JIMMY THREE TAKES ON THE GRINNING GREEN CHEESE MOON

Listen to Jim’s 3-minute audio podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/jimmythreetakesonthegrinninggreencheesemoon.mp3

or read his tale below:

 JIMMY THREE TAKES ON THE GRINNING GREEN CHEESE MOON

Jimmy Three, all half-dozen years of him, stoops low in the grassy front yard of his family home. His head is close to the ground, his fingers busy sorting through a patch of clover.

He is searching for a four-leaf clover, the most elusive and sought-after treasure in this week’s world of Summer Kids.

Jimmy Three plops down on his fanny to relieve the strain from bent knees, takes a look around to see what he might have missed during his focused quest. Not much, apparently. The concrete sidewalk still leads from front steps to asphalt avenue. The nearby ant hill continues to teem with critters oblivious to small boys on front lawns.

Jimmy Three glances up at the sunned wispy blue sky and notices that part of the daytime moon is missing.

He dabs at his perspiring brow, realizing that he has never thought much about whether the moon might collide with the sun one day. He giggles and realizes that something like that could probably never happen.

Jimmy Three searches for four-leaf clover until red bugs and growing thirst distract him. He runs into the house, scratching legs and grabbing a jelly tumbler from the kitchen cabinet.

Slurping cool water is good, he decides. He holds the half-filled glass up to the window and briefly imagines he is a swimming ant afloat upon a clover leaf, enjoying the prismatic light that bends and dances therein.

After sundown, after a day of play and quest and chore and reality laced with fantasy, fantasy laced with reality, Jimmy Three returns to the lawn, this time the backyard lawn, to watch for fireflies, listen to insects, identify which distant barking dog belongs to which neighbor.

Lying on the wood and cloth folding lawn chair and examining the sky, he watches stars peek out one by one. Lone aircraft blink red and white far far above. Way off to the west, Jimmy Three sees the glow from downtown Tuscaloosa and listens to train whistles to the north and passing cars to the south and radio comedy shows from across the street.

But he doesn’t see the moon.

Hmm, guess the moon can’t be around every night, but I sure miss it, Jimmy Three thinks. Being a wistful tad, he closes his eyes and examines the moon in his mind, remembering the time he trained a playmate’s binoculars on the partial orb to see whether it really looked like green cheese. He laughed in awe at the pock marks, the cool white glow, the mysterious distance, the unattainable puzzle of it all.

Climbing into bed at bedtime, hugging a pillow, Jimmy Three continues to allow the surrounding yard and sky to flow through him. The two open windows of the bedroom invite night sounds, nearly deafening silences, to jostle his imagination and feed his enthusiasm for the awaiting sunrise.

And later, in deep sleep, Jimmy Three views the rising moon, the rising green cheese moon that gently grins at him and soothes his red bug skin

© Jim Reed 2018 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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MADE WITH REAL INGREDIENTS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/madewithrealingredients.mp3

or read his story below:

MADE WITH REAL INGREDIENTS

Most of my headlong rush toward maturity consists of getting used to the joy and terror of Juxtaposition.

You know, Juxtaposition—that creepy humanity thing that allows me to hold within my head every contradictory fact or factoid or false fact or fake factoid at the same moment. Thoughts and ideas that have nothing to do with each other pretend to reside side by side. What a neighborhood.

Things that don’t seem logical or plausible whirl about in an admixture most puzzling.

Take the smallest thing, for instance. A packaged food label boasts, “Made with Real Ingredients.”

How am I to interpret this? Shall I take it for granted that this slogan means the food is safe, harmless, wholesome and nutritious? That it is edible? Doesn’t sound scientifically vetted, does it?

Made with real ingredients. Shall I pick apart the existential meaninglessness of the blurb and show off my superior knowledge of semantics and context and literacy?

Made with real ingredients. Shall I research the phrase and try to understand it by determining what kinds of food containers harbor Unreal Ingredients?

