…and to all A Good Night

This tale really began ten days ago, two weeks before Christmas…

“Well we got her everything she asked Santa for, thank the Lord she has simple wishes.”  This was my wife, Karen,talking and breathing a sigh of relief as we began the drive home from the mall with the last of the presents for our four year old daughter, Faith.  Fortunately, she had fallen asleep in her car seat after half a day of walking the length of a mall about three times.

It had been a tough year.  Karen and I both worked at an auto parts manufacturer, the town’s biggest employer that had closed just after Christmas last year.  We hadn’t found anything but a few temporary jobs for the past twelve months and with those, we were doing better than most of the rest of the town.

I’m Brendan,Karen’s husband and Faith’s father and these two girls are the center of my universe.

We managed to hang onto the house and keep warm and fed for the last twelve months. But, there was no work in sight and we were down to our last four-hundred bucks this morning when we started discussing Faith’s Christmas and Santa.

My daughter, God bless her four year old heart, had with her mother’s help,written a Christmas wish list to Santa that looked like a child’s letter to Santa fifty years ago.

Faith wanted a doll, doll’s clothes, a doll carriage, a child’s tea set and picture books.  Not a single electronic toy.  This was good news from two perspectives;Karen was really excited about shopping for good, old fashion, little girl’s toys and since our Faith was probably the only four year old with these items on her Santa list they would be still in stores and probably on sale.

We counted our four hundred dollar cash reserve three times when Karen said,“Let’s split it down the middle, two hundred for Faith’s Christmas and two hundred for an emergency.  How’s that Honey?”

I laughed to myself thinking, an emergency like eating, but with a smile on my face I said, “Sounds good to me”.

So, off we went and spent the next four hours shopping for the best prices on every item on Faith’s list.  First, I would take Faith to various places far from where her mother was tracking down an item then we would reverse roles and Karen would occupy Faith while I shopped.  I have to admit it was a fun outing.  The final stop was for hamburgers and fries at McDonald’s, a big treat for Faith in and of itself.  We left the mall a happy trio for the half-hour ride home.

As we turned into our block Karen said, “Honey, it’s only three o’clock, let’s put up the tree and decorations.  We’ll do the outside first while we have daylight, and then do the tree.”

The turn must have woken Faith up because she began gleefully shouting, “Can we Daddy,can we?”  She was soon joined by her mother chiming in, “Can we Brendan, can we?”

At this,Faith joined her mother and started chanting “Can we Brendan, can we?”  Karen and I couldn’t believe our ears and suddenly all three of us burst out laughing.

Needless to say, the decorations went up and the whole house looked warm and festive and Karen went up to the attic to get the final decoration that was a must each of the seven Christmases since our marriage.

When she came down the stairs, Faith screeched with excitement. Karen was carrying Faith’s favorite decoration, a very old Swiss Cuckoo clock that only came out once a year at Christmas.  Each year it was placed on the mantle with sprigs of evergreen on either side.

The cuckoo clock had been bequeathed Karen by her Grandfather.  It was the only item in his brief will that was specifically left to someone.  Her Grandfather had been a clock maker whose business, once providing a comfortable living, had deteriorated to almost zero by the time he passed away.  Another victim of technological advancement!

All through her childhood, Karen had loved to watch the workings of the clock which were in all honesty a marvel.  In the image of a four floor Swiss chalet the clock was fitted with a music box with eight melodies.  Not only did the cuckoo emerge through the little doors above the clock face and announce the hour, but each half hour a music box contained in the clock would play one of eight tunes and pirouetting Swiss maids would emerge through doors at the base and revolve until the song ended.

