Dear Santa

My mother was a memory hoarder. My sister has been going though boxes of things stored in our family home & has unearthed things from my past. This letter to Santa was one of those treasures. It tells me so many things about myself at that time – when was that time? Probably when we first moved to Cape Breton in the mid50’s. Before my brother was born. While I was learning cursive writing in school.

The spelling mistakes & writing errors are things that I am still plagued by in my hand written notes. Even then I couldn’t write as fast as I thought & so my letters stumbled over each other resulting in scratching words out or writing over them. 

I can remember learning cursive in grade school. We had to have a special scribbler with lines to train us how to keep uniform sizes for small & capital letters. I have vague memories of the actual exercises but, much liking tying my shoes, there is no specific moment. I do see the influence of my Dad’s writing in the shape of some of the letters.

I was very keen on that cowboy suit. It was not the first one I had – it was a hat, vest, chaps & a two-gun holster. A cowhide print but probably not on cowhide. I recall getting fire engines a few times. Red plastic with ladders that could be swivelled & cranked up with a gear. I love me asking for ‘any old toys you don’t want’ Even then there was no such thing as enough but willingness to accept the mystery ‘any.’ 

I suspect the ‘thank you’ was suggested by my mother though, that’s not the sort of thing I would have added. An early lesson in trying to curry favour though gratitude. The ‘good at school’ sounds like me. I can’t say if that ‘good’ means if my marks or my behaviour had improved 😉 


if I want what I want

& want it now

does that make me 



or obsessive


is it better to be goal driven

or to live in the moment

is what happening now 

as an end itself 

rather than a step 

to something  better

something so much better in fact

that is happening now

loses flavour

makes me impatient for this to be over

so I can get on to the next best thing to do


if i don’t what i have now

how did i end up with it

should i have had better plans

did i miss the turn

take the wrong page 

out of the wrong book 

& end up with the last thing i wanted 

or is this what i want

but don’t recognize it

have i been blindsided 

by some urge 

that spun me so far off reality

that i no longer know 

what i like anymore 

do i want what what i have


if i have what i want

is it important to reach fulfillment

is contentment settling for less

or accepting things as they are

because things aren’t that bad

pretty good in fact

though it took some time

to sort through wants needs 


& don’t needs


i always thought i wanted 

to be adored

worshipped in fact

because being loved 

wasn’t fulfilling

then it dawned on me

that what i really wanted was envy

i wanted people 

to wish they had what i have

not that i know 

what i really do have


it took awhile to sort that out

to filter it through 

the expropriations of cultures 

to a point where i had 

a hard kernel of fact 

that then escaped me[

because there are so many

bubbling hesitations to distract 

direct my attention

that i forget what i discovered

so maybe that isn’t 

the hard truth either

though i’m better off now 

than i was once upon a time

when the world was young

and i was a mere boy

on his way to the old fishing hole

dangling a can of worms 

on the end of his line

hot sunny day barefoot on the path

he walks down to the stream bank

warm rocks to sit on

not evening thinking of writing a word

or getting laid

just being

just being

without want


now that is something to envy

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Humpty Grinch in the Box


I bought the Humpty Dumpty way back in the 80’s for Humpty Dumpty potato chips. I had to sent four bar codes. I can’t remember if $ was involved too. I blame the effect of the salt on the potato chips for my memory lapse. There was a time when I loved potato chips but eventually they were too salty or soaked with flavoured chemicals & that compulsion was removed.



Anyway I love this little stuffed toy. The details are mostly glued on though so it is clearly not meant to be played with. It quickly became a part of my festive decor & now its perched atop of a mirror on the landing on my stairs.


Another stuffed decoration is the Grinch which I picked up at Shoppers (or maybe Howie’s before it became Shoppers) at Danforth/Coxwell, sometime in the 90’s. I’ve added a few details over the years 🙂 the stocking he’s stealing showed up one Christmas, stuffed with gifts, a few years later. The reindeer I picked dup at a yard sale & it was the perfect size for the stocking. handcuffs! Well, what can I say. He did the crime & is ready to do his time every year when he comes out of the trunk.


