Submitted: December, 2007
Summary: A sad, insightful tale of one really sad Christmas.
NOTE: I have no idea if cherries grow in Kansas or not…but it is my favourite jam. The nice people on the lcficmb message boards ensured me it was totally plausible for cherries to grow in Kansas. However, it is only a story, so …)
NOTE2: this was originally written on 26th December 2006, inspired by presents given to my sister and me by our relatives. It was also posted on the message boards around that time. Since then it has been kindly edited for me by Elizabeth -from the MB's- as well as my own continual scrutiny over the past 11 months…
With great thanks to Elizabeth and my GE Jeanne, as well as the FoLCs out there who write so much great literature. It is almost a shame to waste it in these genres (but then I would miss out on a great read, so you won't hear me complain about this…)
December 25, 2006
To the readers of Charlotte Kent's Diary,
I don't know your names, but I know your name is not Diary, nor is it Journal… nor log… so, this salutation will do…
Well… It's officially one of my worst Christmases ever. This can be scientifically measured by comparing my gifts. So we must start with a list, right? Or you cannot compare…
From Gamalee (baby talk for Grandma Lane) I got:
— The Oxford Dictionary of Painting and Artists (I cannot paint, am a total klutz… and for heaven's sake, she gave me the same book last year. Besides the fact that for my birthday the year before, my gift was the Cambridge Dictionary of Art).
— This Diary (ok, so I am using it).
— Two copies of the same Mozart CD (wrapped separately, with two different price tags still attached)… I haven't listened to them yet, so I cannot tell if they are good.
— And some stocks and bonds in a mining company! Of all things!
Dad was aghast at my "audacity to be ungrateful"; he took me into the next room and explained how the stocks are apparently worth thousands… In 5 years, when I'm old enough to sell them, they should pay for college… I have no idea about market value etc., but Dad says the yearly dividends will let me buy some really neat stuff, meaning no need for a summer job, etc.
"BUT, DAD," I said, "hasn't she seen my save the rainforest T-shirts… and I thought I made it pretty frank when I wore the Green-Peace T-shirt to lunch today"… He didn't have a reply for that one…
Dad says it's the thought that counts… and Gamalee obviously cares a great deal as she spends so much of her time (and money) shopping for us… But I know he only tries to put a positive spin on something which obviously has no other explanation for the useless items, wrapped up in the most expensive wrapping papers and accompanied by the most expensive cards that money can buy.
From Aunt Lucy:
Some movie vouchers and gift certificates… must have taken a whole ten minutes to decide on, and purchase… online.
From Grampus (Grandpa Sam):
A card via the post, with an I.O.U one Christmas lunch, one Christmas present, and a "Great big hug"… "Sorry, Charlie. Can't make it this year… lots of work to do…blah, blah, blah. Like the pens they gave me at the conference?"
Although, from past experience, it is questionable whether Grampus even sent the letter himself. I mean, yes, the envelope was stamped in New York, but "Superman" could have easily flown to NY and then posted a card. I know he is also not below "borrowing" pens… and Dr Klein would be an obvious source for pens produced by any pharmaceutical company …
As the saying goes: "Where there's a will, there's a way." Dad certainly has the motive for sending the card. He would want to avoid each and every-one of us from being hurt by yet another year where Grampus forgets.
But I am not fooled. It takes more to fool a Kent!!!
Let's not get distracted. I should finish why this year was the WORST CHRISTMAS EVER!
From Mom and Dad:
OK, so they gave me some nice jewelry… which would be good, except I don't really wear jewelry much… but it was tasteful, and no doubt worth a packet, and if I did ever go out somewhere nice, would look great on me… But the stuff is too good… do you know what I mean? If anything happened to the bracelet I was given, my life would not be worth living…
The Bracelet came with a matching pendant… another priceless item…
I am told that the set was left for me by an old neighbor of ours, Bertha Avery, who died years ago (When I was two, or something). Mom says she was the kindest old lady and that she was honored that I was named after her… And so, as she had no children, left me her only valuable jewelry… Apparently, most of her stuff went to charity, but she insisted that "Heirlooms must stay in the family"… and now they are mine.
