Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Christmas Story

Trace residue of the holiday spirit has turned up once again in the most predictable of places. I reminded Jilly last night that it is time to gird our loins for the Christmas battles to come. Free-floating anxiety can be a dangerous thing if not quickly classified, catalogued, and deposited into the appropriate receptacle. Tranquilizer darts are at the ready; we guard each other’s back in that way.
Our main line of defense in the war against the Santa-Industrial-Complex includes a Yoda hand-puppet that tops our Christmas tree. Yoda, the rat-monkey-dog of Star Wars fame, presides over a mix of traditional and heretical holiday accoutrements. The reality that I cannot be held responsible for my actions during the holiday season is well established. Regarding the Christmas decorations, the task of tempering my desire to mix equal parts Christmas and blasphemy has fallen to Jilly. For this year at least, there will be no anatomically correct barnyard animals or sex toys gracing the branches of our fire-retardant polypropylene facsimile of a Douglas Fir tree.

In order to avoid the impression that our holiday activities include excessive amounts of lamentation, I should set the record straight. Dredged-up memories of crushed childhood dreams do make for some good wallowing and I admit that I’m partial to the seasonal piking of our enemy’s heads. However, after weighing the pros and cons, we no longer indulge in Christmas meltdowns. While I still have a few problems with this “St. Nicholas” business, my Christmas spirit has at least reverted to a pre-1990 state of cautious optimism. Not bad considering I had given it up for dead.

The year 1990 was significant for several reasons. Of all the undesirable events that transpired that year, one in particular stands out. It was the year I lost contact with my eight-year-old daughter. Her mother, sporting a freshly dealt felony conviction for an exceedingly violent assault, chose to run from the law. They crisscrossed the nation with the authorities in pursuit. Long story short, the skills that I had mastered over the years, e.g. expert pigtail installation and skinned-knee repair, were no longer in demand.

For the next seven years, my little girl would leave her childhood scattered along thousands of miles of open roadway with temporary stops in a succession of little towns and big cities from Texas to Timbuktu. She was gone and it was clear that I was not going to get her back, a reality driven home by the fact that I was not her biological father. If your next thought is, “Oh, stepdaughter, that’s different,” I hope you don’t say it out loud, especially if you have a stepchild. My little girl was still learning to walk when I became her father. While I could not have been a more unlikely prospective parent, the bond that developed between my little girl and me was undeniably as powerful as my spiritual connection to my own blood relatives.

Memories of those days drift through my mind on a regular basis. I recall standing at a bus stop. It was the little one’s first day of school and I was anxious to find out how it went. It was also her first bus ride and I had taken extra precautions to be at the right location, at the correct time. The bus pulled up to the curb, empty! Somehow, I had bungled the schedule! I flew into calamity-management-mode and began considering the options. There was a lost little girl wandering down a busy street somewhere! The door to the bus swung open. At the driver’s command, twenty or so little heads popped into view. They were so short you couldn’t see them when they were sitting down. It took several days before I could laugh about that one.

----------------This is my little girl at 3 years old----------------

I remember putting rubber bands on ten-thousand pigtails and staying up late with her when she was sick. I remember an endless supply of hugs and holding her little hand on long walks. There were seven years of birthdays and Christmases and countless times that I carried her on my shoulders while she gripped my ears like handlebars, turning my head in the direction she wanted to go and sometimes making funny engine noises as if she were driving a car. I watched her grow into a caring and loving little person. It all ended in the blink of an eye.

I don’t believe in fate and I am a staunch opponent of the theory that bad things happen for a reason. However, if there is a consistent theme to my life, it is that with every calamity, something good comes of it. So it was that a series of unfortunate events resulted in a protracted search for my purpose in life. The search ended with a stroke of the most unlikely good fortune. I bumped into the lovely and talented Jilly. Within five minutes of our first encounter, she was insulting me and I was slandering her good name. This was clearly love at first sight. We became each other’s best friend, cancelled a big wedding at the last minute, and ran off to a tropical island to get married. I am certain that any life worth living from that time forward is Jilly’s doing.

