Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Thanksgiving is before Christmas

I snuck out of Publix when the girls weren’t looking and walked next door to the Dollar General.  I picked out a writing tablet for one because she’s learning her ABC’s. And for the other: a notebook, with a cool design and Awesome written on the front, because she likes to take notes in church like the big folks. I threw in a bottle of glue since we couldn’t find any the other day when we were putting together my grandson’s little wooden sailboat.

I wouldn’t admit it at the time, but the truth be told, the reason I ducked out wasn’t because I’m such a great Papa.
I just didn’t want to listen to the kids asking me for a hundred items an aisle. I can handle it most of the time. I use their constant asking as an opportunity to teach lessons about being thankful for what you have.  But not then, not that day.

I was weary from trying to learn a new venue for marketing my writing. I was nervous, because I’d taken so much time off work due to some health issues with my dad, that now my bank account was having health issues of its own. I just didn’t have room for a hundred extra items an aisle.

 I’d been fasting and praying and basically begging God for a breakthrough of some kind or another. To be honest, I was a little upset at God. I’d done my part but He wasn’t doing His.

I tossed the Dollar General bag on the passenger seat, thought about taking a nap. I looked at the seat, looked at the store, let out a sigh and slammed the door.
I heard them before I saw them.

“But I want it.”

“No, not today, maybe for Christmas.”

My wife and two granddaughters were hard at work. Roxy was holding a bag of something in one hand and reading out loud from the coupon she held in the other. The nine year old, Nevaeh, was organizing groceries in the cart. The youngest looked at me, grabbed my hand and pulled.

“Papa, come here I want—”

I shook my head.

She folded her five year old arms across her chest, dropped her head and stuck out her bottom lip.
I reached for her shoulder but she stepped away and stood stone still facing a shelf filled with something that was on sale—buy one get one free.

“Fina, don’t act like this.”

She made some kind of a grunt.

“Fina” (that’s short for Savannah).

“But Papa, I want that blue frog.”

 “Makah already told you no.” (Makah, we pronounce it: May-ka.  It’s the way one of the grandkids said grandma—and it stuck). By the way, Makah is the name of an Indian Tribe and it means: people generous with food. Which is interesting, because if Roxy sees you in the store picking out something she has a coupon for, she’ll give it to you. Then, she’ll tell you all about how to use coupons to get something dirt cheap. She saves all kinds of money—and then gives half the stuff away. Makah fits.


Fina made a huff, wrapped her arms tighter, stuck her bottom lip out further and her eyes got squinty.

I told Makah, “I’m taking her to the van.” Not out behind the woodshed, mind you. But to the van—for a time out—for a little sitting on the bench.

I got eyelevel with Fina and tried to look her in the eyes without knocking over the green beans she was having a staring contest with.

 She didn’t run away. That was good and I was glad, because I imagined her taking off down the aisle and me chasing after her only to get clotheslined by some Good Samaritan linebacker from the Miami Dolphins trying to guard a cute little blond haired green eyed angel of a child escaping from a crazy man.

“Fina, you can’t act like this—so we’re going to have to go wait in the van.”

She didn’t flinch.

I picked her up and carried her out the door.

We let the kettle cool before either of us spoke.

I knew she was ready to talk when she went upside down in her seat. Her head was on the floor and her feet hovered somewhere around the head rest. “Hey Papa, there’s a jar of peanuts under here, should I get it?”

I forgot why we were sitting in the van instead of helping Makah in the store. “Um, sure.” I was kind of hungry.

We opened the jar, we each tried one. It wasn’t very good. I swallowed mine and pushed a button for the side door to open. Fina spit hers out in the parking lot.

Then we had a talk.

We talked about how you’ll never have what you want until you want what you have. I reminded her she already had more toys than she could play with. I told her it wasn’t right to get upset because she didn’t get what she wanted.

 I looked at the Dollar General bag in the front seat. I let her know that I’d already bought her a gift, but now, I didn’t want to give it to her.

Fina said, “It’s almost Christmas, you know how come I know? See those sparkly things on that big pole?”

She pointed out the window and I looked at the red and white garland wrapped around the parking lot light poles. I nodded and wondered if she’d heard a word I said.

“But I thought it was Thanksgiving time, Papa.”

“It is—”and then I heard myself say something that did as much for me as it did for her, maybe more—“Thanksgiving comes before Christmas to teach us to be thankful before we receive.”

I thought about that. Be thankful before. I needed that. I felt like I’d been taken to the woodshed. “Does that make sense?”

“God makes the list for Santa uh-cuz Santa is busy with the elves.  And if you don’t want to be on the naughty list, like C.J. at school, ‘cuz he’s very very bad, you have to ‘preciate—that means say thank you for your toys and stuff, or, you won’t get no more…that’s why.”

I think too small. I want the blue frog and get upset if I can’t have it. God knows what I need. He’s made the list and the purchase. I nodded at Fina and looked at the plastic bag lying on the passenger seat. I handed it to her.

She smiled and said, "Thanks."

I nodded at her, looked up at Him and said, “Thanks.”

Have a Thankful Thanksgiving...everyday and that'll make for a Merry Christmas. 

What are you thankful for?