Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Abbot's Christmas Story by Caruthers P. Davenport

Abbot was a tiny little thing when Santa found him propped in a fuzzy warm boot on the front doorstep of his castle one March morning. He had long thick ears that stuck straight up like a bunny, and a green face. He wore no coat, but had pockets on his pants. Santa brought the tiny being and his boot into his house at the North Pole and set him before the fire in the fireplace. Mrs. Claus approached when Santa called for her, asking her to come quickly to see what he had found. Santa pulled the little being from the boot and examined the rest of him. The creature smiled at Santa and Mrs. Claus and they couldn’t help but smile back. A rolled up scroll peeked out from his pocket and Santa pulled it out to read it. It was written in such a way a child might write, with misspelled words and large, uncoordinated letters.

“Please take care of Abt,” the note read. “until I come back for him one day.” It was not signed.

Santa and Mrs. Claus looked at each other, and then at Abt, who, with a smile that could melt ice, would then become a permanent member of their home.

In time, Abt was changed to Abbot and he was introduced to the elves in Santa’s workshop, where all the toys are made. The elves enjoyed watching him learn their trade, and taught him as much as they could. His green face and funny ears always brought forth smiles, even from the most grumpy of elves. But Abbot was a dreamer, and a little short of attention, which often got him into undesirable messes. But he was a happy little being, secure in his new life at Santa’s castle. His happy go lucky attitude shone like a beam all around him, and it was hard not to be happy in his presence.

When Abbot became adept enough to use tools to make toys, he had the touch, some said, of an elephant. He hammered too hard, or painted too sloppily, or turned a screw until a hole was bored through. The other elves tried to give him pointers, but he simply couldn’t get the hang of making toys. His spirit was dampened, but then he tried other things. He helped Mrs. Claus in the kitchen making cookies and cakes, but after a few too many burned batches and a few too many “tastes”, he ended up in bed for a week with a belly ache. He tried working in the barn with the farmer elves that took care of the reindeer, but too often forgot to feed them while he was off chasing a mouse or trying to fly away like an owl.

As the years passed most of the elves just laughed about Abbot’s peculiarities. He was a harmless and sweet little creature who made all the elves happy. But, to Abbot, that didn’t mean anything and soon Abbot began to feel as if he had no purpose in the land of elves. He broke the toys he made, he burned the cookies he baked, he starved the reindeer he was supposed to feed…..the only thing he was good at was smiling and being happy. Christmases became increasingly sad for him, and no one knew why. Santa had an idea that he was lonely for his previous life, but Abbot always perked up after the holidays were over. Santa know there was not much he could do, except to keep Abbot safe until someone returned for him. So Abbot continued to smile and make others happy. It seemed to be his gift, the only thing he was good at. And now the fact that it was almost Christmas again brought on the same series of melancholia. Abbot was now experienced with such feelings at Christmas time but he didn’t know why. It was almost as if something was missing.

About 5 miles away Sun Joon and her family were wandering the North Pole with their tribe looking for a place to set up their camps for the winter. They were a native people of the North Pole, used to traveling from location to location to find food. This life sometimes felt hard for Sun Joon but it was the only life she knew. She, her family, and fellow tribe members, covered miles and miles on foot and with the aid of their many dog sled teams. The previous winters had been extremely difficult ones. There was not much food to be found because of storms that kept animals they would normally consume hidden. In order to make up for the losses Sun Joon’s family and the villagers had had to sell some of their belongings, including 2 groups of dogs and sleds. This left them with only 4 sleds for an entire village in which to move from place to place. In addition to the sale of the sled teams, families had sold other goods they did not absolutely need. This included children giving up their dolls and toys. These sales made money in which to buy food to sustain themselves through the winters ahead when food, sometimes, was scarce. However, things were getting better for the tribe and they finally had enough food to get through the winter months. The elders decided they could stay stationed in this location for a few days to see how the hunting would be. They set up their tribal village pitching tents made of animal skins, building igloos and making fires.

