it's Christmas morning. I'm feeling sorry for myself and getting a little anxious waiting for her dealer to show up. We are walking around waiting. And I'm doing the junkie math in my head. I've got $150 in my pocket. She was going to want to get paid, he was going to want to get paid and it was 6 days until pay day so I need something to live off of as well. Now you all know how junkie math works right? You take what you have subtract the money you need for drugs and then panic because you have nothing left and need more drugs." (laughter) "I knew we had some former math majors in here.

"So while my new friend and I are waiting I hear this little voice. It's a kid. She's sitting on the stoop of the rescue mission talking to herself. Then I realize she isn't talking to herself, she's talking to her doll. She is telling her doll how sorry she is. How she's sorry she said she wished she hadn't gotten the doll for Christmas but she had asked Santa for the money just so she and her mother would have a place to live. She telling the doll how sorry she is that she isn't good enough. How she couldn't stop her father from drinking or beating her mother but that she would be good to her doll. It's okay wipe your tears, we're all friends here. Right then I knew I had a bigger choice to make than how much I could spend on coke and the party girl and still eat tomorrow. I saw myself sitting out there. Nursing a black eye from dear old dad. And I thought, well nobody rescued me. And then I thought again. Nobody rescued me.

I looked over to my new friend thinking about how she was going to react when I told her what I was going to do and saw the tears in her eyes. I knew then that she would be on board.

We walked over to that darling angel and introduced ourselves as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. I gave her the money she had asked Santa for, along with a pretty good story as to why it was late, one thing we are good at is telling stories, right?" (laughter) "And then when she went inside to get her mother I came to my senses. A junkie and a hooker on your stoop on Christmas Day isn't really the miracle most people are looking for. We left a note for her and hid in the alley. Watching her mother break down and cry and hold that child...that was my turning point.

I did go to my mother's house that day, and she drove me to rehab that night. And every year I remember and I retell. Christmas miracles take a lot of forms. And your higher power can be what you need it to be. But for me, I believe in Santa Claus."

I believe...

"I am so glad that's over," James passed drinks around the table, "Is there anything worse than an office Christmas party?"

"Gee, thanks, we all liked hanging out with you as well!" Alice tossed a wadded up napkin at James.

"No, you know what I mean. I love you guys. This group right here, this is perfect. But having to be social with Mr. Patterson? And his wife? What do you even say to them?"

"Generally Merry Christmas, but that could just be me." Carrie deadpanned.

"I've worked for the company for 4 years and she still introduces herself to me every year. I'm never sure if I should say we've already met or just act like it's the first time. 'Hi, I'm Ed. Just like I was last year and the year before that, and the year before that.'"

Ed turned to Carrie, "You've been there 8 years, does she know you yet?"

"Sort of. She recognizes me, but she is pretty sure my name is Karen. I just roll with it. It's one night a year. And it's Christmas so why not just smile and be nice?"

"Whatever, I'm just glad it's over for another year. The only thing left to get through is Christmas Eve with Eric's family and Christmas Day with mine." Alice took a big drink, "And thanks to my friend here, I will make it through just fine."

"Here, here!" James raised his glass and the four friends and co-workers toasted. "Here's to another Christmas Party done!"

"God, I can't wait until January." Ed leaned back in his chair already looking exhausted.

"Not me, I like Christmas."

"Carrie believes in Santa Claus."

There was a pause at the table then Ed and Alice both started to laugh.

"No, really, she does. Tell them, Carrie."

"Thanks, James, for sharing that with everyone. Yes, I believe in Santa Claus."

"Holy shit, you're serious! Okay, spill, there has to be a story here." Alice drained her glass and signaled to the bartender for another round for the group.

"There isn't much of a story really. When I was five I met him. I've believed ever since."

"Oh  no, there is more to it than that. We all met the man when we were little. The trudge to the mall. What are you leaving out?"

"It was Christmas day, I was 5. We didn't have a lot growing up and that year we moved right before the holiday so it was even more spare than normal. I had asked Santa for something really specific and I didn't get it. So Christmas morning I was sitting outside on our steps telling my new doll that she shouldn't have hurt feelings that she wasn't my first choice for Christmas and that I would be a good doll mom. I wanted her to know that is wasn't her fault I hadn't been a good enough girl to get what I had asked for."


