I received an extraordinary Christmas gift yesterday.  One I never thought I’d see in my lifetime – one I asked for when I was five years old.

First, let me tell you that there is a little 14 year-old ballerina staying with me for this Christmas season.  Her name is Juliet Doherty.  She’s staying here with her Mom because she plays the part of Clara in the Nutcracker segment of the Radio City Music Hall Spectacular with the Rockettes.

Juliet is an angel – a beautiful, yet sweet face; a charming, happy countenance – and her dancing…   Ah, her dancing….  She has the perfect ballerina’s body and she has an extension up the side of her head!  When she’s on stage, she lights up the 6000 seat theatre at the Music Hall!

She’s here with her mother, Krista.   I’ve watched her over these last few months, stretching, standing in her toe shoes that her mom just stitched the ribbons onto, working two to five shows a day – with her always smiling face and her always charming manner.

One night, I was watching her Mom work on the new pointe shoes she got for the show – a little brighter pink than what she had been wearing for practice.  All of a sudden, a story from my childhood rose up within me like tears.   I told them:

I took ballet when I was very little.  I loved it.  I must have been  good at it because I remember the teacher telling my mother that I should go on to pointe classes.  I would need toe shoes, of course, instead of the ballet flats with the elastic across the front that I had been wearing.  I wanted pointe shoes badly, but my mother said that we probably couldn’t afford them so not to get my hopes up.

My grandmother came over a few nights later and I started dancing for her in my pink leotard and my ballet flats.  I didn’t say anything about what the teacher said, so I don’t know how my grandmother knew.  Perhaps she didn’t — perhaps it was just a coincidence.  She said, “Oh, Linda, that is so beautiful!  You should have real ballerina shoes.  I’m going to get you some toe shoes!  Pretty pink ballerina toe shoes, just for you!”

I was so excited, I could barely contain myself.  I didn’t ask when, but if she said so, then she would, right?   She would get them, I was sure of it.

The next time she came to visit, I looked at both of her hands for a bag or a box.  Nothing.  She didn’t say anything either.   I was not a bold child – I would never have said, “Grandma, where are the pointe shoes you promised me?”

Every time my Grandmother came – for a long time – I looked to see if she was carrying a bag or a box that might have my pointe shoes.  No.  Not ever.  There never were any pointe shoes.

I finally gave up looking.  I finally gave up ballet.

I’d almost forgotten this story if it wasn’t for watching Krista stitch the bright pink ribbon onto the bright pink pointe shoes that would grace the stage at Radio City Music Hall.  It made me remember that I gave up on a dream a long time ago.

How easily dreams are crushed when we are small!

Yesterday, Krista and Juliet came home from seeing the rest of their family — all in town for Christmas.  Juliet gave me a  Christmas bag with bright red paper peeking out the top.  “Merry Christmas!” she said.

I looked inside and saw a pair of bright pink toe shoes, autographed by Juliet.  It says, “Linda, a pair of pretty pink pointe shoes just for you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I finally got my toe shoes!

It’s almost 60 years later and still I feel the excitement of having my own pair of pointe shoes!  I can’t wear them, of course.  They’re Juliet’s size 4 – and I’m not a size 4 anything anymore.

I have them on a shelf by my computer.  As I looked at them today, I made a pact with myself that I would never give up on a dream again.  I still have many dreams and sometimes I tell myself that perhaps it is too late.

No, it’s never too late.  If I can finally get my pointe shoes, I can write a book, I can have my Tuscan farmhouse, I can have the love of my dreams.  I’m not giving up.

Juliet gave me the greatest of gifts – the gift of a dream come true…

Deliciously yours in the Hopes and Dreams of it All, Linda

Here is Juliet Doherty, en pointe.  She is even more beautiful in person than she is here.  Thank you, Juliet, for a very special gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

Josh was four years old and all he wanted for Christmas was a toy record-player.

We spent hours composing our letter to Santa Claus, enumerating all the ways that Josh had been such a good boy that year:   helping Mommy and Daddy, putting his toys away  after he was finished playing,  and helping homeless people in the street… 

We walked hand-in-hand to the post office, mailing our letter to “Santa Claus, North Pole” and marking it “Urgent – Please read upon receipt” across the back of the envelope. 

