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define necessity
by collette mcfarland 
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Define necessity

My early morning bike ride was refreshing but don’t picture me as an avid cycler with special designated cycle shorts, tops or shoes, my only cycle paraphilia were a helmet and water bottle. Scruffy, my best four legged bud, who trotted alongside my front tire stopped every so often to smell the scenery while I just enjoyed the visual aspects of the route. It wasn’t totally a beatific panorama as I pedaled through an area under a bridge that was home to the temporarily unemployed. Old fashioned metal trash cans being used for heat and cooking were surrounded by ragged looking denizens singing “Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly” while they warmed partially gloved hands or coffee pots or meals scavenged from other trash cans .My bike ride had immunized me from the cold.

Most of the people avoided eye contact with me until they noticed the hitchhiker on my shoulder, Rocky, a squirrel that had adopted my family as his own after my daughter, Cindy, had rescued him from drowning in our pool last summer. Rocky would periodically jump gracefully to the ground to forage for nuts, return to my bike, deposit the treats in my front basket and reoccupy his spot on my shoulder.

I cruised into my driveway less invigorated than I had started, but feeling the benefits of a good aerobic workout. Let’s see, the odometer said, 20 minutes and two and half miles. Come on, I had to have done more than that. Darn thing must be broken. Scruffy danced around my bike and scrutinized me as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?”

The front yard was dotted with erstwhile squirrels rummaging for their winter larder, squirrels that shunned Rocky for sleeping with the enemy; yes they could tell he reeked of dog whenever they approached him. Rocky however, touched by the Christmas spirit, tossed them offerings from his bounty of nuts which they accepted before making a quick retreat. Do I hear a thank you? Nope, not a squeak, I felt sorry for Rocky who looked crestfallen, sharing his food with those ungrateful—never mind. No matter, I knew Rocky was well cared for; every time I pulled a book off the bookshelf nuts tumbled out on to the floor, along with cereal nuggets and other tidbits.

Before I went into the house I checked my mailbox. It was loaded with sales brochures, magazines and Christmas cards, cards loaded with gift certificates. What ever happened to Christmas shopping and present openings?

Jenny, the little girl from the rent house next door popped up unexpectedly at my elbow wearing a thread bear coat and slightly blue lips. My daughter had volunteered to baby sit Jenny this afternoon while her mom went Christmas shopping.

“What are those?” she asked looking at the profusion of plastic cards in my hand.

“Gift cards for department stores, I must have been a good girl this year for Santa to be so nice to me.” I said as i watched my words become visible wisps of hot air.

“Oh. I must not have been very good this year, mommy warned me not to expect too much for Christmas. But that’s okay she said as long as we have each other we’re doing okay.”

Boy that dampened my Christmas spirit. Telling that to a little girl, what was her mother thinking? I knew they were having hard times but sheesh.

I glanced over at Jenny’s house, the windows were covered with newspapers in place of curtains and an old car sat in the drive way that her mommy was attempting to start. I crossed my fingers and poof the engine turned over and off went Mommy on her errand waving to me as she passed. I grabbed my mail and dropped some on the sidewalk that blew off beyond my reach, I was too exhausted to chase down store flyers.

I escorted Jenny up to Cindy’s headquarters where we found her on Facebook. Someone had posted a split postcard on her Facebook wall showing a little black African child lying on the ground, half dressed and fully starved next to a picture of some elegant living room with an ornate Christmas tree surrounded by a king’s booty of toys and extravagant Christmas gifts with the caption “Define Necessity”. How heartbreaking. Who could be so cruel to post that at Christmas time? What a way to weaken Christmas spirits.

I admonished Cindy to get off that mood reducing site and participate in some human to human interaction with Jenny then left to surf the web for ways to cash in my cornucopia of gift certificates.

After an hours search I came up with, to my own incredulity, nothing. I crossed off dishes; I already had too many for a family of three and no space for more, jewelry; had some I still hadn’t worn, hats; had two dresser tops loaded with them, purses; same thing and I never took the time to switch them out; what a waste. Clothes, now you think you’d never have too many clothes, well wrong, mine closets were so packed I couldn’t squeeze anything else into them. Electronic gadgets? I had all the updated ones already. No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening, not to an avid shopper.

Scruffy pranced in with the intention of redecorating my room with a mouth full of papers he planned on tearing up before his third midafternoon nap. I snatched the papers from him extinguishing his exuberance.

“Live with it Scruffy old boy, if you need a chew toy use one of your plastic thingies that’s littering the floor.”

Hey, what is this? It was catalog from World Vision. Give a gift. Change a life. Hmm, must have been in the mail I dropped earlier. I leafed through the pages to see opportunities to provide animals, wells, school supplies, music lessons , immunizations, job training, Mongolian gers (look it up!) or other homes for vulnerable children/orphans or families. You could pay for a complete package or any portion thereof.

Let’s see, someone could build a health clinic for $39,000 or stock it for $1,000 or equip a health care worker for $50; or they could buy five ducks and two chickens for $55. The caption said, “Just $55 can feed families year round.” At the back of the catalog were items to buy so you could actually have something tangible for your donated dollars.

