Friday, March 27, 2015

Guest Post: Open Letter to Clay Travis of Fox Sports RE: Trashing Appalachians

On the Oppression of Appalachians: A Response to Fox Sports columnist Clay Travis
By Andrea Fekete

Today, I read a blog post titled “Kentucky V. West Virginia: The Dumbest Sweet 16 Game of All Time” by Clay Travis on Outkick the Coverage: Fox College Football Blog of Fox Sports.com, an unlikely place to find hate-speech of any kind. His verbal assault on Appalachians takes me back to the stories I grew up hearing on Buffalo Creek, stories about the man-made disaster officials of Pittston Coal dismissed as an “Act of God.”

According to Travis’ post, Kentucky and West Virginia residents are the dumbest, most uneducated people in our nation. First, let me say, I do not fit Travis’ stereotype of an uneducated hillbilly. I teach as an adjunct at local university.  I am a published writer. I do the work I love. I educate a populace often told how dumb they are by people like Travis. With that said, let me be clear, this response it not at all about how we do or do not fit his stereotypes. My response is to explain why these exist.

Travis, who is supposed to be writing about a basketball game between Kentucky and West Virginia, instead attacks folks in our region with trite insults we Appalachians often hear in the media. He tells us how dumb we are, how we have no self esteem, how so few of us have Bachelor’s Degrees, how we are racist, violent, and homophobic.

The language he uses is verbal violence, hate-speech. He taunts Appalachian readers by adding that soon the comment section would be filled with “dumb people proving just how dumb they are.” Even our smart people are dumb, according to Travis. Kentucky is “number one in mullets.” We are worse than ignorant to him.

I wonder if he realizes he is merely a cog in the massive money making machines of coal barons who destroy our land and chemical companies who poison our rivers.

I wonder if he knows using a major platform to insult a disadvantaged, struggling population could possibly breed fatalism among our youth, kids who already have a difficult enough time.
I wonder if he knows what dehumanization is, what it allows.

I wonder if he realizes how his article exudes ignorance; the very trait he ironically says is our worst.
Appalachia is inhabited by a people who have historically met impossible odds with courage. We are defined by our intense love of family and of place. We have inherited a painful history, true. No one can know the strength of our people, not unless they are one of us. There is a certain kind of strength we inherit when we listen to our fathers talk with closed eyes about walking among ghosts and surviving to tell the story.

When the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972 destroyed everything in its wake in Logan County, West Virginia killing 118 people, some bodies were never found. There is a grave back home that contains the bodies of unidentified infants with a headstone that reads: “Angels Known Only to God.”
After I read Travis’ long monotonous rant punctuated by the word “dumb” every sentence or so and other cliché insults directed at us, my mind turned dark. I starting remembering stories of corpses in trees, bodies under railroad tracks, unidentified babies, and deep despair of survivors, because it is the violent hate-speech in Travis’ column that perpetuates the idea that Appalachian people are less than human, that we deserve scorn and exploitation. It is the collective blind eye to our history of oppression that allowed Pittston coal to cause the deaths of over 100 people one early morning in February.  

Pittston Coal had allowed three “dams” which were not actually dams but clogs of coal slurry blocking the creek in three places to go unchecked. The water reached such a heights that when it rained for several days in February, the coal company was aware the poorly monitored “dams” might break, yet they warned no one of this impending disaster.

After the devastation, a lawsuit was filed by around 600 surviving families. They received about $13,000 as compensation for their destroyed homes and lives.

According to Kai T. Erikson, author of Everything in its Path, a 70-year-old man commented to a Pittston attorney, "I've often thought some of this stuff could have been avoided if somebody would have come around and said, `Here's a blanket and here's a dress for your wife' or `Here's a sandwich. Could I give you a cup of coffee?' But they never showed up. Nobody showed up to give us a place to stay. . .”

The website of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History reads: “In 1978, an attempt to incorporate Buffalo Creek as a town failed by a vote of 816 to 546. Incorporation would have qualified the area for federal and state rehabilitation grants. Opposition to incorporation was backed heavily by coal companies, which owned 60 percent of Logan County's land and wanted to be excluded from incorporation property taxes.”

I was born and raised in Logan County, West Virginia, right on Buffalo Creek, where mountaintop removal is rampant. Coal companies lop mountaintops off, dumping them in streams. In my hometown jobs are scarce, coal companies are still in control, and poverty is evident.

