Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feed Santa

Earlier in the week I found a note, clearly displayed, in the kitchen. This is not uncommon, as my mother consistently leaves Post Its around as reminders to herself. Maybe they are for Dad and I, as when we see them, we usually get it done.

This particular note struck my eye, as it clearly stated “Feed Santa”. It was late for us, 9 PM, so my first instinct was to get out a plate of milk and cookies. Although according to that wonderful commercial they’ve run the last couple of years, you get a better haul if you give him cheese.

On second thought, knowing my mother’s handwriting is notoriously hard to interpret; I thought I’d better ask. There was a huge debacle with the word “Pepto” several years ago that still has retailers in Harford County, MD shaking in their boots.

So I saunter into the den, where Mom is enjoying her monotonous marathons of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and casually say. “Mom, what’s this note that says feed Santa?”

She gave me one of those ‘can’t you read’ looks she always gives and corrected me. I’m so glad I asked. Imagine my embarrassment of trying to open non-existent Christmas gifts under the non-existent tree in October, ruining perfectly good cookies and milk when all that needed to be done was “Feed Starter”.

I’ve said before, my mother makes bread and sells it as a hobby. It’s quite delicious and she makes any where from twenty to thirty loaves on average per week for friends, etc. It’s made from an old fashion ‘starter’ and twenty-four hours before you make the dough, you must feed the starter, which is, of course, the leavening.

Now I leave all this to Mom. She’s the bread maker; I’m the cheesecake maker. She don’t mess with my spring form pans. I don’t mess with the jars of mystery liquid in the fridge. All I know is you feed it with instant potato granules. Where the origin of this starter comes from I don’t know.

Mom doesn’t know either. You can make it, but she says she doesn’t know how and never has. My guess it is made from the remains of an original sour dough bread loaf back when the Indians occupied the territory we now live in. It’s definitely something “yeasty” and would probably set off an atomic chain reaction if dropped. Scary stuff, but the bread is worth the risk of toxic disaster.

This “starter” is one of those Southern things that seems to carry on no matter how hard you try to kill it or forget it. Like counting the fogs in August will tell you how many new snows there will be the coming winter. If your ears are burning someone is talking about you. Wrap tea in a cheesecloth and put it in a teething baby’s mouth to soothe them, general bizarre but dead on stuff.

Of course, the whole incident has me thinking. How many times in my life have a looked at something, as much as two or three times, determined the instruction and carried on, not realizing I had misread? Would my life be drastically different? Would the world?

Could I have altered the entire course of my life, simply by stopping and saying out loud, “What’s this note about feeding Santa?” Could disaster have been avoided if someone on the Titanic said out loud “What’s that white thing out there?” Could history have been changed if someone in Florida had asked “What’s a chit?”

Perhaps I’m over simplifying, but as I age I discover more and more that it is more often the tiny things adhering together that make up the big things. Often a smile from a stranger on the street has buoyed me into getting through the rest of the day. Knowing I reached the little goal I set for myself that day piles up to making a whole week go by.

I wonder what would have happened had I paid more attention to the details. I wonder how many wonderful friendships I could have had if I hadn’t dismissed someone because I didn’t bother to “Feed Santa”. I wonder what kind of career I would now be enjoying the benefits of if either myself or someone else had bothered to get just five seconds more of information?

I have lived my life with few regrets. It is not what I wanted or expected it to be, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve lived every dream I’ve ever had. Maybe not on the grand scale it was in my head but I have been to Africa. I have performed on a stage in front of thousands of people. I’ve had plays produced, my words read by strangers and had the chance to meet people that were my heroes and thank them for being that for me.

But I wonder now what more could have been. Could it have been richer? Could there have been less tears and frustrations? Could there have been someone that I could have helped?

Maybe the right question is how much better can whats ahead be? Perhaps, that’s what we all should be keeping in mind, especially now when the world seems to be so full of hate, loneliness and lies.

Feed Santa.