This is an excerpt from “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” In this chapter, Pearl believes she had found the explanation that will help her understand Christmas and will also help her get what her heart wants most.
Pearl had been studying the decorations at The Bottle Cap Lady’s House without her knowing it. She did not want to be in a Christmas Chicken Freak Show. It was difficult to know when she could trust The Bottle Cap Lady and when she would be unpredictable and maybe even dangerous.
Early one morning Pearl listened as The Big Boy from the end of the street explained Christmas to The Little Boy from the end of the street. The Big Boy’s front yard was the one with The Big Blue Hippopotamus in it, so he must know a good deal about Christmas.
“Don’t be stupid. There are three more days to Christmas. Three more nights and Santa Claus will bring my new go-cart and fill my stocking with candy.
“If you haven’t made your list, you’d better do it now, right now. If you don’t have a list, you get leftovers nobody else wants. If you’re not in bed and if you’re not asleep, you get nothing.”
“So what do I put on my list?” asked The Little Boy.
“How should I know, you little goof!”
“I’d like a puppy. That’s what I’d really like.”
“You don’t want a puppy on your list. Put a new bicycle. You can always get a puppy. People are giving them away all the time. You don’t see anybody giving away free bicycles do you?”
“No. I guess you’re right.”
“I know I’m right.”
They went off to throw rocks in the little creek across from my house. Pearl saw The Big Boy pointing out all of the places he would be riding his new go-cart in the empty field there by the little creek.
Pearl had figured out this much about Christmas. You make a list of what you want most. Only special things. Not everyday free things. You must be home on Christmas Eve. You must be asleep when Santa Claus comes. When you wake up on Christmas morning, you have everything on your list.
This was perfect! This was the most perfect plan ever! Why hadn’t The Bottle Cap Lady explained all this to her? Did she just want Pearl to get leftovers nobody else wanted?
The next day, Pearl found a scrap of paper. She took some of the pomegranate pips from her food bowl and broke them open so that the bright red juice would make a puddle. This would be her ink. Then she took a feather and nibbled at the end until she had a point that would hold some of the pomegranate juice ink.
Then she made marks on her paper. She loved making marks. These marks would give her the wonderful new life she had wanted for so long.
and Pumpkin Seeds
She wondered if it was acceptable to write “Love” to someone she didn’t even know and hadn’t ever met.
What if Santa thought she wrote “Love” only because she was trying to get gifts? But she would love Santa for sure after he brought Blanche back home, and so it wasn’t really a lie. She wasn’t really trying to take from Santa without loving him.
She rolled up the paper so it would fit through the fencing and called to one of the songbirds to come and get it for delivery. She was looking especially content when I sat down nearby to read the newspaper.
“What are you so happy about today, Pearl?”
“Secrets and presents.”
“I see. So you finally figured out what the big blue hippopotamus and the other decorations are all about.”
Pearl nodded happily.
“Well, listen. You don’t really need to give me anything for a gift. I will be plenty happy just watching you enjoy the special Christmas Day treats I have for you.”
Pearl looked at me questioningly. I thought it was because she was trying to figure out what treats I might be saving for them. I found out later that she was wondering about giving gifts. The Big Boy and The Little Boy from the end of the street had not said anything about giving gifts, only getting gifts.
Maybe every time somebody gets a gift there has to be a different somebody who gives a gift. That made sense.
Pearl decided she needed to give The Bottle Cap Lady a gift. She could not imagine anyone else giving her a gift. It would not be good if The Bottle Cap Lady had a gift for Pearl but Pearl had no gift for The Bottle Cap Lady. And even if she didn’t have a gift for Pearl, it was fine because Pearl’s best gift was coming from Santa Claus. He would be bringing Blanche back home along with piles of roasted pumpkin seeds.
But what should she give to The Bottle Cap Lady? Christmas had just gotten much more complicated again.
Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated.
In real life, as in this book, Blanche died on Easter morning. Writing this chapter, I thought of all the children who are asking for something like what Pearl is asking for in her letter to Santa…an end to the hurting they feel in their hearts, hurting that can’t be easily fixed.
If only something as simple as writing a letter to Santa could heal those hurts, it would be such a perfect world, wouldn’t it? Instead it is up to us to heal the hurts when and where we can and to work towards a better world for everyone, including those with the gentlest and most trusting hearts, like Pearl.