Treading gently into new year

In the first hour of Christmas Eve, our 9-year-old grandson and his parents arrived here in Ohio after two long flights from their home in hurricane-ravaged St. Croix.

His recent life included 10 weeks without electricity in the U.S. territory full of U.S. citizens. In advance of his visit, Clayton asked for only one thing for Christmas: “Please have snow in Cleveland.”

“On it,” I said to only myself. But the will was strong.

Hours before they boarded their first of two flights, I texted a photo of Clayton’s name drawn in the fresh snow in our backyard, framed by a giant heart. His mother sent an audio text of his screamed response: “Sno-o-o-o-w!”

In my grandson’s eyes, at least, Grandma’s still got game.

At Cleveland’s airport, my husband had barely pulled to a stop in the arrivals lane before I jumped out and dashed through the sliding doors with three coats in my arms. There they were, our St. Croix crew, hovered together in a collective shiver as the doors repeatedly parted to usher in another gust of winter.

On the 20-minute drive to our home in the city, we did what happily reunited families do, talking over one another and laughing every time we did. When we pulled in to our development, we were greeted by a family of deer gathered around the gazebo in the small public park.

We have counted as many as 13 deer visiting the park at once. On this Christmas Eve, there were only six, maybe seven, but it was more than enough for us. We hooted and hollered, but they are used to that here. They looked at us as if they were trying not to laugh.

“If they’re here,” Clayton said, “Santa can’t be far away.”

A quick, short silence fell over the car. We’d thought those days were behind us with our eldest grandson. “You bet,” Grandpa said, and we all erupted with the enthusiasm of believers.

This is the week of countless stories about New Year’s resolutions and columns by people who think you want to know all about theirs. I am not one of them; I promise.

I’d rather feel hopeful about the new year. A long list of resolutions, considered at its source, is a litany of our flaws. I should do this better. I must stop doing that. I have to change this, this and this about me. The longer we go on the more pathetic we appear to be. It’s our habit to focus on our imperfections, but my, how this documentation of our discontent magnifies our lens. It’s a small miracle that we ever leave our homes.

Recently, with our six grandchildren in mind, I bought a set of four handmade coasters with messages of hope, to sprinkle throughout the house. They are ceramic tiles illustrated with winged children wearing paper crowns and wielding wands. Each coaster bears a message that, in appearance, resembles a ransom note cut from magazines. Fortunately, the inscriptions are less menacing.

“Sometimes it ends up different, and it’s better that way.”

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

“Be you. The world will adjust.”

And my favorite, right now: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” As resolutions go, that pretty much covers it.

It snowed throughout the day on Christmas Eve. In the 10th hour, our grandson pulled on a pair of my boots and his winter coat we had stored for a year. Grandpa grabbed the leash for our dog, Franklin, and we left the parents behind as the four of us took a walk in the falling snow.

The snow had worked its magic. Trees sparkled as we walked down the middle of empty streets. Repeatedly, we lifted our faces to the cascade of snowflakes.

“It’s true,” Clayton said as he walked ahead of me. “This really is the best time of the year.” He turned to face me, his arms opened wide. I held on to him for as long as he let me.

We were almost back to our house, when our grandson shared with us his current policy.

“I’ve decided that this year, I want to believe in Santa,” he said. “Sometimes the world is a better place if you don’t know everything about it.”

¯¯¯

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.