Not long after Jilly and I met, I received a telephone call in the middle of a busy workday. A voice on the other end of the line asked me to repeat my name and then inquired if I knew her mother. A mule kick would have been less dumbfounding. Somewhere in the prematurely aged tone of a teenager’s voice, I recognized the little girl who used to call me daddy. That was then. She is twenty-three years old now, married to a man worthy of her love, and has two children and one on the way. Since then, there has rarely been a week gone by that I have not had the opportunity to reaffirm my final words before her disappearance, no matter what happened, I would always love her.

As is our tradition this time of year, Jilly and I keep a wary eye on that creepy elf dude with the funny hat. Unfortunate as it is that vigilance should be part of our holiday tradition, it is simply not an option to let down our guard, there has been too much water under the bridge for that to happen. Even so, when I measure the good against the bad, I can’t imagine how I ended up so damn lucky.


Blogger Smalltown RN said...

What a truly wonderful had me laughing, crying and just enjoying your story. I am so happy for you that things turned out the way they did.

You are an amazing have been given a gift...thank you for sharing that gift. Your daughter is blessed to have been able to reconnect with you.

4:40 AM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

I leapt to your blog via Hammer's. Incredible post, and I'm so thrilled it had a happy ending - no doubt you were a steadying force for your daughter and gave her a great example of what to look for in a husband. And it's great that you found your Jilly - it's not luck - it's a reward for a well-lived life. Enjoy.

5:57 AM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Crankster said...

What a fantastic story! Outstanding writing--I was particularly blown away by the fact that you didn't slink into cheap sentiment or a facile conclusion.

I appreciate the notion of being amazed at one's good luck. And realizing that, with a slight shift here or there, you might be somewhere totally different.

9:29 AM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Stucco said...

Slag, brilliantly told as ususal. I wish I'd scrapped the whole wedding plan and run off to a tropical island somewhere (or Vegas for that matter).

2:41 PM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Slag~~~ AMAZING post my friend... ty for sharing that lovely tidbit of your life... you and Jilly are both blessed and I sure hope you have many wonderful years of love and respect from your daughter and her family... sounds like you both deserve the happiness... children are the most precious gift in life we can imagine.

8:06 PM, November 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slag, that was beautiful! Christmas hasn't been the same for me, since my kids grew up... their dad and I divorced... and the loss of the family unit. I soooo miss the days of my chidren's youth. They were the best years of my life! I'm glad you found your little girl again.

8:24 PM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Newsandseduction said...

Touching story. Hope your luck lasts and you find happiness.

8:42 PM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Anne said...

What a beautiful story. IMHO not only are you blessed to have a wonderful family; they are just as blessed to have you. ...i don't like santa either. That jerk takes all the credit for the presents, and he's a racist. (he doesn't bring anything for little Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist kids.) are you trying to get me started again?

10:33 PM, November 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Slagger. Powerful. You're a deep dude and an excellent writer. I'm moved. Thank you.

5:13 AM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger ian said...

I'm so glad you've reconnected with your daughter (the "step" doesn't matter at all). Of all my kids, I'm closest to my daughter and the idea of losing her makes me crazy.

As far as Xmas goes, instead of going all out on decorations, you could do what I saw one house do one year. It was on a block where everyone prided themselves on their exterior decorations. The entire block glowed with such intensity it could probably be seen from orbit. Every year, the local newspaper did a feature on it.

One year, when I was a pizza driver, I made a delivery onto that block. I drove by house after house of extensive decoration and was amazed at the lavish effort and furious expense these people had gone to. Until I got to one house that was mostly dark, with only a single sheet of 4' x 8' plywood leaning against a tree in the front yard. Painted on it were the words:

Scrooge lives here

I still laugh over that one.


11:26 AM, November 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was one story definitely worth telling. And oh, how well it was told by you!

Merry Christmas indeed! =)

12:13 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Qualicum, thank you for dropping by. Those were traumatic times for everyone involved. If my daughter feels even remotely as blessed as I do, then maybe the good does outweigh the bad.

Hello Phlegmfatale, happy endings are few and far between in the real world, I never take mine for granted. Btw, I visited your blog. I was recently introduced to the world of lampwork beads and had an opportunity to integrate the works of a local artist into my raku pottery. I’m amazed by the intricacy and beauty of your creations.