The man-made disaster Pittston Coal officials called “An Act of God” still lives fresh in our memories, even in those who were unborn at the time of the flood, like me. I was seven when I first saw photographs of the destruction. It has always been a presence in my mind.

A month ago, my father recollected the flood to his grandson, my nephew Trace, who was writing a paper on the Flood for a school assignment. I sat still listening intently, like a kid soaking up the wisdom of a war veteran grandfather.

He talked uninterrupted for half an hour. Not once did he open his eyes or relax his brow.  Among his resurrected memories, one I found most striking was his story of the state police ordering him to help clean up the corpses. A police officer motioned to a flatbed truck saying, “Hop in, boys.” They drove them through the black sludge covered road. My 23 year old father picked up the muddy corpses with the help of other young men. The bodies were later piled in our school gymnasium to be identified by family. I never sat in that gym without imagining the scene.

Afterward, to prevent another similar disaster, laws were passed but not enforced.

The WV Division of Culture & History reports: “In 1973, the West Virginia Legislature passed the Dam Control Act, regulating all dams in the state. However, funding was never appropriated to enforce the law. In 1992, an official with the state Division of Natural Resources estimated there were at least 400 hazardous non-coal dams in West Virginia, many of which were owned by the state.”

I know our history well. I wrote and published one historical fiction novel about our coal miners fighting (literally) with coal company thugs and national guardsmen on Blair Mountain. They were fighting for basic workers’ rights, human rights. It was the largest armed insurrection against the U.S. government since the Civil War.

Our state is strangled by the strong hand of industry while our mountaineers are left starving in the shadows. The coal companies lie to our people, convincing them if we don’t allow them to lop off tops of mountains we will have no mining jobs at all. Then, when it is convenient for King Coal, they layoff miners anyway blaming Obama and the EPA.

Then, there are the sins of the chemical companies. In 2014 there was a major spill of crude 4- methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Freedom Industries’ negligence was to blame. Ken Ward Jr., of the Charleston Gazette, wrote, “When West Virginia inspectors arrived at Freedom Industries late Thursday morning, they discovered that the company had taken ‘no spill containment measures’ to combat the chemical spill that has put drinking water supplies off-limits for hundreds of thousands of residents.” Soon after, new protections were put in place but with a Republican majority, a bill to roll back safety standards on these chemical tanks in West Virginia was recently introduced.

As with any historically marginalized people sharing a collective cultural identity, Appalachian people have been dehumanized, have been branded “other” by the mainstream media and therefore, the sins of industry committed against us are forgotten and forgiven.

It is well known that African Americans were dehumanized to the most extreme levels in our national history. During the pro-slavery and abolitionist debates, doctors and scientists published writings in support of slavery. They used their positions of prestige to give validity to their assertions that African Americans were inferior to whites not only in intellect, but also in their hearts. These “experts” spoke of Africans’ inability to feel love, even for their children. Africans were labeled inferior, as deserving of their captivity and torture. Some “experts” even claimed slavery was best for them since a population so stupid could never self sustain. They were “better off.” Historically, Appalachians and Native Americans have also been branded with the label of inferiority. It is not a coincidence that these three groups also share a history of exploitation for financial gain.

When we talk about racism or sexism as it relates to literary theory in my Fiction and Nonfiction course, one student always asks, “But why does it seem like one group is always stereotyping another? Why?”

I always answer by writing one lonely word on the board: POWER

Without power, no group can profit off the backs of another group. The bricks of this nation are bound with the mortar of black slaves’ blood, sweat, and tears. Without making the oppressed group less than human, citizens of even the mainstream oppressive group would disagree with the abuse of the so-called “inferior” group. The stereotypes are there to maintain the hierarchy, to assure the party gaining financially will continue to do so.

How does one group convince the general public the oppressed group is not oppressed at all but rather deserving of and even implicit in their own oppression and exploitation? Through brainwashing of the mainstream, of course, but how is that achieved? The media.

Of course, it isn’t only through the media stereotypes can be widely spread and maintained. Evidently, even national chain pharmacies like to step in and help out. Walgreens carries the Halloween “costume” pictured below in their stores. I took this picture Halloween of 2014. You can see the “W” logo of Walgreens just above the package.