I looked out the window and saw Jenny’s mother as she entered her house with bags stuffed with—who knew what but I could tell the bags came from Good Will, an organization that recycles other people’s junk/extras. Jenny’s mother had to buy second hand gifts, how sad.

Define Necessity. Where did that thought come from? A light went off in my head; finally I knew what to do with my gift certificates. I grabbed my coat and car keys, told Cindy I was off and raced to my sedan before I changed my mind, I can be unpredictable.

When I returned home with bags and bags of stuff I informed Cindy, who had already sent Jenny home, she and I had and errand to execute and of course Scruffy followed us bringing Rocky along with him. Those two were so inseparable.

I pulled my car under the bridge I had bicycled through previously and parked; much to Cindy’s discomfort.

“Mom, what are we doing? This isn’t safe here.”

“We are going to “Deck the halls with boughs of Holly,” I said as I grabbed some bags.

“Have you been taking your medicine?” Cindy asked, “Or are you smoking and not sharing?” Not to start any rumors, we don’t smoke at my house, not anything. I just gave Cindy the look, you know, the look of disapproval.

I got out of the car and greeted some of the folks that had been cordial to me this morning and showed them the bags while explaining my intentions. The information I shared spread like fire and Cindy and I became encircled with eager helpers much to Cindy’s whispered vocalizations to remain inconspicuous.

Decorations went up around the bridge and shrubbery brightening the area with Christmas joviality while we all sang Christmas carols, mostly off key and consumed nutritious treats that I had also provided. Rocky was only half way handy as he placed loops of tinsel and garlands on the hard to reach branches, then pulled them away again, we couldn’t get him to understand the ornamentations were supposed to stay where he put them. Scruffy did his own thing, looking for free hands to scratch his ear, belly or any other accessible body part that he proffered.

Cindy and I then distributed individual sacks filled with socks, hats, gloves and other personal care Items purchased at the nearby dollar store. At the end of our time under the bridge Cindy had loosened up a little, just a little. But she kept one eye on the car and the other eye on my keys at all times.

Christmas morning, at last. I reached high in my kitchen cabinet for a bowl to fix pancakes only to have dozens of nuts cascade down onto my head and roll over the floor upsetting Rocky who had felt they had been securely hidden. He chittered at me wrathfully while he attempted to re-gather his cache.

“Now listen here young man, this is still my kitchen,” I said as I swatted him with a broom and swept the nuts outside where vagrant squirrels emerged to help gather the pecans. Rocky shrugged in acquiescence then ran up the broomstick handle to my shoulder; he didn’t feel like taking on the world this morning, not if he was expecting to get some pancakes thick with hot maple syrup and butter. Hmm hmm.

“Honey, this is great what you did,” My husband said as he sat down at the table with his Christmas gift; a card that held cut up snippets of a catalog. Snippets of animals that had been purchased in his name to provide income and food for some distant families we’d never see.

“Yea,’’ Cindy added following her dad to the kitchen table. “I love my present also, but I bet the rest of the family will feel cheated.” She was probably correct on that account. My extended family was very avarice. But who cares, it was my money and I could do what I wanted to with it, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

The back door resonated with excited knocking.

“I wonder who that can be,” I said, loudly as I looked through the window into Jenny’s upturned face.

“It’s me, open up please!” Jenny said excitedly.

Jenny’s mom, carrying Jenny’s coat, just caught up with Jenny as I opened the door.

“She’s been up all night waiting for your lights to come on,” Mrs. Cramer said. “I’m sorry; I tried to get her to wait awhile.”

“He came last night! He really came, and he had some of his reindeers with him, only they looked like horses to me with antlers on, he said that was to disguise them so people wouldn’t know it was him!” Jenny said as she jumped up and down while her mom tried frantically to get the coat on a moving object.

“Who came Jenny?” I asked, a puzzled expression on my face as I grinned at Mrs. Cramer.

“Santa of course,” Jenny practically screamed at me like I was completely void of brain cells. “And he was real nice, even though I was too scared to come out from behind mommy. And he gave me lots of presents, a doll and a doll carriage and doll clothes and he gave me this brand new coat that no one else has ever worn and some shoes and.. and ..and …{breathe, Jenny, breathe} and he even brought mommy some curtains for the living room and a set of dishes that doesn’t have a missing piece. You should have seen her cry.” The words just poured out of Jenny’s little mouth and tumbled all over the place. “I must have been real good this year after all. Did he come here? What did you get for Christmas?” Jenny asked when she finally ran out of steam.

“Well Jenny, I got a big smile,” I said feeling warmed by Jenny’s exhilaration. Happiness didn’t get any better than this. I was still a pretty good shopper after all; I just discovered it didn’t have to be all about me.

Once I invited Jenny and her mother to stay for Christmas breakfast I took Jenny’s brand new never before worn coat to the hall closet where I hung it next to the rented Santa suit my wonderful husband adorned himself in last night to bring joy to a little girl at Christmas time. When I shut the door I could hear nuts fall from the upper shelf and bounce off the closet floor.

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