Sun Joon knew she and her family had been in this location before. Sun Joon remembered where they were. She remembered the stars in the sky and the placement of the sun. She remembered the mountains in the distance, even though she had been a small girl. She remembered because it was in this place that they set up camp long ago, and she had stolen away into the night when everyone was asleep. She had an old boot that no one needed tucked under her arm, and inside that boot was a green-faced doll that her aunt, The Spirit Creator of the tribe, had made for her when she was a tiny girl. The Spirit Creator had a special talent of breathing life into all she created. The doll came to life for anyone who believed in him. The small being Sun Joon named Abt, when she was old enough to speak, because she had been learning her letters from her mother. Sun Joon was terrified to have to sell Abt to a stranger so she vowed she would find him a home that night no matter how far she had to walk.

Luckily she came upon the castle that belonged to Santa and his workshop. She was so happy then because she knew Santa would keep Abt safe until she could one day get him back. She had already placed a note in his pocket, writing the best she could so Santa would understand. She left Abt in the boot on the doorstep and hoped he would be found quickly.

As Sun Joon remembered that night many years ago she knew she’d have to find a way to retrieve Abt. She didn’t know when her family may pass this way again, nor how long they would be staying. So as her family set up camp that afternoon Sun Joon, telling a tale that she was going to look for ice floes, took her compass and navigated her way to Santa’s castle. It was a long walk, but she was strong, and she knew she had to try. Alomg the way Sun Joon remembered past Christmases she had spent with Abt when she was a little girl. She remembered how anyone who looked upon Abt soon began to smile. She remembered the feeling she had when she held him. At one celebration Sun Joon’s aunt, The Sprit Creator, told her again about Abt’s powers. She had said that wherever Abt went he would bring happiness to all who laid eyes on him. Sun Joon, now as she walked, hoped this was true.

It was getting darker outside when she arrived at Santa’s castle, Sun Joon was both excited and nervous. What would Santa say to her? What if Abt went to live with another child? What if Abt didn’t want her anymore? There were too many sad things to think about but Sun Joon needed to know if her dear Abt missed her as much as she missed him. She hoped that his powers would help him to remember her. But she wasn’t sure if they would.

Sun Joon knocked on the big wooden door. It thumped and echoed like a large drum. At once a woman dressed in a red calico dress opened the door. She smelled of cinnamon and sugar. Sun Joon decided it must be Mrs. Claus. Sun Joon must have looked bewildered as the woman asked her who she was and what she was doing so far from home.

“I am Sun Joon,” she said. “I have come to get the doll that I love.”

Mrs. Claus smiled at her and said kindly, “Well, that sure was a long way for you to come just for a doll, my dear! Why didn’t you just wait until Christmas? I’m sure Santa would have brought one to you.”

Sun Joon stammered, “Nnnno…No, you don’t understand. I am Sun Joon. I left my doll Abt here long ago, when I was a small girl. I wanted to see if I could get him back please?”

Mrs. Claus was astounded. She remembered the letter in Abbot’s pocket that read, “until I come back for him one day.”

Mrs. Claus invited Sun Joon into the house and offered her some hot cocoa, which Sun Joon accepted and drank heartily. Mrs. Claus went to find Santa in his workshop to show him who had come to visit. When Santa saw Sun Joon he felt he already knew what she was there for, remembering the letter himself. Sun Joon introduced herself to the jolly man in the red plaid shirt and told him as well, she had come to get Abt back. She explained the reason she had left him behind, and how she didn’t want to sell him to help her family. She explained she was ashamed to have hidden him, disobeying her family, but that she wanted him to be safe, cared for, and happy. Santa looked at Sun Joon with a winsome grin and explained to Sun Joon that she had come at just the right time. Abbot was not feeling himself. “It happens every Christmas,” he said. “Abbot makes everyone so happy, yet I feel he’s a little lonely himself. Oh, we’ve kept him busy and happy over the years but he always carried a little loneliness in his eyes. And now I think I know why. I think maybe the one he’s lonely for is you.”