Finally is this tree ornament that I picked up at a Jack in the Box takeout San Diego in December 2000. I had won a trip for two there to see Elton John in concert performing Songs From The West Coast. The trip included airfare, hotel & thickets to the concert. I took a friend. The hotel was miles from anything though so we did public transit one day & had Jack for supper that night. They were selling these ornaments. 


As you can see not all my Christmas decor has bitter-sweet emotional memories for me.

Top Ten Things I Love About The Grinch

10 – he looks good in green and red

9 – he’s not afraid of heights

8 – he makes a plan and sticks to it

7 – he likes winter sports – sledding

6 – he’s willing to admit when he’s wrong

5 – he can sew

4- he leaves your house cleaner than it was when he arrived

3 – he knows how to use a whip

2 – he has a wicked grin

1 – his dog loves him

Plus one

It wasn’t only his heart that grew three times larger

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Christmas Aneramics


In recovery one can get dumbstruck by an intoxicating lust for another member in recovery. This is known as 13th stepping – turning the hand of AA into the gland of AA 🙂 This has happened to me a few times in my early years. One of those times was Andrew X. X, of course, to grant him some anonymity.

Andrew was the living embodiment of a Tom of Finland character. For those of you unfamiliar with the type Google can help 🙂 Thick set, muscular, nordic features, square jaw, broad forehead always with a sweep of hair, slightly squinty eyes, and well-hung. 


For a couple months we hung out a lot. I helped paint his apartment, we talked before & after meetings. Once we went all the way one afternoon. Neither of us was disappointed, & both of us stayed sober too. But, as it always the case, there was more attraction for him on my side than from him. 

He met the man of his dreams & they quickly set up housekeeping. We remained good friends though. They were regulars at our Xmas day feast for a few years. Andrew started a ceramic side-business – Aneramics. One Christmas he gave me a set of angel chimes that now hangs every December in the bathroom. Another year it was set of teddy bear ornaments. One of which I still have.


We remained good friends & his partner & I got along nicely. I was on Andrew’s home care team as his HIV progressed. He was eventually transferred to Casey House where he succumbed to the disease. I was heartbroken & still miss him. I put up the chimes every year. The tip of one of the angle’s wings has broken off & though I could fix it I have resisted. Andrew wasn’t a perfect angel either.



I wandered the mall 

without parental guidance 

to get something festive for my mother

she liked anything we ever gave her

things that remained in their gift boxes 

tucked in a safe place for a special day


I was tempted to take one of those old gifts

rewrap it 

to see if she would remember it

I was too young understand 

treasured memories


did she need atomizers 

bath oils 


I touched sweaters 



clerks would glance at me glance away


I was stumped

I knew all about my mother

she liked to drink tea 


watch TV

make clothes for my sisters

that was an idea – bags of yarn

no that would turn into

gifts for my sisters not her

she rarely wore the jewelry she had

would read reread the same mystery books

maybe something 

for the kitchen


to remind her of her childhood


I wanted one thing that would be hers

she didn’t need another tea mug 

tea pot

more imported teas 

to store behind the one she really likes 


I floated from one store the next 

noticed some woman 

tagging along 

not looking at me 

when I look at her 

I head for the exit she stops me


you find what you were looking for? 

I shake my head no 

I’m not so sure about that – come with me 

kids think you can get away with anything 


we go to the security office

empty your pockets 

she searches my coat 

pats the lining 

tells me what’ll happen for shop lifting 

go to jail – my parents will be ashamed 

we kids are all the same

look so innocent and can’t be trusted 

she finds my wallet 

my money

my dad’s list of things for my mother 

looks like I was wrong honey 

she pats my shoulder 

now you run along home 

I went outside

mom’s little boy no more 


how did I wrap that 

Shopping for my mother was fairly easy for many years until, as the character in this piece, I wanted to be able to get her something besides the Evening in Paris that I usually bought her. Evening in Paris ( was a drug store scent. Yes, even before drug stores forced you to walk through the cosmetics to get to the vitamins, they were fonts of female betterment products.

There was one Christmas when I did buy her a variety collection of teas from around the world. Each type in its own special little canister – most of which were found a few years later tucked in the back of a shelf under a counter. I may have mentioned in a previous post that after my Mother died in 2002 my sister did find some of the gifts we have given her – initialed hankies, bath salts etc. still in their original packaging, stored in a safe place.