A few weeks before Christmas, we were invited to my brother’s house in New Jersey for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Ralph has four girls, and the two youngest   – Jackie and Julie – were only eight months older than Josh – beautiful redheaded twins who adored Joshua — and he loved being around them. 

This time, though, Josh seemed upset that we were going to visit “the girls”,  as we called them.  With each passing day – each day closer to Christmas – he seemed to get more withdrawn.  Every now and then, he would ask me, “Do we have to go to Uncle Ralph’s for Christmas?” 

I didn’t get it.  I said, “Oh, Honey, you’ll have a great time!  You and the girls can play with all your toys and we’ll all be together!  Won’t that be fun?”  He looked down to the floor and walked away… 

Finally, after about four of these exchanges…  I followed him out of the kitchen into his room to find him sitting in the middle of the floor, just looking down at his hands… 

“What’s the matter, Josh?”   He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to go to Uncle Ralph’s for Christmas.” 

This time, I paid attention and didn’t brush it off… 

I sat down on the floor, next to him.  

“Honey, talk to me.  What’s bothering you?”  

With that, Josh put his arms around my neck, leaned into my chest, and started crying in earnest, “Mommy, how will Santa know where I am if we go to Uncle Ralph’s?   He’s expecting me to be here…”

I wrapped my arms around him and rocked him….  

“Oh, Honey, Santa knows EVERYTHING!    He’ll know where you are!” 

He looked up at me, eyes wide, “He does?  How will he know?” 

I thought for a moment.  I knew this was a very important question – for him and for me… 

“Josh, there are things we know, not because we can see them or touch them…  but, they’re real just the same.  We know these things in our hearts…  and I know that Santa knows where you are because you are in his heart…  Not just at Christmas time, but all year long – even when you’re  not thinking about Him…    You have to believe…” 

We sat there a little longer while Josh thought about this… He wanted to believe me, but I could see he wasn’t quite there yet…. 

“I’ll tell you what, Josh…  Why don’t we leave him a note?  Just in case he accidentally forgets…  I don’t think he will, but, if it will make you feel better, we can do that.  What do you think?” 

He thought that was a great idea…   

On Christmas Eve morning, we prepared to go to my brother’s house.  My husband, Fred, had taken all the presents – including the coveted toy record-player – down to the car and put them in the trunk the night before. 

Josh brought me a piece of paper and a crayon to write the note to Santa… 

“Dear Santa,” I wrote carefully, “Just in case you come here first, I just want to let you know that I am at my Uncle Ralph’s with Jackie and Julie.  Please bring my presents there.”  And, just in case Santa didn’t know how to get there, we gave directions, “Just look down from your sleigh and follow the New Jersey Turnpike…” 

While it was all I could do not to smile, I realized that this “crucible of doubt” was going to be a turning point for Josh – this was very serious business. .. 

We set up a little table between the fireplace and the tree – where Santa couldn’t miss it – and laid out His usual milk and cookies — the “bread and wine” of Santa devotion — and placed the note carefully between the glass and the dish…

We left for New Jersey.   But, not before Fred went back upstairs, “to go to the bathroom,” poured the milk back in the carton and left the glass where he found it, grabbed the note, and put the cookies in his pocket.

Josh had a great time that evening, playing with his cousins. As hard as they tried to stay up and sneak a peek at Santa, all the kids finally couldn’t keep their eyes open.  Off they went to bed. 

The next morning, I heard the excited screams as all the kids ran down the stairs.  I heard the whooping and hollering and crying out in delight at what they saw under the tree. 

I rolled over and said to Fred, “C’mon, wake up… we have to get these pictures…”   We pulled on sweats and walked out into the hall…. 

There was Josh, standing all alone at the top of the stairs.  The sounds of Christmas laughter  and the smell of cinnamon-Christmas-something were wafting up the stairs to us… 

“Honey, what’s the matter?  Why aren’t you downstairs with the others?” 

His soulful eyes looked up at me and he whispered, “What if Santa forgot me….?” 