“Abbot does have special powers, I know that. His greatest power is making everyone feel happy. All they have to do is look at him and be around him. Can I see him, Sir? Can I see my Abt?” Sun Joon asked with a tear I her eye. Maybe Abt hadn’t forgotten her at all! Maybe he just needed to feel her and see her face. She knew she needed to see his.

“Why, I’ll send for him at once!” Santa chuckled, and he blew a tiny flute to summon an elf. “Better yet,” he said, “I’ll have Xander take you to the workshop to find him yourself!”

Sun Joon’s heart began to flutter as she worried and wondered, again, if Abt would remember her. Xander led the way to the workshop and when they approached the large shop Sun Joon spotted Abt right away playing with a toy truck. He was moving it across the floor with his hand, making revving sounds like a truck would make. All the elves turned to see who Xander had brought into the room, and soon it became quiet, with the exception of Abbot’s sounds. When Abbot realized it had become silent, he too turned toward the place where Xander and Sun Joon stood. Abbot looked at Sun Joon, and Sun Joon at Abbot. Sun Joon’s eyes released tears of joy when she saw her tiny green faced creature happy and safe. Abbot stood up from where he was playing, and slowly walked to Sun Joon. Sun Joon said nothing, but her tears brought gasps in her breathing. Then Abbot stopped walking. He stopped and looked at her closely, as if retrieving a memory. The he ran toward her, as fast as his little legs would carry him, and he leaped into her arms. Santa and Mrs. Claus had arrived to the shop and witnessed one of the most joyous reunions ever. The elves cheered and shouted. They danced and sang as Sun Joon twirled Abbot around and around, stopping only to hug him some more. Cookies were eaten, eggnog was drank, a real celebration took place, until it got very late. Sun Joon realized her parents may be worried about her so she told Santa and Mrs. Claus she had to leave. Santa offered to take her back to her tribe’s camp in his wondrous sleigh and she accepted. It would be easier to explain to her parents if Santa was on her side.

Sun Joon gathered Abbot into her arms and spoke, “Abt, you have been here with Santa’s helpers for 5 years. I know you are happy, and I know you may not forgive me for leaving you 5 years ago. But, I love you and want you to come home with me. But it is your choice. If you decide to come with me I can’t promise cookies and fun like you’ve had here, but I can promise you we will visit as often as we can. And I promise to love you and keep you safe forever, and to never leave you again.” Then she paused. With her head down she waited for an answer from her special being with the green face and big smile.

Abbot tilted his head to one side, then used his ears to prop Sun Joon’s chin so that he could look into her eyes. The he nodded. He said yes.

Santa took Abbot and Sun Joon back to the tribe’s camp, helped explain to Sun Joon’s family, who were very worried about her, about where she was. Sun Joon got ready for bed and tucked Abbot in next to her, so they lay face to face. Sun Joon tickled him, whispered that she loved him, and closed her eyes to sleep. Just then a feeling grew inside Abbot and he remembered why he had been so happy with Sun Joon. And his loneliness slipped away.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Everywhere, Everywhere, Christmas!

