Monday, December 13, 2010

On the First Day Of Christmas....

In 2006...

Mikeal, my eldest son, had a visit with Santa. Not just any visit, but his first 'real' visit. He was four years old at the time. Young enough to believe and old enough to respect the power of the office of "Santa".

It was innocent enough. I'd taken him to the family Christmas Party where I worked. He played in the bounce house outside with my supervisor's grandkids, he snatched cookies and candy canes from anyone who offered him one. Then when the big man finally arrived he waited his turn to share his Christmas wish.

It happened to be a moment of truth. A moment for believing again. The very moment that changed my life forever....even if at the time I didn't realize it.

See, I didn't grow-up with Christmas trees or least not in the sense that kids are accustomed to growing up with them. My family was dirt poor. Our house, although built brand new, when I was 5, did not have plumbing. My parents did not have the money to have a well dug on the property and city water stopped at the top of the hill. So every Saturday my mom hauled all of our laundry to the laundromat to wash it. On every Sunday we filled 50 some-odd 5-gallon buckets, with lids, full of water from my either of my grandparents' houses. We cut down trees all year long off our property so that we could have firewood to stay warm all winter. We raised our own hogs, goats, chickens, and rabbits that we would collect milk and eggs from and butchered the rest as they grew large enough. Every Spring we'd sell the new babies. My parents weren't disabled, in fact they both had decently paying jobs. They just weren't terribly responsible. They hadn't really been taught how to properly manage their money. Then, having four children, within the first 5 years of their marriage, did not help a great deal dad was 25 when my baby brother was born, my mom only 23.

Back to my Christmas point...

I can solidly remember only ever having two Christmas trees, ever, growing up....I know we had one the year my sister was born, I was 2.5, but I only know that because of the pictures of the three of us standing in front of the tree...myself, my younger brother, and my sister. I don't remember that tree. The first tree I do remember us having I was 10. My parents had dug it up out of the woods of our property and placed it in a 5-gallon bucket. I remember decorating it with a crocheted string that I had made - I'd learned how to crochet a little bit a few months before. We'd also made the few ornaments that were put on the tree that year. Charlie Brown would have been proud. We had a variety of gifts that year. My parents had signed us up for Angel Tree gifts that year. I already knew about the truth behind Santa...many years of disappointment of going back to school without my own grandiose stories to tell had already jaded me. That year though my faith in my parents rekindled a bit.

The next year we also had a Christmas tree. It caught fire a few days before Christmas. 'Fortunately' the only substantial damage was to the tree and gifts that were under the tree. It was a bit disappointing, but I don't remember it really being a bad experience.

The following year we moved to Oklahoma, in with my paternal grandparents. My Papa was an over the road truck driver and he always managed to be able to be home around Christmastime, so all of the family seemed to be around for that. That was also the first year my Granny stopped doing Christmas and Christmas trees. She'd renewed her faith and was starting to live her life back according to the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. It didn't bother me. I actually welcomed the lifestyle. Learning the 'real' truth behind the various secular holidays and customs was liberating in a way. I no longer felt like I was burdened by knowing God, but being financially incapable of serving him 'correctly' by not having lavish Christmas celebrations and the like. I do harbor a guilty conscious about not still practicing, but this isn't the time or place for that, not right now.

I didn't have another Christmas tree until Mikeal was 2. I was 22. That Christmas absolutely sucked. I'd finally started getting my life back in some sort of order after leaving my ex and going through a massive bout of depression. I worked my tail off to buy a fake pre-lit 6ft tall tree, complete with a skirt, garland, silver and red balls, as well as some silver bows. The tree was simple, but it was beautiful. The reason it sucked, you ask? I had left Oklahoma and moved to Texas. No big deal in itself, but my ex-in-laws made a huge stink over it when I'd left in August, taking me to court in September, then again in October. At the October hearing I agreed to let them have Mikeal every other month, for a month. I was still trying to play that game 'nice'. In November, when I should have been back up there to pick him up the clutch in my '96 Galant went took the transmission shop from the 2nd of November until the 23rd of November to 'find' the part - a fly wheel. The only reason I they 'found' the part was that Friday, before Thanksgiving, I got rather pissy about their jacking me around. The repair bill was already well over $900 that I didn't have, then add in the $30 a day, one way, for cab rides back and forth to work...thankfully different friends did lend a hand in that department, as they could. I started calling various parts shops in the area. It was after 5pm, on a Friday. Within 15 minutes I had placed only 3 phone calls and all three places that I had called had the part, in stock, for $75. I threw quite the 'bitch fit' on Monday morning, before Thanksgiving, to the transmission shop. My car was ready for me to drive off in by the close of business on Wednesday, at noon. I paid the 50% of the bill that they required that I pay before I could drive my car off...and over the next few months ran that company through the ringer for their shady business practice with me. I ended up getting that original 50% back from them, without having to pay a dime. However, because of the extreme expense involved with just trying to get my car fixed I was unable to pick Mikeal up that week. So arranged for him to spend a few days over Thanksgiving with my mom and sister, then they 'returned' him back to my ex-in-laws. I was going to pick him up around Christmas. My depression started reeling me back in.

