I’ve been watching you since you were born, waiting for you to come along and take your place in the world. You were always a funny kid; an old precocious soul housed in a young body. Although you liked the gifts you found on Christmas morning, you never really liked the idea of me coming down the chimney and prowling through your house late at night, eating your mom’s cookies and tracking snow and reindeer dust over the dark wood floors. There were many Christmas Eves when I thought you would never fall sleep. Your parents would lay in bed with you or make you a pallet on the floor in their room til you finally fell nodded off.
I remember the years when you were young. Remember the Brio train sets that your family lost a few years ago when they moved to Greensboro? Your mom tried her best to get them back from the Goodwill trailer in Midway. It almost broke her heart to have lost those but I made sure another little kid had a blast with Thomas the Tank Engine and the little wooden pieces that made up the track and village.
Growing up, you were fascinated by dinosaurs and airplanes, Lego’s, Star Wars and Pokemon. Every year, I loved thinking how your face was going to light up Christmas morning at all the toys beneath the tree.
My favorite year was when you were twelve and your family woke up to find a live bird beneath the tree. Boy was your dad surprised! I covered her cage with a cloth when I left it beneath the tree and told her, “Shh-hh-hh, don’t make a sound.” She was perfectly quiet til morning then she began to sing so prettily. She was beautiful, a pure white Cockatiel. You named her Cloud.
Unfortunately, she died a week later on New Years Eve. Your mom was never sure if she killed her or not. She’d never had a bird before and the books emphasized how you should supplement their diet with fresh fruit and veggies. It might have been the celery. Who knew birds could eat a million fruits and veggies in the wild, but one bite of celery and kapoosh, it shuts down a bird’s digestive system. Rest in peace, Cloud. (Brennen, remember this when you are older- how your mom always screwed things up going overboard to do the right thing.)
But things got better, didn’t they, a few days later when you and your mom went to get another bird at the Flea Market off ’85 in Salisbury. Remember the magic as my owl came to escort you to the right place. That owl flew beside the car for nearly a mile along the side road and you watched out the car window in wonder, amazed. After that, you always felt owls were looking out for you. When you were a teenager at the old house in Welcome, your mom would hear them calling late at night. They told her you were going to be okay, that you were just going through the pains of growing up. The owls were right.
Then, you got Zeke bird and you had him about ten years til he passed away last year while you were away at college. He was such a great part of your family. he could bark like a dog and call the kitties. Your dad took care of him in the end, cleaning out his cage and saying goodbye.
Just to be safe, I am not bringing your mom any more birds.
You were smart enough to never have “The Christmas Talk” with your parents straight out. You asked a few aimless questions when you were young but you didn’t want to pry too much, less the magic stop.
And it never did.
Now, so many Christmases have passed and you are an adult. You no longer live with your parents and you’re not quite sure where you belong .That’s ok; it’s normal to feel that way. If each phase of our lives were so comfortable, we’d never want to leave it. You’re just in transition and dealing with change is never easy. There comes a time when you realize you will never spend another Christmas morning under your parent’s roof. Oh, they’d like for you too! They’d cook a big breakfast and invite over Grandmommy and Pops, Aunt Kim and Uncle Mike, just like they did when you were little. But it’s kinda weird now; the house your parents live in now is not the house you grew up in. Your dad keeps his clothes in the closet and his keys and wallet on the bureau. It probably feels more like their house than yours.
Just remember, that your parents love you very much. Even though you’re a man now with college, a job and responsibilities of your own, you need to let yourself still be a kid sometimes. There’s a part in all of us, even me, that never grows up. It’s ok to want to go home, even though you’re not sure where it is anymore.
Merry Christmas, Brennen.