While I don’t attend church myself, many of my West Virginia and Kentucky family and friends are proud Christians. On their behalf, in regards to our bigots and our oppressors, I say: forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

Works Cited


“Buffalo Creek.” West Virginia Division of Culture and History. West Virginia Archives and History,  n.d.   Web. 27 March 2015.

Erikson, Kai T. Everything in its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976. Print.

Travis, Clay. “Kentucky V. West Virginia: The Dumbest Sweet 16 Game of All Time.” Outkick the  Coverage: Fox College Football Blog. Fox Sports, 25 March 2015. Web. 27 March 2015.

Ward, Ken. “Freedom Industries Cited for Elk Chemical Spill.” The Charleston Gazette. The Charleston Gazette, 10 January 2014. Web. 27 March 2015.

 This article first appeared at http://proudtobewv.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Talk and The Book

I recently gave the boys two age appropriate books about bodies and where babies come from and all that. I found one called It's Not the Stork for ages 4 and up, and it's companion for older children called It's So Amazing.  I had botched any attempt at having an appropriate discussion about babies the last time they asked, and I had noticed that they had stopped asking me anything about how babies were made altogether.  I realized I was about to lose control over the flow of information - if they decided Mama was an unreliable source of information, they would start asking other people instead. I figured a couple good books were the way to go.



I let them discover the books on their own, and told them they could read them alone or we could read them together, or they could not read them at all.  Big Pants voted to read the books on his own. I tucked the boys into bed that night, and Big Pants fell asleep reading one of the books.  By some miracle, it migrated to his younger brother's bed by morning. 

I waited for the questions to start, but none were forthcoming. I wondered if I should bring it up or not, but decided to wait a little longer. Finally, at dinnertime, Tiny Pants had something to say.

TINY PANTS:  Well, that book answered one question I've had for a long time. 
MAMA: What was that?
TINY PANTS: How girls pee.  It's called the Opening of the Virginia. 
MAMA: Actually, babies come out of their Mama's bodies through the vagina, but they pee through their urethra. 
TINY PANTS:  No, it's called the Opening of the Virginia. 
MAMA: Vagina.
TINY PANTS: VIrginia. 
I gave up.

A few days later we flew to Florida for a family vacation.  Tiny Pants brought The Book.  We were seated in the back of a full flight, elbow to elbow with strangers, though luckily, Tiny Pants had a window seat. He pulled out The Book. 

TINY PANTS:  Mama, is it pronounced, Ah-Noos?
 MAMA:  No, it is Ay-Nus.
TINY PANTS: Is it Vel-vah?
(Oh God, please don't let the people around us be listening. I know that's a poorly constructed sentence, but I can't think clearly.)
MAMA:  No, it is VUL-VAH.
I was trying really hard. Really, I was. I wished they would ask Daddy instead. I wished for that as hard as I could. 

After vacation, The Book accidentally went to Daddy's house. I was hoping it would stay there and Daddy could deal with it. No such luck. It reappeared the following week in the Daddy-And-Mommy-Bag we use to transfer toys between houses. 

At this point, Big Pants had finished reading both of the books I had given him, the one for ages 4 and up and the one for ages 7 and up. Tiny Pants really wanted his brother to read the one for ages 10 and up, even though he is only 9. I thought about it. He was almost 9 and 1/2. He was close. 

MAMA: Big Pants, do you want to read the last book?
BIG PANTS: Oh, Mama, I have enough knowledge for now. I'll wait for September. 

Tiny Pants became frustrated with his own reading ability, so he asked me to read The Book to him.  Every night I read just a few pages. We went through the names of all of the body parts, inside and out, for both sexes.  We even discussed circumcision. Then one night I saw that the next night we would be reading the Penis goes in the Vagina part.  Oh Lord, give me strength. I was not ready for this. 

But, miraculously, Tiny Pants lost interest. The next night, he requested I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid instead of The Book. The same thing happened the next few nights.

My mother used to say that, "God watches out for fools and drunks," but apparently Someone has their eye on really uncomfortable mothers as well.  


Monday, February 9, 2015

On Racism and Politics and Children

image: http://followgreenliving.com




Tiny Pants finds a lot of things wrong with the world, and when he grows up he's going to get to work changing laws. I think he'd make a great politician, because he's smart, charming, and has a flexible view of truth. His brother has too strong of a moral code to make it in politics. 