Anyway,up on the mantle it went where Karen wound it and after hearing both the cuckoo and the music box and watching the dancers, off went Faith to dream the dreams only a four year old girl can dream.

~~~~

On the Saturday evening three days before Christmas we had all gone to an early pre-Christmas ‘bring-a-dish dinner’ at our church.  Since we were expected to bring a large enough dish to be shared among many of the parishioners in attendance, we had to dig into that two-hundred dollar emergency fund to buy the makings of a three pound string-bean casserole, including the dish.

It was worth it though.  There was caroling,skits by the teenagers and a general good and uplifting time.  Pastor and his wife had even gotten little gifts for all the young children explaining that Santa had dropped them off when he came by to see Jesus in the manger on the altar.

Since almost the entire congregation was in the same financial boat we were in, the whole celebration was a very bright spot in what for most of us was a stressful period.  We had no idea how stressful it was to be.

As I went to put the key in the lock on our arrival home, I realized the front door was ajar and the frame near the lock was smashed.

Trying to look calm, I picked up Faith and grabbed Karen by the hand signaling silence and ran quickly across the lawn to our next door neighbors where we called the police.

Two squad cars arrived in less than five minutes (one of the benefits of living in a small town) and two police officers entered through the broken door while the other two went to the back of the house, guns drawn.

A half hour later Karen and I were standing in the center of our living room shocked at what had been done to our home.  We  had left Faith at the neighbors fearing the effect of what the Police officers told us to expect.

Our tree had been flung into the fireplace and smashed with the poker destroying decorations that dated back three generations.

Garland had been ripped off the entrance to the living room and torn apart.  Suddenly Karen went running upstairs where there was one of the officers making notes on a pad.  The thieves/vandals had broken lamps, mirrors and pictures and then I heard the scream.

I went running up the stairs followed by the three officers only to find Karen at the head of the stairs, the fourth police officer staring at her.  She was alternating between anger and tears.

“They took them, every last one.  They took them all,” she was shouting.

“They took what?” I asked.

“Faith’s presents, every one of them”.

I didn’t know what to say, she was so distraught, I just wanted to make things better so  I stupidly said, “Don’t worry Honey, we’ll go back to the mall tomorrow and replace them all and get some new decorations. By Christmas Eve, we’ll have everything back to the way it was and Faith will have her Christmas.”

“With what, Brendan?  We don’t have enough money to replace the presents much less get Christmas decorations and a new tree.

“Whoever did this deserves to burn in hell, Brendan, and I’d like to light the fire.”  She turned and started back down the stairs.

She reached the landing and screamed again, “They took Grandpa’s clock.  The little pieces of pig dung took my baby’s Christmas and Grandpa’s clock.  Burning in hell is too good for them they should start burning here and now.”

I agreed with her, but one of us had to be calm and since it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to be her I figured it had better be me.

“Honey,it’s divine intervention, if we had not been at Church, God’s house, with Pastor and our friends we may have been here when they broke in and what could have happened then is anyone’s guess or nightmare.

“We are all safe and all we have lost is material things that can in time be replaced.”  Except maybe Grandpa’s clock, I thought to myself.

Karen looked at me and began to smile as tears came streaming down her face, “Always positive, Honey, I guess the next thing you’re going to say is, ‘This too shall pass’.

“Let’s start to list what’s missing for the police report and clean up as much as we can before we get Faith.  I love you my unbearable optimist.”

~~~~

Two of the officers stayed to help clean up (another benefit of small town living) and to make the formal police report and list of stolen property.

We were about an hour into the process when the older of the two officers, that had stayed, came upstairs where I was with Karen sorting all the contents of our closet and dresser that the creeps had thrown around the room.

“Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, it seems as if the two other officers that were here have nabbed the three vandals that broke into your house. All three of them are high on something and apparently were trying to break into a home on the next block when they triggered a silent alarm.  The officers think they found all of your belongings in the trunk of their car.  As soon as the van comes to take the three down to headquarters and lock them up,they’ll head over here with the stolen property for you to identify.”

“What do you mean, ‘take them to headquarters and lock them up’?  Bring them here; I want to see them… I want…”

At this point I interrupted, “Karen, it will not make things any better if the officers bring the crooks here so you can accelerate their burning in or out of hell.  Let’s look on the bright side.  If we actually get back all of Faith’s presents we can afford to get a new tree with the money we have so we will have a merry Christmas.”

At this point we were interrupted by the younger of the two officers.  “Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, the guys are here with the suspects’ car and your belongings.  If you come down, we’ll confirm it’s your belongings then we can proceed from there.”

We went down and they unloaded all our stolen belongings onto the driveway.  There were all Faith’s presents, (I was glad she was next door, no need to create more complications around Santa delivering presents), some miscellaneous items and Grandpa’s cuckoo clock.

“Can we take these in the house now,” I asked?

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Anderson,” answered one of the two officers that brought back the car and the loot, “they’ll be needed as evidence of the crime and the more items we have the stronger the case the DA can make against the suspects.”

“I think we can let the Andersons take their daughter’s gifts from Santa into the house.  After all, since they’re from Santa technically they weren’t stolen from the Andersons.”

I noticed for the first time that this older officer was a sergeant and the other three younger guys were not.

The three younger guys looked at the Sergeant like he’d lost his mind and all at once they began to smile.

“And,” continued the Sergeant, “I don’t think you’ll need anything but Grandpa’s clock, to make a pretty heavy case against the suspects.