Hi Crankster, not only “somewhere” different, but also “somebody” different. That is a concept that makes me shudder.

Hi Stucco, as you might imagine, canceling the wedding and un-inviting all of the people from both sides of the family were extremely dangerous moves but it was worth it. We were married on a beach under a grove of palm trees. We almost did the deed in Vegas on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. We decided against that when we learned that the presiding crewmember would be a “red-shirt” instead of Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Hi Cheesy, I’m still growing into the concept that I might deserve the good luck. Jilly definitely does deserve it. Maybe I’m riding on her coattails. ;-)

Thanks Shimmerrings. For me, transitions have always been difficult. I hope you keep your eyes open for the next clue to the mystery of it all. The way I figure it, as long as your heart is still beating and you know your own name, there’s a purpose to life that is equal or better than you have experienced so far.

Hi News, thanks. Happiness I have found, the luck shows up every now and then.

Thanks Anne, it’s comforting to know that others see through Santa’s bogus façade.

Hey Doc, thanks for your kind assessment.

Hi Ian, thank you and I agree with your sentiment. I have no use for the “step” prefix. To me, it’s an unwarranted qualifier. Regarding the over-the-top decorations, that would be way too much pressure to deal with.

Hi Irene, thank you very much and thank you even more for not pointing out that it is still more than a month away from Christmas. ;-)

1:35 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger singleton said...

Wow! This should be the new Christmas Story. Beautiful. Poignant. Honest. Raw.

7:14 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger Jill said...

Hey, who said there wouldn't be any sex toys on the Christmas tree this year??

9:21 PM, November 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant imagine the spectrum of emotions you must have felt when you recieved that call. I have two other daughters and a son and they call me mom but they live in the uk if anything happened to them I would loose my reason. Im so glad you and your daughter are a family again and that Jilly makes is perfect and complete. Finding someone that can make you that happy is a tall order when your that low - she must be quite a lady. Why do I have a vision on Anal beads on a christmas tree now???

4:09 AM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read your post, I travelled through a range of emotions. I felt your sadness, pain, regret, acceptance, happiness, and joy. I don't think I've ever been so moved by a blog before.

I was happy to hear a positive ending to your story and I wish you continued good fortune.

5:04 AM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Kara said...

Wow...your story makes me ashamed that I spend my holidays trying to dodge my own family to hang out in bars with my friends. Ok, I just made myself sound really pathetic. I'm really not that pathetic. I just like bars better than families. Ok, I'm stopping now. Damnit.

11:37 AM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Blimey, Slag, that's brought a lump to my throat. I think it's one the most powerful posts I have ever read. Your powerful sense of humour and obvious compassion do you justice, my friend. Well done.

11:46 AM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Singleton, I appreciate your kind words and thanks for dropping by.

Jilly, it feels a little strange talking about sex toys with that photo staring at me. I would like to make it clear to all that Jilly is in fact a fully grown woman. Now, I hope you understand the ramifications of giving me carte blanche with the Christmas tree decorations. Once I start, you can’t be raising hell about my naked Santa and dead Elvis dolls or the “Johnny the Wad” candlesticks.

Hey Judith, I can’t seem to keep track of those butt beads. They’re here one minute and gone the next. I’ve looked everywhere, except….

Hi Matt, thanks for dropping by the old homestead. Thank you for your kind assessment and spiritual support.

Hi Kara, there is no need to be ashamed. With just a few exceptions, I would rather soak in a hot tub full of flesh eating viruses than spend 5 minutes with my extended family.

Hi Bazza, I’m surprised and moved by the responses to this post. This was an emotionally draining endeavor and I feel that I have not met my obligation to the other people involved to tell their side of the story. I’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

1:38 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incredible post; gutsy and inspiring both.

It's been my experience, too, that I'd change nothing about my life,even though it's had its share of grief.

Congratulations on finding a happy life. I think no one deserves it more.

4:30 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Orhan Kahn said...

Long story short, the skills that I had mastered over the years, e.g. expert pigtail installation and skinned-knee repair, were no longer in demand.

That got me all teary eyed.

Incredibly heart felt and passionate post, dude. Well bloody done. I'm just so glad she found you and lives a happy, loving life.