Right now Tiny Pants has two pressing issues on his agenda:

1. Eminent Domain (He feels very strongly that no one should be able to force you to sell your house to put up a Target or a highway. He feels it's un-American.)

2. Saving tigers  (He thinks we should adopt them and take them home to protect them from hunters.  Seeing as that's not possible, he wants stricter laws against hunting, like life in prison.)

We were driving yesterday, which seems to be when we have a lot of important discussions. This is kind of inconvenient, because I am only half able to form good answers while avoiding hitting other vehicles. Driving is not my best skillset. 

TINY PANTS:  Mama, was Martin Luther King Jr. shot because he changed the law?

MAMA:  Yes. (A little simplified, but I was driving after all.)

TINY PANTS:  Well, I want to change the law, too, but I don't want to be killed. 

And that right there is the problem with the world. 

MAMA: Well, he was changing all of society. A lot of people back then didn't think black people were as good as white people. They weren't allowed to go to the same restaurants.

TINY PANTS: They had to use different drinking fountains and sit at the back of the bus and go to different schools. 

MAMA: Right.  The word for people who think one color is better than another is racist. And a lot of racist people were angry to see things change. (I struggled to explain why someone would think this.)  They weren't very nice people.  I think people are a lot nicer now. (Lie)  I don't think anyone would shoot you for changing laws now.  Laws get changed every single day in this country and no one gets shot over it.

Of course I instantly thought of all the school shootings and how he has more of a chance of being shot going to school than as a member of congress. I didn't say that, of course.  But I thought it. 

I wanted to say that all the big fights, the ones that enrage people like racism, are over and solved and in the past.  But that's too big of a lie to tell him. 

Oh people, can't we learn to behave better so I can explain things more easily to my six year old? He just wants to protect tigers and not let the government force people out of their homes.  He doesn't know things like racism and sexism and homophobia still exist, and that people still get so crazy they shoot each other over them.  He doesn't know it's still not legal for his grandmothers to marry in our state. He doesn't know that Mama gets hate mail for writing about feminism. He doesn't know that people are shot every day over race in this country.

I want him to change the world. And I want the world to be safe enough for him to fight to change it.







Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Tooth Fairy Got Played

I try to be a good tooth fairy. 



Last night Tiny Pants lost a tooth right before bed. I found the tooth box, we wrote the required note asking the tooth fairy to please, please let him keep his tooth, and put the note under his pillow and the tooth box beside the bed. 

Thirty minutes later, good old Tiny Pants is bouncing on his bad and has "hid" his note for the tooth fairy on the floor in a little secret space between the nightstand and the wall. Clever, isn't he?  I threatened to remove the  tooth until the next night if he didn't go to sleep. 

I set an alarm to remind myself, because last year the tooth fairy fell asleep  which caused all sorts of chaos and confusion. When the alarm went off, I snuck back into his room, dug the note out from under his pillow and slipped the two dollar bills underneath.  OK, shoved is perhaps a better description than slid, if you must know.  Tiny Pants woke up but I got him back to sleep in under 3.3 seconds. Win.

This morning Big Pants woke up first. "I wonder if the tooth fairy left me anything?" he asked.  Shizah!   

When Big Pants started losing teeth, Tiny Pants was so jealous that the tooth fairy started bringing him a lollypop when his brother lost a tooth. It seemed easier. I had forgotten, or at least had hoped he had forgotten. He hadn't. 

I ran back down stairs and rummaged through the cabinets for the new Dove chocolates I had bought (myself) and ran upstairs with them cleverly concealed in my hoodie pocket.  I very sneakily slid them under the folded clothes at the end of the bed that he was supposed to wear today. 

Meanwhile, Tiny Pants was up and looking for his tooth fairy loot and Big Pants had found his chocolate. The dollars were nowhere to be found. 

Look, I know I put it under his pillow. I was stone cold sober and in retention of all of my faculties last night. I did not dream it.  But the money was gone. We took the pillows out of their cases. We used a light to look in the crack between the bed and the headboard. We picked up the mattress completely off the bed. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

I ran frantically back downstairs, luckily found two more dollars in my wallet, and ran back upstairs. I fluffed his sheet and let them fall like little autumn leaves onto his bed. (Of course neither child was looking at the time, which was a shame because my slight of hand was Vegas worthy.)

Problem solved, or so I thought. 

