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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

Cultivate the Sweet Moments

Tom dresses up like Santa Claus. He has decorated a corner of his front yard with Christmas backdrops pinned to the fence, along with wrapped gifts and lights. A sign rests on the two arms of a rocking chair: “Santa will be here on Saturday between 11:00 and 1:00. Come take some pictures.”

Saturday comes, and Dean and I walk back to the neighborhood from our morning trek. We lose our grown-up selves in little-kid anticipation, excited to see the bearded man. When we approach the corner there he is, standing within a small circle of our neighbors. Red hat. Snow white beard . Everyone waves and motions us come on. For just a minute, I really am five-years-old again, because the world is wondrous and magic is afoot.

Our dog Mickey poses for the camera too. Somehow for the second that it takes for our friend Penny to snap the photo on her I-Phone, he manages to stop wiggling and wagging and looks directly into the lens, Mister Noble Dog - Mister I’ve Never Eaten Tissues From The Wastebasket – Mister I’m Not the One That Gums Those Socks You Left On The Floor. Mickey, like us, just wants to give Santa the impression that he’s been good.

More people gather, taking in the morning scene that plays itself out in warm wishes and kind-hearted humor. I love that Tom does this. In such strange and difficult times where a lot of public discourse amounts to name calling, I'm basking in the humanity of my neighbors and their goodwill toward one another. Dean and I make our way home with full hearts and smiles.

An hour later, Penny drops off cookies that she’s baked. They’re pumpkin/peanut butter, but they’re not for us, they’re for Mickey. For us, there’s a box of Sees Peppermints, Assorted Dark and Milk Chocolates. Immediately, Dean and I recall childhood stories of Sees Candy and how those were always a part of the holidays. His family got the big Sampler, with all kinds of nougats and caramels, while my mom always got the Chocolate Covered Cherries.

Stories of childhood holidays, good feelings for our neighbors and their cheeriness; a Texas morning cool and crisp enough for a wool hat and a jacket; times of lighthearted banter and abiding kindness. . . these delights, I gather close to me. I’m collecting sweet moments to savor. Though I still worry about an unrelenting pandemic, about toxic politics and cancerous greed, my community, family, and friends hold the light of hope high. Together we find solace in the promise held in a small single flame, and that helps me to keep the purpose of my life in perspective. Love. Kindness. Gratitude. So profound. So very simple. May we all be filled with such gifts.

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