Prison bars and jingle bells

Editor Patrick Anderson

By Pat Anderson
From December 2009

I brought 3-year-old Scruffy to the office today. This fine Cairn Terrier is a member of the family, primarily Sydney’s dog, but a member of the whole family.  The story below is how he came to be with us three years ago.  He is very happy today in the CBF office, and the staff seems to appreciate his networking spirit.
Pat Anderson

Except for a few years when our children were small, but even then deep down, I harbor an adult-long dislike for Christmas.  I don’t like the mythology of Santa, the reliance of the American economy on retailers’ success in wooing me to spend money on foolish things, the pressure of conflicted Christendom to “put Christ back in Christmas,” debates over nativity scenes in the public square and a supposed war on Christmas, gaudiness….I hate it all.  I hate the letdown after the mad rush of present opening on Christmas day….well, you know how I feel.

When Carolyn and I were paroled a few years ago from the prison of child-raising, we enjoyed the empty nest for a few short years by spending the Christmas season doing fun things like going to London one year, giving extra offerings to ministries for the poor, and thinking holy thoughts of righteous separation from the worldliness of Christmas.

Our parole was revoked and we were thrust back in the child-centered slammer,  at least for the time being, by our daughter’s divorce and her return home with her two little darlings, Sydney age 8 and Davis age 5.  Now we are into Christmas again, and despite all of my curmudgeon-ness, my old heart is softening.  Perhaps it was the 5-inch snowfall we had this weekend.  Maybe it is the music and hot chocolate with the added kick.   I cannot be sure, but I do feel my old frozen heart melting.

Davis is the biggest reason.  He is the first person I have encountered who really epitomizes the “spirit of Christmas”, if there is such a thing.  He snuggles really well for one thing, and all grandparents are suckers for snuggling grandchildren.  But the biggest quality he brings to the table is his genuinely selfless attitude.

I ask him “What do you want for Christmas, big guy?”   The question itself exposes my reversion to bad ol’ Christmases past, focusing our conversation on the evil subject of material expectations, something I had sworn off.  But he just shrugs and says “I don’t know” with an air of disinterest, a detachment which I have not seen in the other children in my life.  Then, he says, “I want Sydney to have a puppy.”

Well, that just about does me in.  He knows his big sister is having a hard time with the family reorganization.  He talks with her in privileged conversations only siblings can have and he knows how lonely she feels sometimes, and he hears her frequent longing for a dog of her own, a pet to snuggle with, shower with affection, and talk to.  More than anything, Davis wants his sister to be happy.

Davis has spent the past two days with his Gram working on a special handmade card for Syd,   He selected buttons from Gram’s stash and ribbon carefully chosen for color and texture.  He picked his favorite sharpies and created a drawing of a house with a door that opens onto the sight of a Christmas tree, decorated in his own artistic style.  He thinks day and night of trying to make his sister happy.  He is sure this hand crafted card will please her, and he works hard at keeping his efforts secret so she will be properly surprised.  His creative juices are flowing.  He is the happiest kid I know as he puts all his creative energy in the special card.

Well, we got Sydney a puppy. His name is Scruffy. I am now in the Christmas spirit (whatever that is).  Davis has won me over.  Maybe the sound I hear is not the prison bars clanging shut but the jingle bells in the melting snow of my heart.

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