Morning-Night

I felt it before I actually heard it. 

 

I lifted my head from the pillow at the same time as sweet Annie.  Our faithful pup was off the bed before my feet hit the floor. 

 

It was “Morning-Night” – titled such by my 5-year-old daughter to describe that sliver of time when you first wake up and can’t decide if it’s Morning or Night. 

 

Annie was at the door before I was, trying to be patient while waiting for me to use my opposable thumbs to turn the knob.  The sobs grew louder as the “CREAK” of the door heralded our arrival.  I heard a pleading then — “Mommy?”  I climbed quickly to the top bunk to find my 8 ½ (going on 16)-year-old looking very small under her covers, her hair soaking wet.  My initial reaction was to feel her forehead, and finding no fever there, I lifted myself into her bed and pulled her close.  Through tears, she described the horrible nightmare she had just escaped as she fought to reconcile whether it had actually happened or was just a very bad dream.  She told me of the man who tried to take her away from me – of how she was calling out for me, but I couldn’t hear her, couldn’t save her. 

 

I listened carefully to her words before I spoke, and then I deftly navigated the waters of my own self-doubt.  As I told her that her Daddy and I would do everything in our power to always keep her and her sister safe, I myself was haunted by the faces of the daughters of countless others flashed across countless screens during countless evening news programs.  The faces of young girls and women stolen from this world and their families by monsters – not the kind hiding in closets or under beds, but even more frighteningly, hiding in plain sight.   All the while, I was amazed by the simple power of my embrace and gentle words to calm her fears. 

 

In time, sobs turned to smiles and giggles under the covers.  And as our attentions turned to shadow puppets on the walls of her pink room, I was struck with the realization that we often exist in a state of “Morning-Night”.  That sliver, that fine line, between truth and fiction.  It’s made up of the same kind of magic that leaves us so desperately wanting to believe in the existence of Santa Claus and “happily ever after”.  It’s what pulls us through each day, rather than leaving us cowering in our beds, crippled by fear.  There is comfort to be found in the moments between the fantasy – what we want most to believe – and cold harsh reality.

 

by Kasie Bolling

Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 4:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Believing

It began very simply as I imagine most instances of evolution do.  There was a little more weight around the middle.  The hair turned from shades of salt and pepper to white.  The eyes, which had once frightened away potential suitors during my adolescence, now twinkled.  My father, at 60, was becoming Santa Claus. 

 

It was my fault.  When my youngest daughter was just 9 months old, I’d scheduled a late visit with Santa at our local shopping mall for both she and her three year old sister.  I’d had to reschedule once already for one reason or another, when both girls caught a nasty case of the flu just days before Christmas.  Exhausted from a frightening and sleepless night, I called my Daddy in tears – my baby’s first Christmas would not include the traditional picture on Santa’s lap.  As Daddy’s often do, my Daddy set off to fix this.  It just so happened that he had seen a Deluxe Santa Suit for sale earlier that day, and he rushed back to the store to purchase it.  He donned the suit for the first time that evening, made a practice run to the kids in his neighborhood and then he showed up in all his glory on my front doorstep.  I was delighted – one of my fondest childhood Christmas memories was of a personal visit from Santa at my grandparent’s house.  There he stood – my father – he had black rubber galoshes on his feet and black gardening gloves on his hands.  Frankly, he looked more like a deranged gardener than Santa.  He wore a curly white false beard over his own close cropped one and his “Ho, Ho, Ho” was issued with the uncertainty of a novice.  But he was there with the best of intentions, and my girls ate it up.  He made over my youngest, inducting her to the wonderful world of Christmas enchantment – and she gazed upon him with great curiosity.  My eldest acted as though a rock star had crossed our threshold, squealing and clawing at his brand new red coat.  He listened to her Christmas wishes, delivered a sweet gift to each girl, and then walked off into the cold, dark night.  By January, the suit was packed away with all of the other Christmas decorations. 

 

The following year, a neighbor called my father.  His sons were two of the children my father had “practiced on” the year before.  He worked with a commercial realty company, and one of his shopping centers was putting together a holiday festival.  He asked my dad if he would mind “playing Santa” for the affair.  My father asked my sister and me to assist, and we joined him as Santa’s Elves – taking pictures and serving as crowd control.  My little sister and I both looked on as Dad tenderly held babies, maneuvered past questions of his true identity and listened intently to each and every wish.  Many of the children were very poor, not a one of them was afraid of this big man and every last one of them left grinning ear to ear.  It was an exhausting, but memorable experience that we were all proud to share in.  Once again, come January, the suit was packed away along with the Christmas tree, the ornaments and the other holiday knick-knacks.

