a very special Christmas Eve message

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today, on the eve of the day when we remember the birth of our Savior (not the day he was actually born, mind you, just the day the Europeans decided to allocate for this purpose to offset the pagan winter holidays going on around them), to talk about something most of us have probably done or had done to us this very day.

I am speaking, of course, about that moment when, whilst driving through town, you encounter a less-than-good driver, and when you finally get to pass said driver, you look at him or her. Or alternately, when another driver concludes that you are a bad driver, passes, and looks at you. It is not necessarily a dirty look, although that is certainly an option. There is usually no finger involved. And often, whether on the giving or receiving end of the look, you do not even stop singing along with the radio. It is just a look, but why do it?

Perhaps we want to see what kind of person drives so poorly. We take mental notes on the driver’s appearance so that we might avoid similar drivers in the future.

Maybe we want to see what they are doing in there, since driving is apparently not high on their priority list.

Or maybe we just enjoy that very brief moment of human contact. We are curious about other drivers the same way we’re curious about whether or not Jennifer Aniston is really growing a baby bump – not because we really care about her personally, but because we just like to know stuff about other people.

This is why we like to gossip so much, is it not? Because knowing things about other people either will hopefully make us feel better about ourselves, either because we conclude that we are better than someone else or that we are more normal knowing that they’re weird too.

Come to think of it, that’s probably why some of you read Onward Hoe!. And if that’s the case, and if it’s working, I’m glad I could help. I’m pretty weird for a number of reasons, so it would make sense that you would come to me to feel normal. In fact, here. Here’s a list of reasons why I’m probably weirder than you. Go and feel good about yourself. It’s my Christmas gift to you.

  • Santa will be bringing me this coat for Christmas. I thought I might be the only one who would like it, but it’s fairly difficult to find either on the internet or in stores, so hey…maybe it’s not so weird after all. Oh wait. It is made by Jessica Simpson. That’s kind of weird.
  • I’m selectively vegan. That ought to be plenty weird to cover all kinds of your weirdness.
  • I have a Broadway soundtrack running through my mind almost constantly. And more than occasionally, the soundtrack will play aloud without warning either to myself or to those poor souls who are subjected to it.
  • Last night, I dreamed that the skin on the bottom of my foot peeled off in one big footprint-shaped sheet that had a lovely, intricate, snowflakey sort of pattern to it. I kept it.
  • Request, some time, to see my aerobic dance routine. Or maybe I’ll do a tutorial here. That’d be interesting.
  • I made an earring out of a plastic matchbox car. Yes, just one. No, I don’t wear it. I’m not that weird.
  • I secretly wish I could be on a step team.
  • I see shapes not in clouds, but in the way my facial moisturizer squirts out of its bottle.
  • I say “check” after nearly all completed things, even if they aren’t on a list…anywhere.
  • I think about grammar almost as much as I think about Broadway and imagine myself starring in Thoroughly Modern Millie. That is, until I realize I’m too curvy to make a good flapper. No one should think about grammar that much. No one.
  • I have a small obsession with Magnum, p.i.
  • I have to leave the country once a year, or I feel dead inside.

Hmmmm…that seems a bit too depressing a note to end on. How about this? MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!

camp

Fortunately and unfortunately, I don’t have the type of job that requires me to sit at a desk all day doing officey things. That means that my job is fun and interactive, but it also means that I miss out on things that require just sitting for an hour and listening. Things like podcasts, new music, sermons and radio contests. I wouldn’t trade teaching for a desk job any day (well, not unless it were the most awesome desk job ever…do those exist?), but I am jealous sometimes that my roommate, Lauren, gets to listen to things like This American Life while I am explaining for the nine hundredth time why present perfect (I have done) is different from past simple (I did).

It’s not hard to see why I am growing to love This American Life more and more. It’s story-telling, which we all know is my bread and butter, but more than that, it invites us to explore why certain moments in our lives were meaningful, why they had such an impact on us, why they were such a driving force in making us who we have become. And doing this through the telling of other people’s stories serves to forge a sense of connection between you and the person whose story you’re hearing. You get the feeling that, even though you will never meet these people, you’ve shared something.