The night before I had planned to make the 10 hr drive up to pick up Mikeal - I had half a shift to work the next morning, then was leaving immediately from work - my sister sends me a message over YIM. My ex-mother-in-law had called her and told her that she was planning on taking Mikeal up to Kansas City to visit his child raping father, in the halfway house and that they were leaving in the morning. I immediately called the work voicemail line and left a message that I wasn't going to be into work the next morning because of this. I made that 10 hour drive in less than 6. I was told, by the ex-mother-in-law, that they were flying out at 8am. I drove straight to the airport in Tulsa. NO ONE at the airport had seen either of them, my mom, step-dad, sister, her fianceé, and myself all scoured every inch of that airport and grilled every security officer there. Not one sign of them, anywhere. I called up my ex-mother-in-law again, it was now 9am. She gave me the story that they'd decided to take a bus instead to Kansas City. I flew across town to the bus station. No one there had seen either of them either, not that they were all that convincing. I was in full dead pissed off panic at this point. I did not want to wait another few weeks to see my son! I had already jeopardized my livelihood at this point by not being at work that morning - it was mandatory - show-up or be fired. I was not going back empty handed without my son! I went out to where my ex-mother-in-law had been living. Her car was there...parked right there in the street, complete with its forged paper tag. Her sister answered the door, but claimed to not know where Drucilla was, nor Mikeal. I called the police again at this point. An officer came out, talked privately with the ex-aunt-in-law, came back and told me that because there were no custody papers then there was nothing he could do. Said that because my ex-who was, if you'll remember, in a halfway house, another 8 hours away, gave his mother permission to keep Mikeal then there was nothing I could do about it. The ONLY way I'd be able to do anything at all about it is if Mikeal was there physically and he wasn't going to go in and search the house for Mikeal.

I was utterly defeated. Shy of doing something that would land me in jail my hands were tied...and going to jail would not serve my purpose either.

I slept for a few hours at my mother's house before heading back home, completely drained and defeated. Fortunately my employer was sympathetic and I did not lose my job or holiday bonus.

The friends I had left in the Tulsa area were awesome over the next few weeks. They'd take turns staking out the place my ex-mother-in-law was staying. On January 6th I got the call around 9am that one of them had seen Mikeal there and that he was in fact staying there again and that it did not look like they were going to be leaving anytime soon, but if he did happen to leave that they'd follow him and keep tabs until I was able to be there, in person. The timing had sucked because I wouldn't be getting my paycheck until later that evening, at the end of my shift. A friend of mine, at the time, offered to pay for the trip, and off we went...with both her and her own 2 year old in tow. The trip took almost 8 hours this time...still a few hours shy of the 10 hour 'normal' drive, but she had a 'short' cut that had me going all over the freaking state. I showed up where Mikeal was at though, so that was a moot point in the end. I showed up close to 10pm. They were all there waiting on me. My ex-MIL, her sister, and a friend. Now, I'm not a small woman by any means. I stand 6ft tall and even when I'm sporting a loose size 10 pair of jeans still weigh over 200lbs. These three women were each individually three times my size, despite being a foot shorter than myself...not to fail to mention the fact that two of them (ex-MIL & her friend) were multiple times over violent offenders - the things you learn about people during court hearings.

I walked out of there with my son. I had to hear multiple questions for the next week or two asking me who I'd been in a cat fight with, but I had my son. The law backed me up this time, fortunately. I think I actually shocked a number of my co-workers when they'd half-heartedly would ask me who I'd been in a cat fight with and I answered promptly, and proudly, my ex-mother-in-law, her friend, and sister. You don't mess with the momma bear. You just don't. I had a few bruises and scratches. Not a single one of them walked away without stitches or a cast.

Again...back to Christmas.

It sucked that year. But the new year started off with a bang.

The next year didn't suck in the same sense, but I did end up having to move back to Oklahoma, from Texas, so that I could establish residency there, while living with my mother, so that I could completely pay for my divorce and avoid another such situation. Brian and I also quit talking at this point in time. My ex was back out of the halfway house for the time being, and living back in Oklahoma, so the divorce proceedings weren't going to cost me my year's wages. I actually lucked out in a way this time around. My ex ended up purposely neglecting to show up for any of the court hearings. I walked away with everything I wanted, including him only being allowed two hours a month of supervised visits. Visits he's not taken advantage of since, neither has his mother.