The mall in this piece was the first build in Sydney – a covered one with a Kmart, or was it Kresge’s, at one end and Sobey’s at the other end with shops along the walk between. Those shops were women’s clothing, sports equipment & eventually a book store. There may been a bowling alley as well. It was the only mall for decades & hurt the downtown merchants financially.

It was my shopping destination when I had to shop for gifts. The Christmas in question is more of a vague memory than it appears here – much of this is a composite of what I supposed I was looking for – a completion of many shopping excursions over several years. One year I was stopped by a floorwalker and questioned about my aimless search. I explained what I was looking for & it didn’t escalate beyond that.

She did say she was sorry for stopping me though. After that I was nervous in Kmart for a few months when I went in but I got over it when I successful shoplifted something once. The only time I took such a risk there because was I was good boy. I love the ending though I doubt if at that time I could have thought something that emotionally complex. I had enough on my mind figuring out my sexuality. Something I knew I had no of wrapping. 

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Snow Global Santa

In The Belly of the Festive Beast

Here are two ornaments that have been part of my decor for decades. First is this bizarre snow globe Santa Claus. I have several Christmas themed snow globes that get set out in my bathroom for the season. I think I found this one at Honest Ed’s way back in the last century. Made in Hong Kong is has that odd Asian sensibility about things American.

What I love is that stomach – Santa has a crèche in his belly. Pretty much the story of the season – commercialization swallowing the real meaning of the season. The consumer symbol of Christmas, as created by coca cola, consuming the Biblical story. Then again the church co-opted the pagan celebration to create Christmas. 

I’m not clear why Santa is carrying Bambi though. This is the only time I’ve seen him carrying anything other than that sack of toys over his shoulder. It’s almost a St. Christopher reference. St. Christopher  being the guardian of travellers it seems like a appropriate resonance. 

The other belly is a penguin ornament picture frame here holding a photo (taken one Christmas) of my friend Roy. Roy was my recovery sponsor & was big part of why I hosted our December 25th feast. He died suddenly on vacation in Hawaii (longish story) & I was executor of his estate. The penguin was a gift a few years earlier and the first Christmas after he died I put this photo of him into it so that he would always be present in our house to join in our holiday celebration.

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Wooden Soldiers

Wooden Soldiers 


I always wondered

what happened to those gifts

the magi brought 

gold frankincense & myrrh

were they accepted 


put away for a rainy day


 because I don’t recall

Joe & Mary having a life of ease 

while Jesus was growing up

did he ever ask about those presents 

did he remember the magi

did he look at the myrrh

and think what the heck

how much gold was there 

was it a few ingots

a darling little JC ankle bracelet

did he drum on

the frankincense & myrrh jars

till they broke

and another thing

what happened to Lazarus

after he was risen from the dead

is he still wandering around

cursing the miracle

eager to sleep

to dream of being able to die

but mostly I wonder 

about the magi’s gifts

I don’t have any of my first xmas gifts 

my first toy car

my earliest gift recollection

is of wooden soldiers

I must have been about four

I’d found them hidden away in a closet

under some towels

I wanted plastic ones & was disappointed 

I have no memory of unwrapping them 

on xmas morning

did my folks decide 

to teach me lesson 

and not give them to me 

did Jesus have a memory 

of the smell of barns

did the sight of camels 

make him wonder 

where is my gold mom

is Lazarus 

playing with my wooden soldiers

This piece is about my earliest Christmas memory when we were still living in Winnipeg. I did find find those wooden soldiers. They were laid out in a neat row in box – shiny reds & blacks holding rifles. End of memory. I can’t tell you how tall they were. As I piece says I don’t even remember getting them on Christmas Day. In fact I have recollection of playing with them which is why I wonder if they were held back to tech me a lesson.

As I started the piece I thought of other gifts, ones that have a Biblical association – the visit of the Magi is supposedly why we give gifts as Christmas (yes, I know it was how pagan practices were co-opted by the church). Even these gifts were amongst those traditionally offered to the god Apollo. Frankincense & myrrh are both tree resins – I wonder if maple syrup would be acceptable?