Imagine a world where just one person creates phrases like Made with Real Ingredients. This person no doubt also created the disclaimer, “This Material Contains Adult Content.” This phrase essentially reminds us that said material contains content.

Don’t most things contain content? Does this mean that there is a greater Big Content in the Sky that encompasses all other Little Content?

Or, to simplify, is this just a stupidly meaningless idea that has not been examined or corrected by the boss of the phrase-creator…possibly a boss who is no more literate than the underling?

A more entertaining food label: Contains Adult Content Chock Full of Real Ingredients.

But then, what would Adult Content be like? Is this grown-up food that kids are not interested in eating? Are there other products containing Child Content?

I’ve lost my way here. I suppose you have, too.

Let’s take a break and raid the refrigerator in search of a snack containing adult childlike contents filled with ingredients of the real kind

© Jim Reed 2018 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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TEN FINGERS SPLAYED TWO PALMS DOWN JUST WEST AND SOUTH OF HERE

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/tenfingerssplayedtwopalmsdown.mp3

or read on…

TEN FINGERS SPLAYED TWO PALMS DOWN JUST WEST AND SOUTH OF HERE

Without budging from this spot, without straying from this moment, I can visit anywhere I’ve ever been, any time I’ve ever lived.

That’s the beauty of being a writer, a diarist, a teller of tales, tales both true and actual.

I can bounce about inside the bubble of memory at will. I can recall and re-examine  what has been. I can look over my own shoulder and observe what is happening this instant.

Here I am this very instant standing among chatting stragglers after an evening meeting in the western part of the county. While other attendees discuss the lecture we’ve just heard, I quietly look down, finding that my hands are resting on a lectern, ten fingers splayed, palms facing downward.

What causes me to pay attention is the uneven texture of the lectern’s surface.

I bend to examine the grainy wood. There are hundreds of scrawlings left by previous touchers of the lectern. In merry disarray, the carvings are evidences of errant  visitors who just had to make their marks with knife, pen, pin or random pointed object. There are dates, symbols, initials, first names, secret notes, Morse codes for those who know the language, indications galore that someone no longer present was just passing through this hidden rehab facility and needed to find a way to tell a life’s story.

While my hands and fingers run over the wood, I am suddenly transported to a long ago time, a place south of here, where another lectern is experiencing the pressure of my touch. This time, I am feeling graffiti of a different kind—the stitched softness of a hand-made quilt that covers the lectern.

I am in the presence of the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, where I and the attending crowd are enamored of the quilts, the quilts filled with signs and symbols and documentations of lives once lived. Stories told in code and in secret from a time when not all voices were allowed to be heard.

Ten fingers splayed, two palms down, just south of here, feeling the electricity of lives lived differently from mine…another time, another place, where people just like me thrived and left their marks for later archaeologists to bring forth for re-examination.

It is a privilege to be the designated Noticer at any place, at any time, the teller of tales who desires to point out that which is so obvious it just might go unnoticed.

Whether I am west of here or south of here, I know that right before me my ten fingers and two palms are just waiting to learn something new, anxious to discover something that might give me new hope or at the very least a momentary peek beyond my own bubble

© Jim Reed 2018 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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BOOKHOARDING SAVIORS OF THE BRAVE NEW WORLD

Listen to Jim’s 3-minute podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/bookhoardingsaviorsofthebravenewworld.mp3

or

read his story below:

BOOKHOARDING SAVIORS OF THE BRAVE NEW WORLD

The bookshop door chimes its tune, indicating someone is enbooking or disenbooking.

I peer over the stacks and see the head of a customer who is coming into the store. I hear panting. I walk around the counter to see who’s who. There she is, a petite woman who is lugging a complete set of 1950′s Childcraft encyclopedias all by herself.

The orange-bound hardbacks are printed on heavy, glossy paper and weigh a lot. This is a set even I would have trouble carrying far.

“Yikes! Let me take those,” I sputter, just in time to see her avoid passing out. She is relieved and I am happy to transfer the set to a neutral surface.

“Well, I could have gone to your car and helped with these,” I say, smiling a greeting. But she does not need to hear this, since the deed is done and she wishes to say her piece.

