BLOG: 6's & 7'S
You know that one toy that every kid just has to have? The one that the sadistic toymakers only produce in limited supply? Yes, that one. Of course, it’s different every year, and when my kids were little, I was just like the rest of the monsters, I mean, mothers, out trying to score that one thing, that one toy that would make them dance around the tree and scream “Thank you, Santa Claus!” Right. The only fat man involved was the one I kidney punched because he tried to grab my Cabbage Patch doll.
It was the year of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and the only thing my sons wanted was a red power ranger action figure. Of course, every child between the ages of four and fifty wanted the same thing and I had exhausted the search in my small town and surrounding areas. Two weeks before Christmas, and I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t find it. I might as well have been talking Furbish. They knew that what Mom couldn’t find, Santa would take care of. Damn the fat man.
I had one more shot. My aunt and I had planned to meet in Manhattan for a weekend of shows and Christmas fun. Of all the toy stores in the world, surely, FAO Schwartz would have the prize, right? Well, kind of. Amidst a mob of mothers I listened while the store manager explained:
“Our last shipment of power ranger figures will arrive in the morning at 5am.” Then he added. “By truck. In the alley.”
I wasn’t opposed to grappling in a dark, New York City alley at 5am for a power ranger, and I was pretty sure I could hold my own. But these other miscreants, I mean, mothers, were pretty excited about it, and that scared me. I shrugged, and thought, oh well, in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll round up some brass knuckles and a cat o nines and take my chances. What the hell.
I got there at 4 a.m., thinking I would be ahead of the crowd. The others were obviously more experienced at alley jacking trucks, and there were easily two hundred women already there. Yes, two hundred Zhu Zhu warriors, ready to crack you over the head with an Easy Bake Oven, if necessary.
Seeing that my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle moves were not intimidating anyone, I knew my chance of actually getting through these angry birds was pretty slim. They would be arm-loading, and if I got to the truck at all, the only thing that would be left would be, heaven forbid, a blue ranger. And from the looks of the crowd, I’d probably have to take a knife just to get that.
I was ready to accept defeat. I wavered between telling the boys that Santa is a jerk or to just blame their father. I started walking away, glancing back to the alley and trying to avoid the Christmas cheer that the twinkling lights and expensive decorations were there to encourage. Then I stopped and looked more closely at the decorations that were strung through the streets. “Well, Tickle Me, Elmo,” I said. I turned around and walked one block, turned and walked one more. Then I waited.
At 4:45, an unmarked 28 foot box truck crept down the street. At 4:46, I walked in front of it and forced it to stop.
“Lady, are you crazy!” Probably not certifiable, but that wasn’t the point.
“You hit me!” I yelled as I limped toward him and climbed on the step side.
“You are crazy. Lady, you need to get off my truck.”
I nodded. “Sure thing. I’ll just call your dispatcher and say you hit me and kept on going. Or, I could call him and tell him how professionally you handled Christmas Hell in that alley ahead. Either one will go in your file, right?”
“How do you know what alley I’m going to?”
I shrugged. “I work for a truck line. Last week one of our drivers took out Santa and all eight reindeer that were hanging too low across the street. Look around, this is the only route there is to that alley, and you have a 5 a.m. appointment.”
He laughed. “I guess you want me to open up my truck and get you one of those damn dolls. That ain’t gonna happen.”
He knew he was packing the goods. But I was smarter than the average beanie baby. “No! Of course not. I’m going to ask you to give me one of the ones you’ve got in the cab of this truck. Twenty bucks for a $7 toy, and a glowing compliment from one of the mothers at FAO Schwartz. Whatdya say?”
He thought for a moment. “What makes you think I have some in the cab?”
I gave him my best smirk and rolled my eyes. I do love truck drivers.
He thought for a moment and then sighed. “You got forty bucks?”
“Forty bucks! Highway robbery!” I said as dug in my pocket and grabbed two twenties. Then I realized, it actually was highway robbery and I was a maskless Zorro. “It has to be red,” I said as he leaned over and reached behind the passenger seat. I heard him mumble, “Well, hell, like I don’t know that.”
He handed me two boxes. I shook my head. “No, I only need one."
“One’s red and the other is green. They just came out with the green ones. You’ll be walkin’ in front of trucks for that one next week. I’m trying to save us both the headache.”