Grandmamma + Granpaja Kent: As usual, they made all of us homemade Christmas hampers.
These were filled with the usual candy, chocolates, and gingerbread, but more importantly, a year's (more like month's) supply of Grandmamma's best Cherry Jam…
Food's great and all (I can't live without that cherry jam), but it doesn't last forever… unfortunately, Grandmamma can't knit anymore, what with her arthritis, and so my one Christmas staple, the one pressy I always looked forward to, reliable as ever, a GRAMASCARF… it didn't come this year. I guess this made me sadder than the fact that I was given food. Because I do really like all the things that were in the hamper including pressed flowers from the farm, a lock of my lamb's wool (in place of the scarf), and we all got gift certificates too. Jess and Oliver got certificates to Cost-Mart… boys can be so easily pleased… but at least they remembered I prefer Oxfam and other RESPONSIBLE stores, stores which support those less fortunate and pay their suppliers properly (even my candy and chocolates were from Oxfam). All round the Christmas hampers had some pretty good stuff; it would have taken awhile to prepare and shop for all the little things… But the missing scarf thingy, this was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Mom found me, and I eventually had to tell her. She pulled it out of me. She really can interrogate someone— no wonder she is the best reporter there is. My mom, the Journo- should really join the CIA… but anyway, she made me tell her…
Gamma's not making the scarf; all the really, really bad gifts; and me crying… it really adds up to… I NEVER GET WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS. STUPID BOOKS ON ART AND STUPID THOUGHTLESS GIFT CERTIFICATES… Why would I need jam? I live in the city, for Heaven's sake. I can buy jam anytime I like… I REALLY WANTED THAT SCARF, MOM. I ALWAYS GET A SCARF FROM GRANDMAMMA, AND NOW I WILL NEVER GET ONE AGAIN…
Oh, man! Look at the mess I've made! The ink's streaked all over the page. And on my new book too… I guess it illustrates my mood. The tears sort of create the illusion of a post-modernist version of the medieval illustrated manuscripts; maybe I could use the art dictionary after all?
After my talk with Mom, she left me alone to appreciate what was it, oh yeah: "Charlie, quit crying over objects. These may be objects, which were enjoyed and are now unattainable, or otherwise they may appear to be objects given with no APPARENT (she emphasized this) thoughts as to what you wanted. But no matter what, Charlie, these objects were given to you by people who call themselves family. Baby, I learnt the hard way, families do stick together, no matter what. They may not always be there, they may not always be physically close to you, but there is one certainty to which you can depend when it comes to family; families always care for you. They always love you, and always want nothing but the best for you.
"Your gifts from Lucy and my mother, well, they may seem thoughtless now, dear, but remember they only wanted your happiness in the end. It's not their fault they don't know you that well, is it? Lucy lives in LA, and comes to Metropolis only once a year, at Christmas. You avoid my mother like the plague, sweetest, so you can't blame her if she doesn't know you like we do… It was so much easier when you were young enough for toys. You know they always complain to me how hard you are to buy for. Did you get your Grampus' card?"
"Well… I know it was lame, but: "WHAT DO YOU GET THE GIRL WHO HAS EVERYTHING? … PENACILLIN"… and he gave you a silly pen from a drug company… but he used to do that to me too… Sweetie, he did try to be here… honestly."
I didn't respond to that. How could I tell her I thought it was Dad? I mean Grampus had disappointed her so much in the past…
"It is not the gifts that matter at all at Christmas. It is the people who give them" she went on. "The gift is a physical symbol that the giver wants to show you their desire to look after you, always. It is a reminder that the giver will always be there, should you ask for anything. A reminder that the giver cares for you, loves you, and wants you to be happy and comfortable in a wonderful, joyful, fun-filled life.
"Lucy wants you to have fun, dear, thus… the tickets, that's all. There was no callousness involved in the present, nor was there indifference…
"I don't think the scarf is the whole problem, is it? Just as that lock of wool from Lamby is a symbol of the scarf she couldn't make this year… The absence of the scarf, it (now Mom was crying too)… it physically symbolizes to you a future without your Grandmamma… It is not as if you will grow cold this winter, as you miss your GRAMMASCARF. You are really mourning never being held in her arms again. You are scared of losing your Grandmamma, and scared of a future without all your loved ones. Scared of being alone."
She just sat there, rubbing my arms before she really broke down… She then took a minute to compose herself before going on.
"You know, when she first made the scarves, your GRAMMAMA would say to me: 'Lois, wrap those scarves tight around those children's necks, please! They are not just scarves but Grandma hugs in disguise… I can't hug them every day, Lois,' she would say. 'But, my babies can wear their GRAMASCARVES. And they will wear my hugs all day, everyday…'
"From the beginning they were symbols of her love for you, baby. I think you know that… which is why you were so upset an hour ago. But you must remember, darling, that Grandma will always be there for you, she will always love you…"
Then Mom touched my cheek, like she always does. She pulled my face so that I was forced to look her in the eye. I could see pools of tears welling in those big, brown, puppy-dog eyes she has. She pulled me forward, our foreheads touching. Then the floodgates opened, and she finally whispered: "Just as I will always love you, baby".
It has been half an hour since Mom left my room after our talk.
That hand-on-cheek thing is an annoying habit. Especially when I don't want to look her in the eye. It forces her emotions into my calculations. Now it is impossible for me to assess and rate this Christmas with a clear and levelheaded, scientifically unbiased mind. Stupid Freud! Stupid psychoanalytical gobbledygook babble! Now my simple BAD PRESENT equation is filled with Emotions and Premature Grief. This really complicates my algorithm.
And yet this has still been the WORST CHRISTMAS EVER…
AND NOT because of the bad present thingy…
Oh no! I believe Mom, and I know she is right… I mean her dad was never there for her at Christmas, but she accepts that he still loves her, and she tells me he has improved with time… And the prosecution's case really doesn't have a leg to stand on if forgetting Christmas was a crime. Of course, this means that she has to be right. The objects/gifts aren't what matters… Actually, I have no proof that Dad sent the card not Grampus. And if jumping to conclusions has taught me anything, I have to remember that the simplest explanation is always (9 times out of 10) the correct one. I will forget that Dad even sent the card and remember to write back to Grampus…
Then why is this the worst Christmas ever…
Because Because it is the first Christmas where I am truly faced with the reality of human mortality…
I know there is a God (otherwise why have Christmas… huh?) And as such, I know my loved ones will go to Heaven, and not cease to exist… the human soul is eternal, and so is their love for me.
Perhaps "Heaven" is why I never was scared of this before now. But it is the thought of years and years of missing their hugs, years and years without any GRAMASCARVES, and years and years without silly pens/ lame-medical jokes, years and years without Kansas Cherry Jam.
It is the first time that I, Charlotte Avery Kent, am faced with the reality of death…
And I AM SCARED.
BUT for now… I am loved.
"So I will forget the future. (Sounds funny, huh? Don't think Uncle Perry would like that sentence.)"
I must focus on the present… Living in the present gives me pleasure, NOW. But if I spend all my time now reminiscing of times gone by, I will be left with a few very old memories, worn out and altered by the passage of time.
I would have closets full of old vinyl records and those old-fashioned movie reels. Maybe they might get scratched a bit with use… And I will never get time to create new memories on CD, or as mp3… or do fancy stuff with digital movies…
It doesn't matter who sent the card from NY. Mom swears it was Grampus, and it certainly does look like his writing now that I look carefully.
But You, future readers of my diary, will be able to read my memories, and can know of the love shared in my home, and my general happiness … It won't be of any interest as a diary if I only cry about lost fun on the farm… you want to read about my days, and weeks, loves, and hates of years to come…
Yours truly, Charlotte Avary Kent
NOTE: The author can be found on the MB's under Beethoven.