“I just want you to have these. I’m donating them.”

I thank her profusely and note that the volumes are in excellent condition.

“I will make sure that the right person receives these,” I say. I plan to donate them because I already have several sets of these wonderful tomes.

The donor is pleased, thanks me, and disenbooks the building.

I pat the stack fondly, recalling the hundreds of fleeting childhood hours I spent reading and poring over their contents, time-traveling and universe-traversing and imagining things that can’t really be.

I spend some of my time these days attempting to explain why books like these must never be tossed and ground into recycling fodder.

When the donating woman hands over her treasure, she does not say, “Would you please throw these in the trash for me?” She does not say, “I don’t need this crap, could you take it off my hands?” She does not say, “Oh, you don’t want these—nobody reads anymore and they are just in the way.”

But other people say such things to me all the time.

On lucky days I get to rescue what they are discarding. I get to give things to the next person or entity who wants them.

I get to book things forward for the next in line, the cherishers of wonderful old evidences of our fragile civilization.

I  return to my nest behind the prospering stacks.

I await the chiming to come

 

 

IN THE HEART OF THE HEART OF THE RED CLAY COAL DUST ALABAMA COUNTRYSIDE

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or read his story below:
*
*
IN THE HEART OF THE HEART
OF THE RED CLAY COAL DUST ALABAMA COUNTRYSIDE
*
*
Memoryshifting is one of my favorite things.
*
Way down deep inside me is an erratic but accurate record of everything ever done, all things experienced, every turning point that brought me to Now.
*
Hurtling forward in time occurs parallel to snapping backward in time. Adventures and expectations meld together, making each day unpredictable, making me pay attention lest I miss something key to my understanding of the world around me, the life around me.
*
Right now, I’m back in time to just a few days ago:
*
I find myself deep inside the countryside of Tuscaloosa County, not too far from where all my childhood memories were made concrete.
*
I am driving into rural Brookwood, Alabama, where citified civilization is not allowed easy entry. Through automobile windows right, left and straight ahead, through rearview mirrors, lives and locales pass before my eyes,
*
Railroad crossings raise their gates. Beneath me, wet orange red clay washboard roads are fore and aft. Strip mine hills surround emerald ponds. Spent earth is all around. Cracked rocks sucked lifeless stare back at me.
*
I pass a coal company tower that drops a steady stream of black dust onto five-story-high cones. Further into the old and vaguely familiar land, there are two-laned roads beneath tall trees, bending overhead to form arches, to form long primeval tunnels blocking the grey skies.
*
A sense of not having the option to turn back toward the city comes over me.
*
Something hypnotically urges me to continue, urges me to see this through, urges me to complete the story of this journey.
*
I turn onto a narrow one-laned gravel and orange-colored road. There is no way to tell whether this path continues over the next rise, but I have been assured by those who gave me directions to this place that the road will continue for a way.
*
I choose to trust the instructions.
*
I have not seen a human for many miles, but there are signs of humans—United Mine Workers lodges and masonic buildings pass by. Mail boxes stand guard here and there.
*
At last I come to the end of the path and idle the car to get my bearings. To the left is a double-wide blue-roofed home with porch and deck added on. Down the damp coal-dust yard is an old brick home that seems sealed. Way past that is another home partially hidden.
*
I’m supposed to meet the owner of these properties but there is no life apparent. Knocking on doors brings nothing but echoes.  I pull a phone number out and key it in. The phone reminds me with a smirk that this is rural Alabama. No service available. Period.
*
I sit for a while in the cold, quiet woods and look at my options. Will I be able to find my way back, since everything looks different from its obverse side?
*
Shall I just follow my mother’s childhood insistence that the best thing to do when lost is stay in the same place till somebody finds me. This worked fine in department stores or on town streets. Let’s see if it works here in the faraway countryside of Brookwood.
*
Sure enough, the owner pulls up and does all that is promised. Soon, I am examining hundreds of old German-language books that have been waiting generations for adoption. I am in my element. This is the funnest part of my job.
*
With fresh instructions on how to get back home, I drive smiling toward Birmingham in a book-laden vehicle on a winding road in the heart of the heart of the country on a very cold and wet day on a tiny dot of earth on an insignificant planet in a universe filled with shifting memories of fond adventures of almost no importance to anyone but me the recorder of turning points
*