The other Biblical gift is that of life, in this case, Lazarus. As with the magi gifts what became of Lazarus after his resurrection isn’t known. Biblical scholars have no answer other than cultural inferences. Talking with a friend last week about sex ed. in Ontario we wonder just how old Mary and Joseph were. ‘Possibly’ 14-16 for Mary, ‘probably’ between 30-40, for Joseph; was as close as my research got me.

But that wasn’t my wonder as a kid growing up. I was more concerned with the magi’s presents. I do have strong smell associations with Christmas – particularly the pine of the tree. The step to what Jesus’s memories of the manger would be was easy an easy one to take. I have no baby memories though so perhaps he didn’t either.

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My seasonal decorating trunk is a box of memories – which is what most people’s Christmas trunk is filled with – not all of mine are treasured object from the distant past though. Most are ‘recent,’ that is, from the last twenty years or less. I do have a few from my Cape Breton home though. 

One is this fun stocking with my name printed on it by my father. I recognize his writing. I can’t say that this isn’t even from before we moved to Cape Breton – it could be from when I was growing in Winnipeg because I have no actually memory of it. My sister found it in my mother’s accumulation and sent to me a few years ago.

I was stunned to get it & even was more shocked to have no real memory of when it was first hung anywhere. It’s felt with glued on appliqués; the sides are glued together. It might have hung by a chimney as there is some sooty finger prints on it. Or my hands just might have been dirty 🙂 The corn sticker is my own childhood add on, it does have a tiny resonance in my memory. I love having it & hanging it every year in my living room. I love the train engine.

The card is the last one my mother sent me before she passed away. I don’t have one from father as he had died unexpectedly the previous year early in December. When he was alive I got a card signed by both of them. It joins my Christmas cards every year. We spoke on the phone frequently so her written message was brief.

So, as you can tell I do take after my mother a little – being a bit of a memory pack rat.

Crystal Memories

How rough is a rough draft? Here’s a tiny sample: “and the radio had to be attached to soemtiuhng metalk’ like a radiator to pull ins tations’ ” Typos galore, ’ happens a lot when I hit ’ aiming for return. This piece is intended for the Noir show – I want something new, nostalgic & a little bittersweet.


What you have here is a rough draft with merely the typos cleaned up. No polish, so there are unfinished thoughts and even continuity slips – things that’ll be dealt with in the next round of edits.


In the days after first part I did some research into crystal radios. It was there that I discovered two things – they were very popular when my Dad was a boy which opened the memory wider for me to recall that it was because he’d had one that he got one for me. I do think though, that some school pals of mine had them, and when I told him about them he had the idea to get one for me.

The second discovery was about the sound quality, which was my major disappointment with the set. The closer I was to the radiator the better it was but I felt at fault. I only I were smarter, a more perfect son, then my reception would better.


Next edits will pull it into the shape it wants me to take it.


Crystal Radio

the crystal radio

was yellow plastic

that much I can remember

even though it was a christmas gift

I moaned & longed for

because some other kid I knew had one

I was so excited to unwrap it

and couldn’t wait to plug it in

but was sort of disappointed

that it was a kit

something I had to put  together

which my dad & I managed to do

none of which I recall at all

the cover showed a happy boy

with headphones

tuning in something

on his crystal radio

which wasn’t made of crystal at all

the headphones were too big for me

and the radio had to be attached

to something metal

like a radiator to pull in stations

and the tuning dial didn’t glow

it was made of paper

the sound quality was crap

the channels it brought in

were all talk chatter

I lost interest in it the new year

though I did give it a go

a few more times the following year

then it got lost

my dad had one

when he was a boy

wanted to share his ten year old

with my ten year old

we put it together together

reading the instruction sheet

which made sense to him

but none to me

and once we had it done

we tied the wire to the big iron radiator

in my bedroom

this was my last Christmas as an only child

our first in the house we would

soon move from after my brother was born

and there was another on the way

it took the adult me

years to realize what my adult dad

was trying to share with the child me

then I was merely disappointed

in the crappy sound quality

always thinking it was my fault

for not putting it together better

I later find out that was the best

a crystal radio would ever sound

but because I was never

that happy boy on the box cover

I figured I was the disappointment

put aside

like a put the crystal radio aside

in favour of the new better brother