 

I don’t know why I was surprised when my father announced the following summer that he wished to become Santa.  He and my mom had recently closed their own business of nearly 20 years and downsized to a small, but charming cluster home.  Surely, he was experiencing the dreaded, albeit late, mid-life crisis.  He attended a workshop, joined a company of “real bearded Santas”, bought a respectable pair of gloves and boots to go with his suit, and began to grow out his hair and beard.  My father – who had been a leader in women’s retail in the Southeast, whose face had once graced the pages of GQ magazine, who’d owned his own chain of women’s specialty retail stores – threw himself into the role of Santa Claus heart and soul.  Previously impeccably dressed and professionally coiffed, my dad now looked more like a roadie for the Grateful Dead than Santa Claus to me.  He started wearing red everyday and would practice his new craft in front of mirrors, holding them down so he could see himself from a child’s angle.  He is an imposing 6’4”, which I would think children find frighteningly enormous. 

 

Dad had faithfully attended every visit to Santa with my children from the time my first daughter was born, and now he had to regrettably decline out of professional courtesy for the other Santa on duty.  Suddenly, his calendar was filling up with Santa gigs regularly, which left little time to see his grandchildren during the holidays.  And when they did see him, he was absolutely exhausted.  What was worse is he told my little girls that he was Santa Claus, but that they couldn’t tell anyone.  I was in unchartered waters here, and didn’t know how I felt about perpetuating that whopper of a tale.  I was immediately childish and jealous, feeling that my children were being robbed of their grandfather who was being replaced by a myth, and during such an important time of the year!  That was never the case at all.  How many kids out there KNOW Santa Claus?  My girls now shared a special secret which strengthened their relationship with him.  They never questioned it – they just believed.  Whenever they saw him, they asked how the reindeer were doing.  Still, I couldn’t help but feel my father was losing it.  After so many years in a corporate environment, he just didn’t look like himself anymore.  He was a grown-up playing a glorified version of “dress-up”.  I had once bought my husband a t-shirt that read “The Four Stages of Life: you believe in Santa, you no longer believe in Santa, you play Santa, you look like Santa”.  This, like that, had to be a joke.  I appealed to my mother – surely she could see the changes.  She said, very simply, “This makes him happy, dear.”

 

Her answer opened my eyes and slowly, somewhat begrudgingly, I began to see the light.  Before my Dad’s transformation, I recall on more than one occasion my children pointing to a heavy-set, bearded stranger and saying “Santa!”  I might have glanced over and nodded “Yes… Santa.”  Suddenly, I was really seeing “them”.  What many grown-ups don’t realize is that there is an underworld of sorts of these pleasantly plump, white haired, bearded men running about amongst us.  Children spot them immediately, but we lose the ability to pick them out of a crowd once we grow up – unless they are standing before us, clad in a red suit with puffy white piping.  On one shopping trip, I saw a tall, bearded man surrounded by probably 10 kids – he was wearing overalls with a red shirt and he was very animated with the children.  He took his leave and waved goodbye to the kids, reminding them to be good.  I pushed my cart out at the same time he was pulling out of his parking space.  The license plate of his red pickup truck read “Rudolf”.   I remember feeling I may have just been in the presence of greatness – he could have been the “real one”.   On another occasion, we had rented the Santa Clause and Santa Clause 2 in preparation for the release of the third installment in theaters last year.  Tim Allen, who plays the role masterfully, faces his own set of challenges and skepticism to be “the Big Guy”.  I really paid attention this time, and found myself truly wishing to buy back into the magic and mysticism of Santa. 

 

Children were now pointing at MY dad and saying “Look, Mommy!  It’s Santa.”  I can see now that my father wasn’t going through some sort of insane turning point with his identity, he wasn’t doing this for the attention or for the money, he wasn’t taking a stab at becoming a performer – this was a calling.  He serves selflessly alongside hundreds of other men just like him who are craftsmen in the art of a magic that dates back to the 17th century, when America was first introduced to the Dutch version of Sinter Klaas by early settlers.  I have always felt a childlike excitement at the onset of the season – nothing compares to the wonder of Christmas.  Now, I feel a sense of pride mixed in with that excitement – my father is responsible for perpetuating the myth in the hearts of countless children who sit on his lap or touch his hand.  Because of him, I believe in Santa again.  Most of all, I will always believe in my Dad. 

 

By the way, the suit – along with several new ones – hangs in his closet now.

 

by Kasie Bolling

Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 4:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Cool

“Mom, you’re SUCH a GEEK!” 

 

I don’t know precisely when it happened, but at some point I’m afraid I ceased to be cool in the conventional sense.