THE HORNSWOGGLER SWOGGLES ANOTHER SWASHBUCKLER

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/hornswogglerswogglesanother.mp3

or read his swashbuckling story below:

Just another fond memory from the Red Clay Diary of an Alabama boy:

The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

I am sitting half-hidden in the tall grass of our back yard in 1952 Tuscaloosa, swatting at flies, clawing at red bugs on bare legs, tying tight a red bandanna to dam the rivulets of sweat pouring down my neck, day-dreaming about swashbucklers and hornswogglers.

I am quiet and vigilant, awaiting the appearance of brother Ronny.

I have a plan.

“Hey,” Ronny grins as he trots over to my nest, short pants, no shirt or shoes, perfectly attired for this hot summer day. Being a younger brother, Ronny is still willing to go along with just about anything his big brother comes up with.

“Okay,” I say. “Let’s play like we’re Scaramouche and we’ll sword-fight to the death!”

We’ve just seen the Stewart Granger movie and assume for the moment that we, too, can learn to conquer evil with trusty swords in hand, given the chance.

“You be the bad guy and I’ll be Scaramouche!” I love saying the name—Scaramouche!

Of course, Ronny is almost always relegated to being the bad guy or the sidekick, and for now he doesn’t complain. When we play Tarzan, he’s Boy. When we play Lone Ranger, he’s Tonto. If it’s Roy Rogers, he’s Gabby Hayes.  If it’s Captain Marvel, he’s just Billy Batson.

Today, we can’t remember the name of the evil swordsman in Scaramouche, but that doesn’t much matter. Ronny knows he’ll have the honor of being defeated by Big Brother.

We find two semi-straight sticks of equal length and begin our idea of fierce swordsmanship. Knowing that our all-seeing all-knowing mother will know whether we’ve behaved, we are careful to knock sticks together without knocking heads or busting knuckles. We leap over the splintery hand-made saw horse, roll over a rusty oil drum, pole dance around the swing supports, wallow atop ant beds, all the while pretending to sword fight to the death.

After a while, the heat gets to us and we run to the kitchen for cold Pepsi and crumbly cookies.

Down all the years, I can’t help recalling all the wonderful fictitious sword fights I’ve witnessed on screen, in imagination most vivid. But the one sword fight to which all subsequent sword fights are compared is locked into memory.

Even  back then, we kids of summer know that there is something special about the Scaramouche fight. It is long and fierce. Very long. Very fierce. And daring, too. Between them, the dueling Mel Ferrer and Stewart Granger destroy an entire stage set, slash props, mangle a piano, leap over balconies, swing from velvet ropes…and all this with no musical background. Decades later, I learn to appreciate how dramatically loud silence can be. This sword fight is so ferocious that accentuating music is not needed in the least.

Nowadays, I get to check out my childhood impressions by re-viewing that marvelous battle. And sure enough, it still holds me in thrall.

I love many movie sword fights, including the one between Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester and, of course, the great conflict between Inigo Montoya and Westley in The Princess Bride. In all of these battles, the viewer is simply lost in the passion of the moment. We really believe these people are fighting for their lives, or at least their honor!

But the best sword play in all memory is the one between Ronny and me. For at this one special moment, we really are Scaramouche and the Marquis de Maynes. We really are caught up in the most glorious of all battles—the one where imagination and hope win out over red bugs and itchy grass on a hot summer day in the long-ago, far-away land of pre-Buttercup Tuscaloosa

© Jim Reed 2018 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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 A.D.

THE NEGATORY WARS

Listen to Jim’s 3-minute podcast:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scE5Qfu3LOg

or read his story below:

THE NEGATORY WARS

“How are you today?” I ask one customer at the bookshop.

