Broken Toys; Saving Christmas

Wounded on the Battlefield

It was 11:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Mom was supposed to be reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Instead, she was bent over the desk of the home office with big-holed needle and red thread, hastily sewing holes in a stuffed macaw. It was the last step required to save Christmas. 

The macaw had arrived about ten days before Christmas, a gift from Uncle Harry and Auntie Monica, two giant hearts in our adopted, extended family. Their own two kids are grown, but Harry and Monica have never forgotten a Christmas for these two since they arrived in our lives. Uncle Harry said these are the first gifts Monica buys every year: a gingerbread house, art supplies, dinosaurs, books. Always wonderful gifts full of love—but this year, with Lord Fauntleroy, they had hit the jackpot. His gift had arrived in a stuffed light green plastic mailing envelope. It was from the World Wildlife Fund, and it included an adoption certificate, information about macaws, and not one but two stuffed macaws, one blue and one red. He set them up next to his dinner plate that night; each was given a small bowl of grapes and some lettuce. (They obviously were very hungry after their international flight from Brazil or Africa or wherever it was.) 

It was super obvious that they needed a cage. What can I use, Mom? “Hm… let me see,” she said. She found him a square, white plastic laundry basket, and LF went outside with Dad to find just the right length stick to push through from end to end for a perch. He dug a small bowl of dirt and filled the bottom of it, added beach rocks from a small collection mom had discovered in a mug the other day. Dad helped him pick greens, Mom crafted a few hand-cut green construction paper cutout leaves, and together they covered the inside of the basket until the rainforest emerged from its guts. A cup of water was poured in, just to make sure that there was mud somewhere in the house at all times. The macaws were set on their perches and the entire rainforest ecosystem was brought to his room, where the parrots stood night watch beside LF for the next six nights, as per their marching orders upon arrival at the house.

Until, that is, the dog found them. Bastard dog.

A couple days before Christmas, 14-year-old Soul Fry came rushing downstairs to the kitchen, where I was standing at the sink making banging kitchen noises. She pulled me aside, eyes panicked. “Mom. Toby got the red parrot,” she whispered. “There’s stuffing all over the floor of your bedroom. I hid him in a bag.” Sh*t. I dried my hands at the sink and rushed upstairs. White tufts of batting were strewn all over the rug in the master bedroom. The sweet parrot, who LF loved so much. He’ll only be six and parrot loving for so long; his imagination will not be in fancy flight forever. I stuffed as much of the stuffing back into the red macaw as I could, picked up a ripped foot and a chewed up eye, put it all back in the bag for immediate repair, and put the bag on top of a bookcase for a minute. I was going to fix it immediately. 

Then I forgot. 

I mean… come on. There was some heavy stuff going on at Casa Del Soul. A family member on comfort measures only at the hospital. Another one in assisted living, withering away, it seemed. Two family members now with COVID, one of whom is in the hospital, and blackest feelings of helplessness in all cases. Other things, too. Gifts still to buy and a kabillion to wrap. A house that looks like a bomb hit it. Life, work, bills. A lot. But let’s not let it ruin Christmas, Mom and Dad had said to each other. We still need to make magic for the kids. 

So now it was Christmas Eve and everything about the day had gone like it was supposed to. Soul Fry had made a fab dinner. All the gifts had been wrapped and presents had been delivered to important friends. We had watched Elf, as per Soul Fry’s elaborate “make Christmas perfect” plan that she had plotted and cataloged in Google spreadsheets starting the day after Halloween.  So far so good. Bedtime, and LF had dragged a mattress onto his big sister’s floor. They were going to spend Christmas Eve in her room and wake up together to burst downstairs, where there was no floor to be seen beneath the urban sprawl of gifts a certain overly generous Mr. and Mrs. Klaus had brought. 

Now it was nest setup time. 11:00 pm, Lord Fauntleroy jumping out of his skin still, and he needed his parrots to complete the day. He went to his room and discovered only the blue guy. Where’s the red one, Mom? Mom looked at Dad in a panic and went straight to his book shelf, where she found six more Christmas books to add to the two she had just given him. “Here,” she whispered. “Read a LOT. I’ll be right back.” Then in a full voice, “I’ll go downstairs and see if I can find him.” She grabbed her first aid kit and rushed to the fallen soldier, equipped with red thread, a large-eyed needle, some scissors, and the giant never-actually-gonna-fix-any-of-these-ripped-animals-but-keep-hoping bin. 

She is good at solving problems. Doing things very fast. Patching holes. She is very good at getting sh*t done. 

She is not all that good at sewing. 

But, whatever. It was dark and it was late and it was Christmas eve and she was hell-bent on saving Christmas. She sewed up a bleeding wound on the macaw’s tail, and another at this carotid artery. Ripped an eye out of a legless triceratops and super glued it to the parrot’s head. Then she sewed on the foot, which used to have a leg to connect it to the body. The foot used to have a middle toe, but now it was just a sewn up wound, a frontline battlefield injury cauterized by a combat medic. Who would see anyway? It was Christmas Eve, no one would notice how bad the sewing job was just yet, and tomorrow Mom could explain how god loves the broken toys just as much, and so should you. 

She tossed wounded Private Macaw over her shoulder and climbed upstairs. Dad had finished holding off enemy fire by reading book after book, and they had moved from parent’s bedroom to the floor mattress. Good night kisses and hugs were issued all around. Pillows were arranged; parrots were tucked in. And to end Christmas Eve, Lord Faunterloy was nestled snug in his bed, while visions of rainforests danced in his head. By the time we said goodnight, the parrots were already snoring. 

Parental ninja-level teamwork. 

And Christmas saved.  

A Merry Christmas to you. Embrace the imperfection. May as well; it’s all that life offers and this unique  god that I love, well…. he told me he loves the broken toys just as much. 

Maybe more.