 

I’m fairly confident I used to be cool.  As a matter of fact, at age 17, I was so cool I could drink half of my high school football team under the table.  I was so majorly cool when I was 18 that I was booted from a Whitesnake concert for “bad behavior”.  And – at 19 – I was so incredibly cool, my memories of Spring Break ’89 include only the constant replay of Guns-N-Roses “Welcome To The Jungle” filtering through a drunken haze and the burn I received from the muffler of a Harley I climbed on whilst wearing only a string bikini.  I said I was cool, I never said I was smart. 

 

I was not without my morals.  I had two major codes of honor by which I modeled my life at that time: 1). Never take drugs that have initials.  What a shocker it was the day I learned “acid” was also called “LSD”.  Whoops.  2). Never sleep with a friend’s boyfriend- unless, of course, he’s REALLY cute and professes his undying love for me. 

 

Upon closer inspection, the former “me” doesn’t really seem all that cool.  My high school yearbook reveals the truth.  That enormous hairdo, layer upon layer of lip gloss and neon blue eyeliner say it all.  We are all often slaves to the trends of our times, but the REALLY cool kids have never had to TRY to be cool.  They just ARE.

 

I suppose that means I must really be cool now – because I have utterly stopped trying.  That isn’t to say that I have thrown in the towel.  It’s just that I am finally comfortable in my own newly wrinkled and stretch-marked skin.  They are symbols of the battles I’ve faced that have shaped the woman I am today.

 

What’s really cool is when your 5-year-old daughter tells you that you look like a fairy princess when you don a dress and wear your hair down for a change.  What is cool is to be able to see all your blessings and know you are living a real-life “happily ever after”.  (One of those blessings is that I SURVIVED being so cool in my teens.)  And, even though my “eight-going-on-sixteen-year-old” sometimes calls me a geek, I know I’m the first person she’ll run to when she has a nightmare or a problem. 

 

Cool used to be about everyone else’s perception– now I know cool is all about perception of one’s self.  Man, is that cool or what?

 

by Kasie Bolling

Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Holidays Crept Up Like a Thief In the Night

I only recently began to love the sound of Christmas Carols again.  But, first, let’s begin this story at the beginning…

I was born into a world of retail.  My father came up swiftly through the ranks of a large department store chain in the Northeast.  He scraped and clawed his way to the top, and once he got there – he didn’t want to come down.  By the time I was three, he was wooed by a hot chain of men’s clothing stores to come onboard as their VP – this move brought us from the snowy hills of Ohio to the red clay of Georgia.  The man had to eat, sleep and breathe retail in order to survive in this cutthroat world – which meant his family sometimes watched from the sidelines.  He travelled to distant shores to make sure the clothing line was being manufactured properly, and worked seven days a week at times to keep a firm grasp on his title and to grow his company’s business.  It wouldn’t be long before he realized, if he was going to be working this hard, he should own his own company.  In partnership with my mother, my dad opened a chain of women’s clothing stores.  With Dad at the helm and Mom right beside him, the company thrived and survived for twenty years – it was as much a needy sibling as it was our family business.  This, of course, meant that now Mom had to eat, sleep and breathe retail, as well.  Every single conversation around the dinner table – if we managed a family meal – was about this customer, or that order.  There was no such thing as church on Sunday – retail is open seven days a week.  I learned most of what I know about religion from epic films about the Bible shown on TV – but I could tell you the make-up and care of just about any fabric on the market.  By the time I hit high school, I was working in one of the family stores – not an easy task for a shy and uncertain young teen.  I quickly learned to treat the sales floor as a stage, and in time, became a fairly good shopgirl.  When I went off to college, I got a job at the big department store in town – retail, after all, was what I knew.  Summers and winter breaks at home meant work in the family biz.  I began to loathe it, and no time did I hate more than the holiday rush.  From Black Friday right on through January (when all the holiday returns came back), I despised the press of humanity, the gaudy Christmas sweaters and the cheesy Christmas carols playing in a continuous loop from the speakers overhead.  Still, I did it.  For more than 15 years, I muddled my way through the holidays in retail.  Sure, I loved the food that the holidays bring, and I loved the giving and receiving of gifts in my own home.  But those were a handful of days in an endless siege stretching from November to January – hardly enough to brighten these darks days.  People can be cruel and rude – even while wearing a smiling snowman on their chest and humming “Silent Night”.  I tried to escape – I entered the world of advertising, marketing and public relations just outside of college, but after a few years – Daddy came along with his own needs for marketing his company and I was sucked back in.  My second daughter (and my husband’s desire to have a parent home with our girls) was my saving grace.