I was listening just now to an episode about summer camps and the experiences kids have there, and all of a sudden, listening to kids in Michigan talk about “color days,” an event that my camp didn’t even have, I got choked up. We didn’t have color days, but we had similar things. Competition, cheers, team cameraderie, being chosen (not being chosen), being honored, singing songs, telling stories, keeping traditions that now seem silly and juvenile when you try to explain them to non-camp people. It was all so important. And really, it still is. When I think back to Camp Cheerio, or even to my summers on staff at Caswell, it is the ridiculous things that make up “camp culture” that I remember the best and the most fondly.

It’s a culture you can really only understand if you’ve experienced it. You get sort of a taste of it if you live in a college dorm, but it’s not the same. Camp, even though you’re only there for a few weeks in the summer, somehow feels just as much like home as home does. It becomes a family, a culture, a home all its own. My sophomore year of college, I was invited to work a weekend retreat at Caswell, where I’d worked the previous summer, and where I would work the next summer as well. I was so content to be there that you’d almost call it ecstatic, and then, suddenly, we were all sent home at the threat of an approaching hurricane.

I still don’t quite understand why, and I’m sure that something must have been going on at school that I wanted to escape (I can’t remember now), but I was devastated to have to go back. I went up to my friend Jen’s room in such a hysteria that she thought someone had died. And I couldn’t explain why I was so upset. I just wanted to be at camp. It felt like it would if I’d gone home and had my mom tell me she didn’t want me there and all my friends slam their doors in my face.

See? It seems silly, doesn’t it? How can a place where I spent such a small fraction of my life be such a big deal? Well, it’s where I learned to feel comfortable away from home and family. It’s where I learned to make friends “from scratch,” without any prior history or connections. It’s where I learned that some friends aren’t good for you. It’s where I met some of my best friends to this day. It’s where I learned new skills I might not have learned anywhere else – kayaking, rock climbing, canoeing, zip lining, riflery, capture the flag, breaking and entering, the true art of prankery. It’s where I learned to be myself. It’s largely where I learned who I was to begin with.

Who wouldn’t want to be in that place?

I wrote to Santa, and HE WROTE ME BACK!!!

HO!! Ho!! ho!! Beth!!Thank you for sending me your email all the way from Raleigh!  Did you know that Raleigh is one of Mrs. Claus’ favourite places?  The other thing she really likes is to read all your wonderful emails.  As a matter of fact, she was just asking if I had heard from you lately!

Heres a picture of Santa just for you Beth!My goodness, Beth!  Are you fibbing to ol’ Santa Claus?!?  You can’t possibly be 28 years old already!  Why it seems like only yesterday that I was leaving presents for a certain little girl and here you are now, practically one of Santa’s elves! (*grin*)

Sorry the presents the last little while probably haven’t been quite as exciting as they were when you were a little girl but, well, you know how these things go (*wink*).  Anyway, Santa’s glad to see some of the ‘older kids’ (not to mention anyone in particular!) still take the time to write.  I also hear you’ve been a REALLY REALLY good girl.  (Of course, you won’t mind if I do a little checking, will you? HO!! Ho!! ho!!).  I’m glad you mentioned the reindeer because they’re all outside playing reindeer games right now.  Did you know you can even vote for which reindeer will guide my sleigh this Christmas?

Let’s see what you put in your letter for Christmas wishes: 1. trip to europe; 2. job with benefits and; 3. shopping spree.  May all your Christmas wishes come true!HO!! Ho!! ho!!  Can I tell you a secret?  I thought it might be fun to get Mrs. Claus something just like that for Christmas too!  Let’s hope the elves can make enough of them for everyone!

Oh yes, before I forget Beth, the elves really want you to visit my new blog!  It is called Santa Claus’ Christmas Blog.  My blog is all about Christmas, life at the North Pole, and me, Santa Claus !  You can even write messages to me and see what others have written.  I can hardly wait to see what you write!

HO!! Ho!! ho!!  Rudolph wants to take me for another test ride in the sleigh so I better get going!  The new sleigh is ‘Internet-equipped’ so I can even get your emails Christmas Eve when I fly around the world!  Take care Beth and don’t forget to come back and visit me here at EmailSanta.com on Christmas Eve!!  And remember…  only 23 more sleeps until Christmas!!

With All My Heart,
Santa Claus