“Mrs. Anderson,” he said, turning towards Karen, “what do you know about this clock?”

“It was my Grandfather’s and his Grandfather’s before him.  My Grandfather’s family were Swiss clock makers going back many generations and my Grandfather brought this with him when he came to this country as a boy. Why do you ask?”

“Well,I’m no expert,” said the Sergeant, “but I spent three years on the Arts and Antiques unit of the Chicago Police Department’s Fraud Division and I think this piece may change the crime from low-level misdemeanor vandalism to felony burglary.  We of course don’t have there sources in our department, but the State Police does and I’ll get their experts to look at it tomorrow and get back to you.”

We finished listing all the stolen and damaged goods and the vandalism, signed the report and the officers left… leaving a stack of wrapped Christmas presents in the upstairs closet where they had been that afternoon.

We put the living room back together as best we could, picked up Faith and went to bed.

~~~~

The next day at about three in the afternoon the Sergeant showed up after calling to make sure we were home.  He brought some papers for us to sign and told us that the State Police Art and Antique experts came immediately to view Grandpa’s clock after he e-mailed them a picture.

Sure enough the value of the cuckoo clock is great enough to make sure the DA will prosecute for felony burglary and the three creeps will go away for anywhere from three to seven years.

“How much does it have to be worth for the DA to prosecute for felony burglary,” asked Karen?

“Usually the stolen property has to be worth more than twenty-five thousand dollars before the DA will take on that charge.”

“Wow,” I piped up, “Grandpa’s cuckoo clock is worth twenty-five grand?”

“Oh no,Mr. Anderson, I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear.  The State guys identified the clock as … let me check my notes, yeah here it is, ‘A Swiss Brienz chalet mantel cuckoo clock,fitted with a music box with eight melodies, hand made in Switzerland around 1860’.  They said that they would have a more specific identification before the arraignment.

“I’m sorry but we have to keep the clock and the lesser items until after the trial but you’ll get them back as soon as the case is closed.”

“How much is a Brienz… whatever you called it, worth,” asked Karen?

With this Faith strolled in from the kitchen and stood next to her mother.

“Oh what’s the matter with me,” said the Sergeant, “I should have told you that first off.  They figure at auction it would draw between one and one and half million dollars.”

At this my eyes rolled back in my head and I collapsed… fortunately onto the sofa.

Faith looked with her eyes wide and said to her mother, “What happened to Daddy?”

Laughing that beautiful laugh of hers she picked up Faith and said, “Honey, do you remember what Santa says to all at the end of the Christmas Carol”?

“Yes Mommy,Santa says ‘…and to all A Good Night’.”

www.GHughBodell.com

©Copyright G. Hugh Bodell – 2018

MEDDLING ~ An American Obsession

by the Blogger G. Hugh Bodell

“…because they are making the wrong choices.”

Believe it or not this is the reason given for meddling whether the meddler is; a parent in the life of a grown adult child, an adult child in the life of a parent, or a bureaucrat in everything from what you eat/drink to what you let your children read.

The very scary news is that regardless of the reach of our insatiable appetite to meddle, the results appear to be consistently the same…disaster!

My awareness of the meddling obsession began quite unexpectedly.

My wife Susan and I speak before varied groups about her bestselling book on finding happiness and fulfillment, ‘Look for the Hook’.  For the most part, folk attending these events are unhappy and don’t know why.  After the first two sessions, we began to observe that the majority of these unhappy people were not distressed over their own actions but were seriously bothered… to a degree that kept them awake at night…by the actions or lack thereof of others.  These ‘others’ included spouses, siblings, parents or adult children.

Why?

“Because ‘they’ are making the wrong choices!”

Over several events we learned that the ‘wrong choices’ these adults were making ran the gamut from where they lived, what they did for a living, who they choose as a partner even as far as their having a child.

The meddling adults had excuses galore for their right to meddle, all of which resonated with insults to those guilty of ‘wrong choices’ and the epic arrogance of the meddler.

We usually try to nudge the unhappy folk who are doing the meddling to read the lyrics of the hit song of the 1970s, ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes”, written and performed by Joe South.  Although the song and the underlying theme concern racial tolerance, the concentration is on ‘perspective’… an attribute generally ignored by meddlers.

The following verse and chorus is a great example (in my opinion) of the thoughts going on in the mind of the object of meddling:

If you could see you through my eyes
Instead your ego
I believe you’d be, I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind

So, unless you’ve lived a life of total perfection
Mm-mm, you’d better be careful of every stone that you should throw

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

I have outlived the folk in my life that may have been inclined to meddle, but the awesome surprise and fortunate for me, they never meddled.

They may have thought, justifiably, that choices I was making appeared to be bad ones, but they thankfully made not a sound and let those bad choices run their course… and about 75% of the time, they were bad or more appropriately ‘insufficiently analyzed’.  However, I learned and grew from each experience and after getting beyond the disaster of the bad choice I would say, “Wow that was dumb.”

The other 25% turned out to be good…for me.

I learned three things from each of these experiences:

1] The only person that could know all the facts surrounding my choices was me, therefore the only valid participant in that choice was me.

2] I learned, never to forget, the results of bad choices

3] Go with your gut and the results of your own analysis.  Make a decision and leap into it with both feet.  If you succeed cheer, If the choice results in disaster, learn from it, put it behind you, and move on.

This of course is a tough way of dealing with those we see making a bad choice… from the perspective of our yard stick, however, the meddler and the meddled both win when the practice of shutting our mouths and staying out of another’s life is exercised.

The meddler does not become one of the legions of unhappy folk because another adult is not living according to the meddler’s plan.

The meddled make life decisions based on their analysis and their place in life and whether the outcome is good or bad they move along the path of life with an experience, more knowledge and a good feeling about themselves for standing on their own.


But enough of the small-time meddling, let’s look at meddling on a grand scale and how it is seriously affecting the lives of over 300 million Americans.

For openers, the “Grand Scale Meddlers” (henceforth referred to as GSMs) have two basic characteristics in common with family level busybodies;

  • They overtly or by innuendo insult those guilty of ‘wrong choices’ (including whole cultures)
  • Their arrogance knows no bounds

A few examples of GSMs around us today:

Mr. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, pushed through a local law prohibiting all restaurants, fast-food joints, delis, movie theaters, sports stadiums and food carts from selling sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces (0.5 liters).  So Mr. Bloomberg, a prime example of a GSM, decided that if you wanted 32 ounces of Coca~Cola to sip during your afternoon of diligent labor in the City of New York, you could not do it with a single 32 ounce cup from the local fast food joint…you had to buy two 16 ounce cups.

Mr. Bloomberg’s rationale summarized; “I believe that sixteen ounces of a sugary drink is not bad for you but seventeen ounces is, therefore I am saving you from yourself by preventing you from drinking seventeen ounces conveniently.”

My summary; “New Yorkers, you are too stupid and incompetent to look after your own welfare so I in my infinite wisdom (and arrogance) will decide what you can and cannot do… in any area of your life that I choose, so let’s start with what you eat and drink.”

Fortunately, some of the US Judicial System believe that these decisions are not appropriate for the arrogant, bloated bureaucracy to make, thus, On June 26, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule, exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority.

How much did that meddling escapade cost New Yorkers?

We of course can look around us and find many other examples of arrogant bureaucrats that find meddling their right and chosen vocation.

  • Pre-Teens introduced to birth control and ‘alternative’ life styles from age ten in many public school systems over a majority of parents objections
  • A Federal bureaucrat decides you cannot continue to go to the physician who has been caring for you for twenty-five years because the bureaucrat knows what medical care system is better for you than you do
  • Children punished for using the word ‘gun’ or ‘God’ in public schools
  • San Francisco has implemented a ban on Happy Meal toys to protect vulnerable tots from Big Corporate Marketing
  • At public schools, all over the United States, the lunches that little children bring from home are now inspected to make sure that they meet USDA guidelines, not the parents knowledge of the child’s need.

But this is a drop in the bucket when compared to meddling on an international level as carried out by US administrations:

  • Telling/dictating the way 1,400-year-old cultures should change to be more like 350-year-old cultures

We all know how that is working for them.

  • Picking out and supporting one side in internal civil wars because American politicians know what is best for them. Let’s see, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, etc, etc

We all know how that is working for them.

  • Picking out and supporting individual businesses in the energy sphere.

We all know how that is working for them.

The point is, meddling in affairs that are not yours, whether it is where your son and his family choose to live, the food your constituents can eat or to whom in a conflict you elect to provide billions in military gifts, it appears to always turn out bad for one side or the other, The Meddler or The Meddled.

Regardless of the level of meddling there are two common attributes in this intrusive activity, insult and arrogance.

There is a lesson to be learned here.


G. Hugh Bodell is an Author, Freelance Writer and Blogger
Visit him and his books at:
www.ghughbodell.com

© Copyright G. Hugh Bodell 2018