Another 10/10 post.

5:23 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to go through life not knowing how your little girl is, what she's been up to, etc. I'm so happy that she got back in contact with her and I hope that the two of you are able to continue to stay in touch and to build up as strong a relationship as you had when she was a little girl.

6:01 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I'm sure your daughter feels just as blessed to have you... maybe more so.
P.S. Thanks for picking a good picture!

10:31 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing story and with words which are so heart felt and true!this is my first visit to your blog and I'm moved.I can't even imagine how it would be if I were to lose my daughter and so I can't even begin to feel how awfully hard the journey would have been.It really got me teary eyed.I'm so glad you found your soulmate as well as your daughter!She is also lucky to have parents like you and I'm sure she knows that.Thanks for sharing this amazing story with us!

10:51 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

High Mystic Wing, I’m fairly certain that sometime early in life, if I had gotten out of bed one minute earlier or turned left instead of right, I might not be here and who knows that I would even be alive. In that respect, I wouldn’t change one moment or event in my life. I could be completely full of it but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hey Orhan, it is a kick in the gut for me every time I think of it. The memories are like yesterday.

Thanks Silverneurotic, there are countless many who never reconnect with their children. I am one of the lucky ones. I couldn’t be happier to have her back in my life.

Hi Rachel, I can’t imagine it, but maybe so.
P.S. You know there are no bad pictures. That one is my favorite though.

Hello Fuzzylogic, thanks for dropping by and thank you for your kind words.

12:54 AM, November 14, 2006  
Anonymous Hammer said...

I've got a couple little ones of my own and your post really makes me appreciate the time I get to spend with them.

I can't imagine having to go through what you did.

Thanks for reminding me what's really important.

2:25 AM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Hammer, it’s like they say, you don’t miss the water till the well runs dry. For parents who are not biologically connected to their children, the water level in the well is a fairly critical issue.

9:38 AM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger alphawoman said...

If this comes up two times...(because I got one of those gate messages, strange) I love stories that have Happy endings!

6:11 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Alphawoman, nope, just once. As all of my narratives end with me surviving, happy endings are guaranteed. Happy for me anyway.

10:31 PM, November 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Slag. I feel your pain with a similar step-child situation. The season only amplifies the pain. With you as a parent, she's well equiped to find her way out of anything!

6:36 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Thanks Madpotter, it’s a tough position to be in, but the alternative of not allowing yourself to bond with a stepchild is an unthinkable proposition. A person could save himself a lot of misery but at what cost to the little one.

9:07 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger STAK said...

well put me in mind of a song off the last album by THE REPLACEMENTS called "Sadly Beautiful"......having been through what you've experienced, i believe it would touch you.........

"i had no chance at watch you grow......up so sadly.....beautiful"

10:31 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger Maven said...

oh my goodness. i found this thru random blog and i am so totally touched by this story. whoa.

12:07 AM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Stak, I just heard that song for the first time and you were right, very heavy. Somebody famous said that happiness is an artist’s worst enemy. I could tell early on that Sadly Beautiful was not going to have a happy ending.

Hi Maven, thanks for dropping by. Considering it has opened a few old wounds, I think it was a good decision to post this one well before the holidays.

1:53 AM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger mist1 said...

Thanks for sharing that one. I had no idea where you were taking me, but once we got there...I enjoyed the ride.

7:25 AM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Thanks for dropping by Mist1. I don’t know where I ‘m going half the time.

12:27 AM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger skinnylittleblonde said...

Beautiful Post Slag...sometimes,unlike you, I do beleive in a form of fate, like the butterfly effect. Parts of me beleive that your role as husband & step-father lead ultimately to you & your sweet Jilly... if that makes sense. I hope these holidays are great & that the only meltdown that occurs is chocolate drizzled over strawberries or something yummy like that. peace&love to you & yours

11:26 AM, November 18, 2006  
Blogger Edukator said...

Wow Sledge you're an amazing writer and a true inspiration. I couldn't be happier for you. It's so great your daughter and yourself were reunited. I'm glad Jilly is there too. Reminds me a bit of me and my wife.

Merry X-mas!