Tiny Pants commences to get dressed, and inside his UNDERPANTS beneath his pajamas he pulled out my neatly folded original two dollar bills. He was astonished.  
Or acted it.

"Four dollars Mama! I got four dollars this time!"

I think I've just been played by a six year old. I'm starting to look forward to the day they stop believing.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Small Conversation Destroyed my Magical Thinking



Tiny Pants and I were sitting at the computer, which was placed an an antique flip-top desk.  He pushed down on the folding desktop — something he knows he is not supposed to do — and I said something like, "Do you know how mad Mama would be if you break this desk?"  

"You would never forgive me," he answered.  

"There is nothing you could ever do that Mama would never forgive. Never." I replied.  I was glad of this conversation, because I wanted him to always remember that he can depend on my love, even when he's a teenager, even when he does bad things. It often seems likely that of my two children, Tiny might be more likely to cause some major havoc someday.

"There's somebody I will never forgive," he answered.  I still didn't realize that the conversation was bigger than just breaking rules and unconditional love. 

"Who?" I asked, still thinking about what a good job I was doing talking about love and forgiveness.

"Asthma."

And then I realized I wasn't doing that good of a job at all. 

Last month one of Big Pant's classmates died from complications due to asthma. I tended to assume Tiny Pants wasn't that close to the child, so didn't have as much grief. I forgot that the two-and-half-year age gap between my sons left my youngest vulnerable.  I had focused primarily on the loss his older brother had experienced.  Tiny may not have known this child as well, but he was still wrecked by it. 

"I know, Honey," I said, and hugged him. I thought it was over. It wasn't. 

Big Pants had fallen and bruised his knee earlier that day and was, in my opinion, milking it to avoid doing homework and going to bed on time. Big Pants had had a hip injury in the fall resulting in a hospital stay, and I made some comment about how if he kept having problems with his joints we'd have to go back to the hospital for some tests. This was partially a scare tactic (and a bad one) to get him to go to bed, but also voiced some real concern.  The doctor had said that continued joint pain might be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, and I was just enough of a hypochondriac to worry, even though I knew the cause of this particular injury. 

At bedtime Tiny Pants started to cry. "I don't want Big Pants to go to the hospital," he said. 

At that moment I knew that this little boy's head was full of fear and death and mourning, even though he acted fine during the day and only complained about things like putting his plate in the dishwasher.  Our not talking about his grief and fear had not made them go away.

Sometimes all we can do is hold our children when they cry.  Sometimes we utter reassurances that we know we can't sustain, but we have to say something. 

Today, this week, I will try to be sensitive to the fact that sometimes there is a lot more going on under the surface than I realize, that acting normal doesn't mean that grief has passed.  Why should I expect a six year old to mourn any less than an adult?  My hope that he had magically healed hadn't made it so. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Great Latke Incident of 2014



recipe and image: epicurious.com

My son had to do a big project for his cultural party. First, he had to pick a country. I slightly manipulated him into picking Israel, because we are half-Jewish and it's the only foreign country where he has real cousins residing.  I told him that we would make latkes. He had never eaten a latke, and to be honest, I haven't eaten a latke since I was around nine, and I've never cooked them. Still, I enthusiastically filled out the form and sent it back to his teacher.

Then the world came crashing down around our ears. A beloved classmate died unexpectedly. The whole family got the flu. Big Pants missed school for a week. Suddenly, the project was due and we had one night to do it, plus make the latkes. This entailed creating a banner, a flag, and ornament all of which had to contain researched facts. It wasn't that much work, really, but it was a pile of stuff to do. I knew I wasn't going to have time or energy to make latkes for twenty. 

I asked two "real" Jewish friends (not half, like me) if there was some sort of cheat I could use. Like perhaps frozen hash browns or something. They both denied all knowledge of any such half-assed latke making technique. 

I got potatoes, which Big Pants happily peeled.  I went out and bought a grater. I held the potato and slid it across the grater, and realized this was more work, time, effort, energy, than I was capable of. This was going to take FOREVER. 

My S.O. wandered into the kitchen, innocently thinking he could refill his coffee cup and escape again, but when he saw my slumped shoulders he stepped up to the plate. He taught Big Pants to grate, and that boy grated all the potatoes and chopped all the onions -- the two of them laughing over the grunt work. All I had to do was fry 'em up in a pan. 

I fried, and was unsure if I was creating something at all successful. Big Pants held up the recipe with glee, "Mama, it looks just like the picture!"  Success!

It turned out that this latke cooking event that I had dreaded for days saved us.  It was the first time that laughter and smiles were sustained for a long period of time. It was like we were all normal again.  We even succeeded at making an edible product that every one liked except Tiny Pants, who refused to try them. 

I always understood the idea of "food is love" to mean, "since I love you, I will cook for you."  I never really understood that making food together can be love.  That everyone chopping and slicing and laughing together in a hot kitchen is an experience we all really needed, much more than we needed latkes.

Turns out, they sell Latkes frozen at  Trader Joe's, but I'm glad I didn't know that at the time.  I wouldn't trade last night for all the perfect easily reheated latkes in the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Watching Your Child Greive


I took my kids on our annual trip to see Santa. We make a production of it. We take the Unnecessary Train – we could drive there faster, but trains are fun – we see the Christmas show and do our holiday shopping.  The Santa bit is a twenty-minute experience in a magical workshop filled with colorful elves.  


This week my nine-year-old lost a classmate. A boy that he really liked, even though he lived too far away for many play dates.  A boy I really liked, and liked his parents.  I always wished he lived closer.   This week I watched a classroom of kids hear of the death of their friend.  I saw children weep, and others turn their bodies hard and curl inwards, folding a paper over and over and not looking at anyone.  I saw two boys squeeze into a small chair together and just sit there, not speaking.   

I saw teachers crying in the halls and carefully watching their students for clues as to how they could help – a hug, a tissue, a chance to run around or sit by themselves.  I realized teachers spend more time with these kids than practically anyone else, certainly more than most relatives.  I saw the whole school’s staff try their hardest to pull themselves together for their classes.

This week I saw my son consumed by grief. Mama, I don’t know how to close my eyes to go to sleep. Every time I try I just cry and cry.  Oh, Honey, Mama cries and cries, too.  The whole world lost a sweet and beautiful child.

My child cried driving to the train. He cried during the slow part of the Christmas  show.  He cried waiting to see Santa.  I picked up my child who is now too big for my lap and held him as he cried. I held him on the floor when there wasn’t a chair.   I started to tell him, don’t cry, it’s OK, but I corrected myself. You can cry. Nothing about this is OK, I told him instead.

I’m sure the other parents waiting to see Santa wondered if my child was autistic, had an emotional disorder or cancer. Thankfully, no one asked. I could not have answered without crying myself, and I was not going to cry in Santa’s Workshop.


I thought about the Christmas presents our friend’s parents must have already bought and will never be opened. It was really hard not to cry in Santa’s Workshop.


When we went in to see Santa (and we are all still Believers) my boy could not speak to Santa at all – he was too near tears.  He was only a millimeter more not-crying than crying, just enough to keep the tears from spilling down his cheeks.  When Santa asked him what he wanted, he couldn’t come up with a single word and just shrugged.  I reminded him of his list: a hat with a pompom, slippers to leave at school. He just shook his head. None of it mattered to him anymore.

 God Bless that Santa for understanding. Do you like surprises?  elicited a nod.  Than you’ll be excited to come downstairs and see a mountain of socks and underwear under the tree?  My son laughed a real laugh, and the photographer caught it just inside the frame, but barely. 

I ordered the one picture that had a smile from the Santa-Picture-Pushers because I was so happy to see my boy smile, even though it was off-center and made no sense to the photo-pusher who preferred pictures with their subjects neatly arranged on Santa’s lap, not half-falling off.  That picture was my miracle.

When I got home, though, I didn’t bother taking the picture out of the envelope.   The picture I bought was a lie – a souvenir of a happy day that never existed.  It was one of those moments you can look back on in years to come and remember only the happy times, but that’s not who we were that day.  We were so sad we ran out of our house an hour early because we couldn’t stand the feel of motionless time moving backward.


We watched Charlie Brown Christmas and that seemed to help. I’m sad, too, Mama, even though it’s Christmas. It helped him to feel not so alone.  Tiny Pants created a new language and there was a horse named Buttocks and I heard real laughter for a moment.  I know he will alternate being okay with not being okay for a long time. Perhaps I should take that Santa picture out after all, to remind me when I lose hope that there’s a smile waiting just around the corner.  Maybe that’s Santa’s gift to me this Christmas.