“Well, pretty good,” he replies. A beat passes, he grins and continues, “I woke up in my right mind!”

After he shops, purchases a book and exits the store, I have a moment to think about what he said, “I woke up in my right mind.”

There are times…

There are times I do not wake up in my right mind. At those times, slumber has lowered my protections against the Negatories, those mischievous critters that inhabit and invade my saner proclivities and attempt to do them harm. I need my finer proclivities—how else will I get through the day in one peace of mind?

How else will I wake up in my right mind?

Negatories have one primary goal: Find the underside of every good inclination and dampen it just enough to create a smattering of fear and loathing.

Sometimes, Negatories are not just the critters in my head. There is evidence that they reside in other peoples’ heads, too. Check out the internet at any split moment and you’ll find proof.

Anyhow, I deal with these Negatories constantly. They are particularly active during moments of vulnerability–and during that curious period between sleep and the daily awakening.

How do I fight my way past the early morning Negatories and wend my way to bathroom and shower-singing and activities of day-long living?

Well, this morning, as my eyelids flutter and test the bedroom, as I lie here dismissing dreams and retrieving consciousness and preparing to make the Big Decision, I am working on winning the current Negatory war. One good thought is slapped around by all the downsides. Then, I challenge a downer of a thought by daring to impose an upside idea.

It goes on like this for a period of time—two Negatories for every positive, then two positives to face two Negatories, then on to three positives for every Negatory…

Eventually, the Big Decision is made. Negatories retreat to their dank caverns, positives prevail, I fling aside sheet and comforter and quilt and land feet first on the hardwood floor…and I’m off and running, motivated by air chill and bladder and sunlight.

I won’t even think about those naughty Negatories for another twenty-four hours. But rest assured, they will be there. Waiting for my attention lapse. Thinking they can win next time.

This pervasive cycle is silly and serious at the same time. But here I am, so guess who won this round

© Jim Reed 2018 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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GNATS AND NO-SEE-UMS FAIL TO CONQUER THE WORLD

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/gnatsandnoseeums.mp3

or read his story below:

GNATS AND NO-SEE-UMS FAIL TO CONQUER THE WORLD

Grand Master of All Things Thinkable speaks to Uninitiated Student:

“You say, oh Student, that your life is hard.” He gently turns to gaze into Student’s eyes.

“Yes, Grand Master, my life is hard,” replies Uninitiated Student, unable to return the gaze for fear of faltering or seeming weak.

“What is hard about your life?” Grand Master wrinkles his brow and pays close attention.

“I am poor.”

“Hmm. Tell me the other hard things.”

Student replies, “I am afraid. I am not brave. I am small of stature. I am not strong.” He pauses as if that’s the entire list.

Grand Master ponders a moment, then, “If I tell you I am about to die of thirst because I have never been instructed as to how to drink from a cup of tea, what would be your reaction?”

Student is startled that his opinion is being asked for. “Er, I do not want you to starve.”

“If you do not wish for me to die of thirst, will you first take a long time to list your fears and weaknesses and tribulations, and fret about them?”

Student speaks quickly before thinking. “No! I would lift your cup of tea to your lips and help you drink.”

Grand Master looks surprised. “What? What happened to your worries and fears? Are they not the most important things in your mind?”

“Uh, I did not stop to think about that before replying,” Student says.

“Do you mean that your concerns are suddenly less pronounced? And if so, why is that  happening?”

Student seems energized, not as diffident as when first in the presence of Grand Master. “Well, my first concern is with your thirst and your lack of skill in addressing your thirst.”

“You mean your immediate challenge takes precedent over your earlier concerns?”

Uninitiated Student brightens up. “Yes. Yes!”

Grand Master of All Things Thinkable gestures to dismiss Student. “Our lesson will continue another day.” He glances into the eyes of Student and asks, “What do you think the subject of Lesson Two will be?”

Uninitiated Student’s mind is racing now. He hesitates, then speaks.