I walked back through the streets of Manhattan with more attitude than Holiday Barbie. I stood across the street from Hell Alley and watched as the biting, fighting, screaming and general chaos began. I couldn’t resist yelling “Merry Christmas, losers!” as I turned to leave. I smiled as I patted my coat, now bulging with two boxes—-a red ranger AND a green ranger. I had scored. And I’d be damned if Santa was going to get the credit for it.
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull made history by becoming the first woman to run for president of the United States. But four years earlier she was still struggling to overcome her shameful past and establish herself in New York’s high society. She has finally secured an entre into that glittering world by way of an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at the home of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. But when her uncouth family crashes the party and threatens to send her social status spiraling, it will take a Christmas miracle to recover her reputation and keep her dreams on track.
My story is a tie-in to my biographical historical fiction novel Madame Presidentess. Victoria Woodhull may seem like an odd choice for a Christmas story, and I agree. Actually, she wasn't my first choice. I had two drafts of stories involving Guinevere from my Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy Arthurian legend novels. But given our strict word limit, I was having problems explaining the Celtic winter solstice rituals and telling my story in the allotted space. Anything winter solstice or even early Christian Christmas is so different from what we know today that I didn't want to risk not doing the stories justice. (For example, in fifth century Christianity, there was no Advent season yet and the Christmas celebration actually included three different Masses, each with their own symbolism and meaning.)
Then I remembered that one of the scenes I deleted from Madame Presidentess took place at Christmas. (It involved Cornelius Vanderbilt asking Victoria's sister, Tennie, to marry him, which really did happen. She had to say no because she was already married to a gambler who abandoned her. Seriously, history is stranger than fiction.) This was a much better choice because the Victorian period is when some of our most beloved Christmas traditions became popular: Queen Victoria made Christmas trees a widespread thing, Christmas cards began being sent in the mail, and Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol.
As it turned out, the story I submitted was totally different from the scene I started with, but it got me on the right track. And I had a lot of fun researching what was served at Victorian Christmas dinners, what people wore and what the decor would have looked like. If you want a sneak peek into my brain, check out my Pinterest board on the story. (That hideous plaid dress is what Victoria's mom wore to the party.)
I ended up placing the story right when Victoria and Tennie were starting to become comfortable in their life working with Cornelius Vanderbilt. Victoria is ambitious as always and she sees her coveted invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at Mr. Vanderbilt's mansion as a way for her to get a foot in the door with the New York elite, whom she longs to be a part of. But as happened so many times during her life, Victoria's low-class family comes along and nearly ruins it by inviting themselves to the dinner. You'll have to read the story to find out how, but it involves a brawl, a fire and some stolen Christmas gifts...
As usual, when Victoria's family is around, trouble is sure to follow.
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Creepiest Santa ever
Yes, it's that time of year again, when parents all over encourage their young children to sit on an unknown fat man's lap and tell him all their desires. A little creepy, yes, but, it's somehow related to Christianity and the birth of Christ, so, it's okay. It's Christmas, and here comes Santa.
But with one on every corner, how do you know which one is the REAL Santa? I mean, as a parent, you don't want to encourage your child to sit on some mans lap if he isn't the real deal, right? As usual, I'm here to help:
1. If the beard is fake, he probably isn't the real Santa. Tell your kids to always pull the beard to make sure, or better yet, walk up and pull it yourself.
2. Santa has had the same nine reindeer since the beginning of time, and therefore, should have no problem naming them for you. Ask him. In fact, ask him to spell their names for you. That should be entertaining.
3. If Santa asks your child for his address, he's probably not the real deal. Santa knows where everyone lives, if he asks, you are probably about to get robbed.
4. Santa is fat. Isn't this the first thing parents should be looking for? Don't fall for 'Mrs. C has me on a diet.' She's fat, too, and no fat woman wants a husband travelling all over the world, looking fine in his red velvet, while she sits at home with the elves. Not going to happen.
5. I'm yes and no on Santa wearing gloves. I think the real Santa would not wear gloves and I'd prefer his hands to be exposed anyway, as long as he sanitizes between children. I'm particularly weary of Santa just coming back from his bathroom break, though. The jury is still out on gloves.
6. Santa has a twinkle in his eye. I don't know what that means, but if his eyes aren't twinkling, he probably isn't the real guy. Of course, that could mean he is sober, which is a good thing. Your call on the twinkle.
7. If your Santa smells like spiced rum instead of spice cake, walk away.
8. If he looks like Billy Bob Thornton, run like Hell.
And remember, underneath that red velvet rental, he really is just some random fat man that you don't know. Be careful out there.
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