I walked to him, kissed his cheek and took his hand, “Honey, remember what I told you?  I’m sure that Santa didn’t forget you…  He knows everything…” 

We walked down the stairs and into the living room where all the kids were tearing open packages and laughing… 

I went to the tree and picked the package I knew contained the record player.  I looked at the card to see whose present it could be….  “Oh!  Here’s one for you, Josh!”

I read aloud:

“Dear Josh, I know you’ve been such a good boy this year.  Merry Christmas, Love, Santa…” 

Josh ran to me and reached up for his present.  He dropped to the floor, and I sat with him, watching his face as he ripped open the wrapping… 

“It’s my record-player!” 

He looked up at me and then  straight into the camera that Fred held, and said…

“Oh, Mommy, you’re right!  Santa DOES know EVERYTHING!” 

Yes,  my dear, sweet child….  He does…. 

As I breathed in the tree lights,  beautiful sights, laughing sounds, and evergreen smell of Christmas, I silently thanked the SomeOne Else who really does know everything….  “Thank you, thank you… for this… for this moment… for this child….  for this family…  for all this Love…” 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all….  I wish you the greatest gifts…  Faith, Beauty, and Love… Miracles, creation, and Joy…

Believe. 

Deliciously yours in the Wonder of it All, Linda 

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   Hebrews, 11:1 

This is Josh at that “Ah-ha!” moment about Santa, with Julie and Jackie in the background and me and the record player in the foreground.  The Big Eyes tell the whole story….

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.  The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.” 

*Note:  The title and this excerpt are from the famous editorial published in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897, entitled, “Is there a Santa Claus?” written by Frances P. Church.  Here is the link to the full editorial:  http://beebo.org/smackerels/yes-virginia.html

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I was looking for my Christmas ornaments.  

It was the Fall of 2007.  I hadn’t had a Christmas tree in all the time I’d  lived in my apartment, four years at that point.  It occurred to me to celebrate my transition into a new life by creating one of my beautiful Christmas trees, loaded with lights and decorations and wrapped in pink tulle. 

I took on cleaning out my closets to find my boxes of ornaments.

It’s funny about closets – New Yorkers always seem to want lots of closet space, AND what happens is that we bury things in there for years.  Then we forget.  We forget what we have and what we value and what has long ago lost any worth or use to us.  We let it all lay in the background of our apartments and our lives, leaving no room for anything new to come in…

After moving every box and pile out of all the closets and into the middle of the living room floor, I made a disconcerting discovery:

My Christmas ornaments were nowhere to be found.

I sat on the couch, gathering my thoughts and dusting off my memory.  Where could they be?

I remembered.   It had been a horrible time. I had to leave my previous apartment to go and live with a friend for a while.  I wasn’t working – a condition made worse by the 9/11 tragedy the prior September.  The city was still in shock, a job I had been working on dried up, and New Yorkers – as resilient as we are – were waking up to a new world.   The process was not easy.

In the midst of this, after 8 years of separation, my husband, Fred, brought me divorce papers.   When I asked, “Why now?” he said, “It’s time,” and I had to agree.  It didn’t seem that it would change anything – we had been friends for years, and there was no reason to think that we wouldn’t be as we had been.  I signed the papers.

There were many things that I couldn’t bear to put in storage when I left that apartment.  Fred helped me to move boxes of these treasures to his house: photographs, our wedding album, the blue snake paperweight he had given me when I became a Vice President at Bloomingdale’s, the Tiffany Battersea box of the Statue of Liberty from her birthday year, my amethyst ring that I had designed in a little goldsmith shop in Florence, some of my favorite articles of clothing, and all my Christmas decorations.

When Fred and I were first married, we made a promise that we would give each other an ornament that was a special gift to the other.   Although Fred is Jewish, we always had a Christmas tree and decorations all over the apartment.   That first year, I bought a white felt church ornament and, with a black Sharpee, I wrote, “United Nations Interfaith Chapel, May 16, 1976” around the front doors to celebrate our wedding day.

In the years following that, I would go to work at Bloomingdale’s early on the morning after Christmas day and buy some of the special ornaments that I had been coveting that season – now at 50% off.  I bought angels and gilt boxes, and delicate crystal scene ornaments.  One year, Bloomingdale’s had a Venetian Christmas theme, and I bought masks and gondolas and Venetian chandeliers, and a hand-painted porcelain jester to sit atop the tree.