1:46 PM, November 21, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Skinny, fate just might have a role to play, but I am bound by the code of the contrarian to deny it to the end. Along those lines, I am eternally grateful for the chain of unlikely and utterly coincidental events that led to the accidental union of two people who could never have been happy unless they had stumbled upon each other at the exact time and place that they did. How could that possibly be fate? ;-)

Hi Edukator, happy Santa day back at you. I hope they are the good memories.

11:21 PM, November 21, 2006  
Blogger Annelisa said...

:-D Love your bus story!

Wonderful post - I hope that one day your little girl will come and see you again (you never know...)

2:06 AM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger Conquer said...

Wow, awesome post...


1:42 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Annelisa, thanks for dropping by. Jilly and I went to her third baby shower a few weeks ago. I only see her a few times a year but we talk on the phone at least once a week.

Hey Conquer, thank you for your kind assessment of my humble efforts. Btw, I’m a staunch supporter of the theory of “function over form.” I think the phrase “passion before perfection” is a better way to say it. I hope you don’t mind if I plagiarize your blog title on occasion.

4:43 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger Rebecca said...

amazing, what a beautiful little girl.

12:50 AM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Rebecca, thanks for dropping by. As you might have guessed, I am in complete agreement with you.

11:51 AM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger Pull Up A Chair said...

Here I am, probably too late for anyone to care what I post here.

I cried when I read about your precious daughter.

I am sorry for you both - to be apart I mean. I know she misses you.

Your writing is beautiful and I wish I could say something witty but I just feel sad for the space between you and that adorable little girl.

Peace in 2007...

2:56 AM, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Pull Up A Chair said...

Oh, I forgot to say... I am happy for the reconnecting part of the story -- but still saddened by that gap.. that space which no one can measure, time... it was stolen from you both.

3:01 AM, January 08, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Pull up a Chair, this post probably doesn’t get much traffic anymore but I still care what you have to say. A few posts in this blog still choke me up when I read them. Revisiting those earlier days has on a few occasions, been more than a little traumatic. Thank you for your kind assessment of my humble efforts. Regarding my little girl, she just had her third baby, a son, she is still married to a man who is worthy of her love, he’s a good man, and I couldn’t be happier that I have her back in my life.

6:09 PM, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Pull Up A Chair said...

I came back by to visit -- I really like your blog/site. I posted that same spider video yesterday on my blog! It must be something about the '70's... maybe the '80's too. I was surprised to see it here (shouldn't be too surprised I guess.)
I stopped having kids after two of them came along. I am an older Mom but enjoy it for the most part... They are 6 and 7 - I turn 50 this month.

I hope that your ex-girlfriend appreciates you being a constant in that girls life... I know for a fact that your little girl (they are always little in our minds) needed you to come back and find her!

Peace to you. (visit my piece of cyberspace..., click on my name.)

11:25 AM, January 12, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Hi Pull Up a Chair, thanks. I think that spider video really speaks to us old hippy type 1970’s party dogs.
Your choice to have children later in life is a growing national trend. It will be interesting to see what benefits our society might see in twenty or thirty years when all of these children, who had the good fortune to be raised by actual grownups, begin filtering into the system.
Regarding the “ex,” it has taken a while and there have been a few wild and wooly episodes but all in all, the participants in that particular drama have all settled into a nice, mellow state of mind.

1:06 PM, January 12, 2007  
Blogger Pull Up A Chair said...

Hi Slaghammer - I enjoyed reading your post on my blog -- I did comment back - As for the ex -- perhaps her meds have finally kicked in... My 7 year old son watched the spider video with particular interest. I don't think he got it all but he did laugh in all the right spots... He is considered "gifted" and I know he has inherited my odd-ball sense of the universe. His Dad is far more ridged than me. I am blessed that both of my kids find me to be the amusing parent. As for the benefits to society due to kids being raised by adults -- I can tell you, I am far more able to be a parent than any of my young friends were when they had their kids. I watched, in horror, as they fucked up their kids lives as well as their own. I'm sure I am doing a fairly good job of screwing with their heads but at least I am aware of it when it happens and the bills all get paid.

1:15 PM, January 12, 2007  
Blogger slaghammer said...

PUaC, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

5:42 PM, January 12, 2007  

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