“I believe Lesson Two will involve my instructing you as to how to drink a cup of tea without assistance.”

Grand Master looks pleased and waves Student away.

Lesson One is over

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: HUG WITH CARE

Listen to Jim’s podcast;

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/hugwithcare.mp3

or read his story below:

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: HUG WITH CARE 

I am a hugger.

Not a mugger, not a lugger, not a slugger…but a hugger.

I generally keep my emotional and/or physical distance from strangers, but when I really like somebody, and when it’s safe to do so, I tend to greet them with a hug—or at least a handshake.

Over the decades, I’ve evolved. One of the few advantages of aging is that I now see patterns in things, cause-and-effect phenomena in things…so that my behavior has subtly shifted.

Some things I’ve learned about hugging:

1. Some people respond readily to a quick hug and seem flushed with pleasure at this nice surprise.

2. Some people respond but quickly back away, as if they don’t know what to do after a hug.

3. Some people stiffen and don’t respond to the hug. These are folks I won’t hug again, unless they initiate.

4. Some people back away and will do anything to avoid a hug in the first place.

5. Some people hug a little too long and make me want to back away.

6. Some people, at first reluctant at each hug, now approach me as if they will actually miss the hug if I don’t provide it.

7. Some guys are huggable, but others try to avoid it because, well, they don’t think it’s guyish. These are often older or elderly guys, whose generation doesn’t cater to this kind of behavior.

8. Some people exude a kind of sensuousness when I hug them, so I tend not to try to hug them again, lest something be misinterpreted. This used to occur a lot more when I was young…with sometimes pleasant results. No more—I’ve been happily monogamous for more than four decades.

Even after studying hugging for sixty years, I still don’t know why most huggers pat each other on the back. Maybe it’s a kind of sign language that says, “Just hugging! Nothing more is meant!”

Anyhow, there’s lots of horror and sorrow and grief in the world that’s beyond my control. Maybe hugging is something I can do that reminds me that people can be pleasant to one another, even when they can’t think of anything comforting to say aloud

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D. 

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS

Listen to Jim’s Christmas podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/ifonlyinmydreams.mp3

or read on…

IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS

This is the home stretch.

It’s the time of year when all your feelings get jumbled together and you really don’t know what to feel except nervous, excited and oh I don’t know, maybe even thrilled.

You know you want to get a lot of good stuff for Christmas, but you also know that you shouldn’t feel too excited about just getting instead of giving…you know you want to give something to people you love or people you want to impress or people you know are probably going to give you something back, but you also know that there’s something vaguely sinful-feeling about just wanting to give for the sake of what you’re going to be given.

You read all those stories about Christmastime charity and how nice it is to give of yourself and your time and even of your money to those who won’t ever be able to repay you, but you also would like to get a bunch of nice things that remind you of the best Christmases you ever had.

You always want people to kind of read your mind and give you just the perfect gift that takes you back to your best years, but you don’t even know how to express this to them and so you just go on feeling like the best part of Christmas is the anticipation, the wanting part…not the actual getting and giving part.

You may even remember the few times in your life that you secretly gave something to someone who needed it and never ever let them know that it was you who did it. You remember the mixed feelings you had about that—how you knew it was blessed to give anonymously, but also how you wished you knew for sure that you were going to get credit for the deed in some celestial Big Book in the Sky.

You also know that you will never know for certain whether you’ll get credit for deeds like that, and it’s that special tension created out of this confusion that makes you much more alert and wired at this time of year.

And best of all, you also know deep deep down inside you that the best Christmases you’ve ever had or ever will have are those Christmases that exist in your memories and in your future hopes.

As the Grinch learned almost too late, Christmas happens whether or not there’s lots of getting and receiving and gimme-ing.

I hope this helps you know that there are others who are ambivalent about Christmas and about the spirit of giving and getting.

And know this, too: the best part of you is the part that is willing to admit ambivalence and is willing to struggle to walk the tightrope that carefully and precariously balances you between total selfishness and total martyrdom. You just happen to be human

 

 © 2017 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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