When I realized that the ornaments had to have been at Fred’s, I called to ask him to drop them off for me.  When I made my request, he said, “But… you gave them to me.”  I was so surprised by his response that all I could do was to repeat it, “I gave them to you? For keeps?”  He said that I did.  I still couldn’t get it, “You’ve been using them?  All these years?”     

I stopped myself before I said what was there for me, “All these years?  Without me?

I listened as he recounted the day and the conversation when I had done so.  I didn’t remember.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Losing my home was so traumatic that Christmas ornaments and divorce papers for a marriage long over paled by comparison.   I could even imagine myself saying, “Sure, take them.”

I made a stab for sympathy , “Fred, you know what I was going through.  Wouldn’t you want me to have them back now?”

He didn’t.  He was annoyed as he said that he thought they were his and he’d see what he could do about pulling them together for me, but some of them weren’t there anymore. 

I knew instantly what he meant.  My special “love” mementos weren’t there.  His girlfriend would never hang an ornament on the tree that was “engraved” with the date and place of our marriage.  I didn’t want to hear that there were ornaments that had been thrown out, discarded in some trashcan someplace, sullied and forever lost.

I stopped talking.  We were in two different conversations, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in THAT conversation anymore – the conversation of “mine” and “yours” that had run our marriage.  Those ornaments weren’t my marriage, they weren’t my feelings, they weren’t my life.  They were memories, and that’s what they would remain.

I hung up the phone and I knew I was done. We had tried hard to maintain a friendship, an enchantment about the way we loved each other, first passionately, now fondly.  It was over, I knew – but, I always believed – and still do – that God can always start over again.  It may not look the same, but He can make things as beautiful and as glorious as ever  they were –  and even greater… IF we let Him…

In the moment, that seemed like a stretch….

In the following weeks, I went through all the boxes from my closets.  Most of them contained books that I had been lugging around from apartment to apartment, never opening them, hidden away and taking up space.

One box was full of Fred’s old books.  I took them out of the box, remembering how he would talk about what he was reading – Fred is a brilliant, passionate man and it was never more evident than when he was reading something he loved.

He read mostly non-fiction.  The books were “Kippur,” “Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number,” “The Abandonment of the Jews: America and The Holocaust,” ”Who Financed Hitler.”  And, because he couldn’t stand not to have a wholly informed point of view, there was also “The Disinherited:  Journal of a Palestinian Exile.”

At the bottom of the box were Solzhenitisyn’s books.  I closed my eyes and was taken back to when we were dating and we would go to the Hamptons for the weekends.  I remembered him lying on his side in the sand, under the hot sun, engrossed in “The Gulag Archipelago.”   I remembered the curve of his arm as he leaned his head on his hand, how the muscles in his shoulder looked strong and protective…. how I was overwhelmed with love for him….    It was the most erotic posture I could imagine….  My heart used to melt just watching him read…

I put all those books back in the box and closed it up.   For a brief moment, I considered calling Fred to ask if he wanted them, but I knew better.  He never saved books — or anything else.  When he was done with something, he threw it out or gave it away.  He would have been surprised to know that I still had these.   

I pulled the box through my front door and dragged it down the hall to the service elevator. 

I rang the buzzer on the elevator and ran back to my apartment.  As I opened the door, I looked back to see the porter pulling the box into the cage.   In one swift movement, it was gone.

I stepped inside my apartment and closed the door behind me.  I sighed as I leaned back against the door and closed my eyes.  

My closets were clean and clear…  It was time to work on my heart…

I thought,  “I will buy a new Christmas ornament tomorrow.  I don’t know what it will look like, but it will be special and it will be beautiful, and it will be the first of many magical things I will have in my life…”

Christmas is a time of birth, renewal, creation, and love….   a new year…  a new life… for all of us…

Begin again.

Deliciously yours in the Enchantment of it All, Linda

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.
That will be the beginning.”
Louis L’Amour

*EPILOGUE:  This story was orginally written in the Fall of 2007.  Fred and I are good friends now and always will be….  God has created a new friendship between us — a different way of being with each other that is as beautiful as the time when we were in love….  It is a friendship full of kindness, caring, and grace that I am blessed to have in my life…..

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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