By the end of summer in 2006 I was back in Texas and Brian and I had started talking again, he was going to be moving back in with us in December, after I got set up in my own apartment.

December 13th that year was the Christmas Party. Brian made his way down to Austin, from Dallas, on the 14th.

Mikeal asked Santa for only two things.

1- That his mommy and 'uncle' Brian would get married so that he could have a good daddy.
2- That Santa would bring him a baby brother or sister.

Now remember, he was only 4.

After I got home with Mikeal that evening and he divulged to me what he'd asked Santa for I had to do a bit of 'damage' control. See, Brian is sterile for one. He'd been told by a few doctors that unless there was some sort of medically divine intervention there was no way he was going to be able to have children of his own. Then on the other point - Brian and I still had several things to work through before we actually committed to getting married, and at that point it seemed to be quite the slim chance. The bit about us living together was more of a mutual need fulfillment - he needed a safe place to stay and I needed child care that was available at all hours, for the price of free room and board and food. The 'benefits' part was only available during the times that we were actually 'dating' each other. Otherwise we slept separately...which was most of the time.

That year Mikeal got a few small cheap kiddie games and a remote control car. Our tree was one I was able to 'salvage' from the Big Lots clearance, already pre-decorated, fiber optic, 3ft tall, with a cracked base. Mikeal LOVED it. I was so happy. It was an AWESOME Christmas.

In March my father passed away of a heart attack. He was 44 years old.

Brian made the drive with Mikeal and I up to Oklahoma for the 'memorial'. It was just a quaint service of sorts. My siblings were there, my mom, stepdad, and some family friends. We had the dinner at my mom's house, and spent the afternoon and evening together - playing horseshoes, grilling, and enjoying one another's company. My dad would have been proud. It was exactly what I knew he would have wanted.

Brian proposed to me that evening. The surprise of that came at me like a pitch from left field. We'd already decided a few months before that we were best off 'just friends'...a stipulation I agreed to, even if it did utterly break my heart.

We spent that night at my grandmother's house, on her pull-out couch bed. We wouldn't find out for a few more weeks, but Mikaila was also conceived that night.

Mid-April my co-workers started harassing me about being pregnant. I took the pregnancy test, not because I thought there was a chance that I was pregnant, but to prove to them in pink and white that I was NOT pregnant, just sick and exhausted from pulling double shifts for the last few weeks.

Much to my utter disbelief, I was pregnant.

My due date 'week': December 22-26th.

Against the odds Mikeal's Christmas wishes came true. Brian and I married on Halloween, in front of the judge that had finalized my divorce the year before.

Mikaila was born on December 13th, the first Day of Christmas. She weighed in at a healthy 8lbs 4.6 ounces and was 19 inches long. She was so incredibly tiny compared to Mikeal, who at birth, was 9lbs, 5oz, and 22 inches long.

Every year since Mikeal has gotten exactly what he has wished for for Christmas.

In 2007 he asked for a bike and guitar. We were able to get both for him.

In 2008 he asked to see his Uncle Duke (who'd been away at boot camp) he got his wish, just in time.

In 2009 he asked for snow. It started snowing Christmas Eve, right after he went to bed. By the time he woke up Christmas morning there was 15 inches on the ground. A record breaking white Christmas. White Christmases are a RARITY in Oklahoma, much less in significant quantities.

This year he's really only asked for a (real) Transformer and a Wii. He's already received both of these gifts as 'early' Christmas presents....even if the real Transformer was just a $50 toy that actually transforms from robot to car, complete with sound effects, and myself or Brian have to do the actual full transforming part for him because of the 9000 movable pieces you have to get positioned 'just so'.

He also asked a few months ago for us to not have to worry about being broke...that mostly came true as well. I sold my van the weekend after Thanksgiving, thereby ensuring that we'd have an (expensive) Christmas and that bills and such weren't quite as tight as we had expected them to be for this month. Other things have transpired this month as well that have helped make it a VERY nice month in the finance department of our pocketbook.

So, where I am well past the age of believing in the fairy tale about Santa and his reindeer I am no where near the age past believing in dreams coming true. Even 'far-fetched' dreams have a way of coming true. I have to remember to remember this. Things may not work out exactly as I think they should, when I think they should, but they do have a way of always working out. I just have to believe enough to ask for it then take the necessary steps to help them come true.

Its either that or I have one hell of a 'good luck' charm of a little boy.

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