"Yes, yes, I was an adorable child. It's a fact. Anyway, while I was sitting outside talking to my new doll he showed up. He came over to me, introduced himself, apologized for missing my gift under the tree, but he hadn't gotten the message I had moved in time. It wasn't until he was back at the North Pole unpacking from the trip the he found out what the mix up was. He told me I had been on the good list, it was just that this was a busy time of year and though it didn't happen often, sometimes they made mistakes. Then he gave me the gift I had asked for and wished me a Merry Christmas and left. How can you not believe after that?"

James spread his hands out and leaned back, "See? She believes in Santa. And that is my Christmas gift to you."

Alice and Ed both smiled at Carrie. She gave them the half smirk half smile they were used to seeing at work, "I'm not embarrassed by it. I'm not ashamed. I don't generally tell people because they think I'm crazy. James heard the story a few Christmases ago when I had had a little more nog than usual and was feeling chatty. He loves to drop it on people to see their reactions."

"Well I think it's sweet."

"I think there is probably an explanation, like it was a friend of the family who knew what you wanted and your folks remembered at the last minute."

"Always practical, Ed. But nope. Couldn't have been. I never told anyone. The only person who knew was Santa. I wrote it in the letter and sent it myself. Look, it's fine, I know that it's odd for a grown woman to still believe but I do. And because I do, I love Christmas."

The friends sat together for a little while longer before calling it a night and heading home. As Carrie got ready for bed she thought back to her Santa story. She hadn't really lied to her friends but she hadn't really told them the whole truth either. Some things she just didn't share with anyone.

They had just moved, that was true. But it was to a shelter for abused women. On Thanksgiving her father had gotten even more drunk than usual, and he was usually pretty drunk, and had beaten her mother so badly she ended up in the emergency room. They had gone directly from the emergency room to the shelter. But the emergency shelter could only keep them for a month. Carrie had overheard her mother on the phone with her parents asking them for the $100 it would take to get them a room in a halfway house for January. She had a job and would be able to pay the rent after that, but she didn't have enough right now.

Carrie's grandparents had disapproved of her parent's marriage and had warned her mother if she left she was dead to them. Carrie had never even met them. So it wasn't much of a surprise when Carrie found her mother in tears by the phone. Carrie knew that they needed that money and since Christmas was coming she also knew exactly how to get it. She had written the letter that night and dropped it in the mail the next morning. All she wanted was $100. She knew that was a big gift but she had faith.

When Christmas morning came and the volunteers handed out Christmas presents all Carrie got was a doll. She asked if there was anything else, or if there had been a mix up with her gift and was quickly reprimanded by the woman who ran the shelter. She should be grateful for what she got and not be so greedy to ask for more.

Carrie had then taken the doll outside to the front steps of the shelter to apologize for not being good enough. Not good enough to keep her father from getting drunk and hitting her mother. Not being good enough to keep her mother safe. Not being good enough to get the gift from Santa that would make it possible for her and her mother to have someplace to live. She also promised her Christmas doll that she would be the best doll mommy she could and that nobody would ever hurt her.

While she had been talking to her doll a man and woman had walked over to her. He introduced himself as Santa Claus, she hadn't recognized him because he wasn't wearing his red suit and he had a clean shaven face. He explained that he and Mrs. Claus were on their way to take their annual post Christmas vacation and he always traveled incognito (at the time she had no idea what that meant and thought maybe it had something to do with walking, years later when she heard the word in school she almost shouted OH! out loud). He also told her how her letter had gotten delayed and that the elves were very sorry she didn't get her gift right away but he had it for her now. Then he handed her a $100 bill. He also gave her an extra $20 and told her that she could use that for anything she wanted. Because not only was she on the nice list, but she was at the very top.

Carrie had been stunned. He had come through for her. She wasn't a bad girl, she was on the nice list. She had Santa and Mrs. Claus wait for her on the steps while she ran in to get her mother so she could meet them as well. When she came back out they were gone. They left a note saying they had to run to catch a plane since the reindeer needed a vacation as well but to have a very Merry Christmas. She gave the money to her mother and explained everything that had happened. Her mother sat on the steps of the shelter with Carrie hugging her and crying and saying she was the best girl ever.

When she got older she came up with at least a half a dozen explanations for her encounter with Santa Claus but in the end decided that what she wanted was to believe. And so she did and still does.