After nearly two decades, I was free.  In the beginning, I would shy away from malls.  Too many bad memories.  I recalled some of my favorite things about the holidays from my childhood and tried to repackage them for my young family.  I took pride in my decorations – something I hadn’t done in years – it had been too much like “merchandising” the store for the holidays.  I worked my way up from instrumental Christmas Carols to the traditional songs of my youth – I even began to sing along.  And when I went shopping, I made a point to be as sweet as possible to the folks behind the counter.  My husband set me free in another way – we started going to church.  He was raised Catholic, and to miss a Sunday at church was a rare thing when he was growing up.  We met in the middle, between nothing and the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and found the United Methodist Church.  Suddenly, I was learning – along with my little girls – the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  I began to feel joy – joy like I hadn’t felt since I was a child.

And yet… life happens.  The wave of holiday parties, the push to get Christmas cards out on time, searching for just the right gift, the utter exhaustion that only the holidays can bring – and you suddenly find yourself just four short days before Christmas.  How did it get here?  Even with all the signs that pointed to the fact that the holidays are upon us, they still crept up like a thief in the night.  Just five years outside of the retail world, and I find myself becoming somewhat jaded.  The older I get – and the older my girls get – time seems to pick up speed.  The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas – which once seemed to drag on into eternity within the four walls of my parents’ shop, now flies by like a rocket to the moon.  I have to slow things down – remember to take the time to read from our many Christmas books, sit with my girls and enjoy the Christmas movies from my own childhood, dance around the living room to the timeless tunes of Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, bake Christmas cookies, go to church and give back to those in need.  I can’t allow the holidays to become something I cherished as a child, to something I loathed as a teen and young adult, to something I loved as a young mother, to something I now virtually ignore.  When I try to see the holidays through my children’s eyes – that’s when I’m doing the best job as a mom.  When I try to recall the true meaning of Christmas – that’s when I’m doing the best job as a person.  There are so many people out there who truly struggle this time of year – they simply cannot see their blessings or they’ve lost more blessings than they can bear.  My heart goes out to each and every one of them.  I have to remember to see my blessings and count them daily (no matter the time of year).

I have just four short days to get into the Christmas Spirit.  All the cards and packages have been mailed, just a few more packages to wrap, the girls are out of school.  Time to get started on the merry-making.  I have to change my point of view – these tasks leading up to the Big Day are not a chore, I’m making memories.  I shape the way my girls view the holidays and how they will spend the holidays with their families one day.  That’s a big deal!  Even though the holidays snuck up on me, there’s still time.  This could be the best Christmas yet!  After all, Ebenezer Scrooge turned his entire life around in just one night.

May you, too, find peace and joy in the next four days.  I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season!

Note:  Mom and Dad also escaped retail, in time.  Mom went back to her true love – nursing (where she still works most holidays) and Dad became a professional Santa Claus.  If that doesn’t say Christmas Spirit, I don’t know what does!

by Kasie Bolling

Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hello world!

This is the official blog for freelance writer – Kasie Bolling – and is designed to celebrate the sweet, the sorrowful and the scary times in life.  Thus the dubious title of “Moon Pies, White Lies and The View From The Edge of the High Dive”.  We all have our happy stories to tell, we all have our regrets and we all live with an innate fear of “the unknown”.  Within these pages, the reader will find an honest and often humorous approach to life through my eyes.

I am a freelance copywriter and aspiring novelist living in the deep South.  A blissfully married mother of two very girly girls, I am also the doting human to one dog and two cats.  My great love affair with the written word began farther back than my memory can venture.  I can recall my grandmother spinning yarns while I sat on her knee – and I ache that we never wrote them all down before she died.  A latchkey kid with a penchant for daydreaming, I could often be found under the boughs of a tree – tattered paperback in hand – or deep within the recesses of my closet holding a flashlight in one hand and book in the other. I hope to one day be responsible for a sleepless night or two, as a reader of my “yet to be completed” first novel just can’t put it down.  There’s a certain joy, though, in the inbetween.  The time spent imagining your story and watching it unfold – and the time that you bring your story to the masses (and live in fear of rejection).  Meanwhile, I’m proud to be “living the dream” and counting my blessings everyday.  I find great delight in spinning yarns to my little girls and engendering a love of reading and writing in them.  My husband and I encourage imagination and creativity in their lives, as well as our own.

This blog is more for me than it is for my readers, although I hope you enjoy what you find here.  I used to keep a journal, which I often found extremely cathartic, but it was for my eyes only and was tedious at times (because I knew it was for my eyes only).  Old fashioned by nature, the entire concept of “blogging” is foreign to me.  However, after several suggestions by friends and colleagues, I am stepping outside of the box to share my views, thoughts and stories with you.  Thank you for reading!

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment