Fear Not

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

On Saturday afternoon, around 3:45, Beth and I were walking along the boardwalk; Noah and June raced ahead. Every now and then he would tug on her arm or grab her coat to slow her down, telling her she couldn’t go inside Santa’s house until the adults caught up with them.

“Let go of her hood,” I yelled as Beth yelled almost identical words. It’s not like she’d actually go inside without any of us, we joked to each other. June’s always been shy around Santa. In years past it has taken all the courage she can muster to walk into the little house with Noah at her side and stand in Santa’s general proximity while Noah relays her requests. We weren’t expecting anything different this year.

But before we got to the house, a woman dressed as an elf peered around the corner and asked if it was okay for the kids to come in. We indicated it was and hurried up a little.

When we got to the doorway, June was already sitting on Santa’s lap and he was asking her what she wanted for Christmas. She had her answer all ready: “A princess book and a princess doll.” Santa told her to go to bed early on Christmas Eve so he would have time to deliver her gifts. We barely had time to snap a picture before it was Noah’s turn. As the kids came out, admiring their flashing necklaces–hers was in the shape of a stocking and his was a Christmas tree- Beth and kept looking at each other and exclaiming over June’s unexpected bravery.

I’ve been somewhat afraid of Christmas this year, or rather I’ve been afraid of the emotions it might stir up, as my father died in mid-January last year and my last visit to him started on the day after Christmas. But so far, it hasn’t been too bad. I mean, I’m thinking about him a lot, and I even had a dream recently about going to visit him but being unable to find him because I was supposed to meet him at his new office, which was on a street with completely random street numbers. But Christmas music and decorations and sweets seem the same as ever, more comforting than sad. When I am hit with sadness it comes unexpectedly. A few weeks ago the kids and I went to a marionette show at a nearby community college with the Toad and her mother. One of the puppeteers looked a bit like my father. It wasn’t even a very close resemblance, but it was still hard to watch him up there on stage. I think grief is like that–you don’t get to decide or even predict when it will come to you. So I’ve realized it does me no good to go in fear of eggnog lattes or Christmas carols.

And the Christmas story itself is, at least in part, about overcoming fear. How would the shepherds have felt, seeing the angels swoop down on their field at night? How would Mary have received the news about her impending unwed motherhood? I imagine they all would have been sore afraid indeed, at least at first.

After we left Santa, we did some Christmas shopping (this being the ostensible reason for our annual December weekend in Rehoboth—but if you know me at all you know the real reason). Beth and I split up and bought many of June’s Christmas gifts right under her nose, including a princess book (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paper_Bag_Princess) and a princess doll. I will not say what, if anything, we bought for Noah because he reads my blog now. Sorry, Noah Bear.

Then we headed to Grotto’s to order a pizza to take back to our hotel room. June had slept poorly the night before and then skipped her nap that afternoon and she was clearly exhausted so our evening plan was pizza and a movie in the room. I was expecting her to conk out on the bed pretty early in the feature presentation so we bathed both kids and got them into their pajamas before starting the movie.

We were watching Christmas Is Here Again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUpxgaH4F4g&feature=related), which is one of the stranger Christmas films I’ve ever seen. We found it at a video store two Christmases ago and it’s become one of the movies in our regular Christmas rotation. It’s a rather dark tale about an orphan girl who sets out to find Santa’s stolen sack, which has been missing for over thirty years and without which Christmas can no longer celebrated. The girl is accompanied by an elf, a baby reindeer, a polar bear and a fox, one of whom is a double agent, but I won’t give away that part. They have to journey down into the mines of the devilish villain where child slaves toil to extract coal and precious stones. And it goes on like that. The villain, Crad, is very creepy, a shrouded fellow with crooked teeth and red eyes. He scares the pants off June every time. In fact, sometimes Noah only has to sing “I stole Santa’s sack/The sack he carried on his back./I stole Santa’s sack/And I’ll never give it back!” to send June running out of the room.

Nevertheless, she insists on watching this movie, and we let her. I struggle a lot with what’s too scary for the kids to watch, especially June because she’s both younger and more sensitive to on-screen scariness than Noah was at her age. (Interestingly, some of the books that spooked him when he was a preschooler do nothing for her.) But if it’s rated G, I will usually let her watch it, as long as we’re not at a movie theater where the screens are bigger and her habit of running of the room at the scary parts would be more inconvenient for everyone involved.

And she did run out of the room at least twice, even though she declared several times before we started watching that “This is not a scary movie for me.” I accompanied her to the bathroom and we waited for her to be ready to come back. After a while she decided she could just hide under the covers whenever Crad came on screen, and that’s what she did. Much to my surprise, she did not fall asleep during the hour and fifteen minute film, though when I put her to bed soon after, she fell asleep quickly and slept an impressive ten fours and forty minutes (from 8:05 to 6:45). She may not have made it through the entire movie without hiding, but some year she will. She’d already overcome one long-standing fear and that’s plenty for one day.

Once June was asleep, I took Noah down to the hotel lobby where we could read and then I brought him back up and put him to bed at 8:45. Beth had gone to bed herself and seemed to be asleep. I sat on the bathroom floor with the light on and read for twenty minutes until Noah was asleep and then I got into my warm socks, rubber boots, coat and woolen scarf. It was raining out but it’s not every evening I have the chance to walk on the beach and I’m not afraid of a little rain.

2 thoughts on “Fear Not

  1. I have had the same experience with grief – it comes at the most unexpected moments. One of them was in Rehoboth, actually. Or Lewes to be exact. Mom and I popped into a store and the sight of an old picket fence post painted like a fish pierced me in the heart and caused by eyes to well up. I had helped Dad pick out a fish just like that for his Key West house the Thanksgiving before he died.

  2. It’s so interesting how they are willing to tiptoe up to the brink and then scoot away, but get closer every time — watching scary things, I mean. Talia will literally cover her eyes with her fingers, and then watch things again peeking out a little, and then a little more, and then with squinty eyes, and finally she’ll say “I used to be scared but I’m not scared any more.” I love how they push themselves (and get there!)

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