Abbot and I had quite a busy Christmas-y weekend. I must say I am quite tired and happy to be sitting once again in my maker's home where it is warm and cozy.
We started off our weekend by going to work with my maker at the candy store. She let us have run of the place, but only until a customer came in, which was quite often. Abbot was a trifle disappointed he didn't get to taste, er, examine, more candy that evening, and he remembered all too clearly what happened that last time he misbehaved in the store. We spent most of our time smiling and greeting the folks who walked through the door. Most everyone was cheerful, but others seemed a bit distant. I couldn't figure out why. Shouldn't everyone be smiling in a candy store? Behind where was sat was the big picture window, with the beautiful downtown lights of our town in the background.
We listened to the Christmas songs on the radio, and sometimes my maker sang softly to them. After our night in the candy store was over I really wanted to hear more of that music.
And I was in luck, because the next evening we went to a beautiful church to join a community of people who all came together for one hour to sing Christmas caroles! We saw in a pew with my maker and her family, and we even got our very own song book. We followed the words even though we were unfamiliar with the tunes. But it was so lovely to hear all those voices singing in unison that my monster heart felt too large for my monster body. Abbot was in awe and wonderment. He kept looking at me as if to say, "This is not real, could all this beauty be real?"
We took a photo by a grand Christmas tree in the church after the singing had ended. I did not want to forget this night.
The following afternoon Abbot and I got to go to an actual Christmas party. We played cards....
.....and Bingo, and ate foods that we rarely see at my maker's house. I was victorious against Abbot in cards, but he beat me well in Bingo.
Abbot looked over my shoulder to help me when I was feeling low. His happiness helped me get some better luck, and soon I had Bingo myself! Since my maker's family are farmers we used corn kernels to mark our places on the Bingo cards. What fun it was!
And now I am home. It certainly was a long weekend full of exciting new things to do! Just one last thing I'd like to do, next to finishing Abbot's Christmas story, would be to go see the lights of Christmas on the houses. Maybe we'll get to go this week. I hope so.
I know I said Abbot's story would be the next post, but a writer needs time to make a story JUST right.
Until next time!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowy Days and Deep Thought

The wind was howling this afternoon. The snow was coming down sideways, making it difficult to see past my yard. When the wind whistles this time of year and there is snow on the ground surely it will be an inside day. My maker made me a new sweater and warmers for my ears. She made Abbot some booties and a hat for his ears. We were feeling all cozy.
Abbot collected some of my maker's other creatures in the house. He's been playing "Christmas" with them. Being Abbot's first Christmas, he's very excited. It's only my second Christmas, and although I'm an old hat at it, it still makes me tingle and jingle inside. I've been reading Abbot all the famous tales before bedtime such as, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "A Christmas Carol", and his favorite "little tree" by e.e. cummings. He seems to understand the meaning of Christmas through the reading of these stories. We've also watched my maker's favorite Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" and Abbot, who is easily distracted, sat still for the entire movie, enthralled at the concept of a guardian angel. He wondered if he had one, so being curious myself, I asked my maker. "Yes, Caruthers. Both you and Abbot have a guardian angel. Everyone has one. Please tell Abbot not to worry. They're very real and one is watching him right now." I told this to Abbot and first, he looked around himself. Then he sat very still, so as not to scare the angel, then quickly turned his head upwards to see if he could see it hovering overhead. It was amusing to watch, and I didn't want to tell him that guardian angels are usually invisible, however, my maker said sometimes they can be someone you know and see every day. How could that be, I wondered? My maker said, "They can live inside of someone you know, someone who loves and cares about you, someone who watches out for your well being. Sometimes you may not even know they are doing this for you, but they are." That sort of made me feel safe inside, knowing an angel was guarding me. But alas, it brought up more questions for me.
For one, if everyone has a guardian angel, then why do bad things happen to people? People get sick, get injured, get hurt by others, or even DO the hurting. Why is there so much hurt in the world if everyone has a guardian angel? This one I'd have to ponder.
In the meantime, Abbot assembled his pals onto the big chair. He chose the book "The Snowy Day" to read this afternoon as the wind rushed through the sky. Why was it in such a hurry?
We were on the page in which the boy smacks the snow covered tree with the stick. Everyone liked that part the best because they knew the snow was going to plop right onto his head. That always makes Abbot laugh. The elves in our group appreciated the boy's red snowsuit. They thought his pointy hat was the epitome of fashion.

As I finished the story the other creatures hopped off the chair and scurried back to their play. Abbot and I posed for this Christmas portrait, our very first together. I had a lot of questions about those angels. They were floating in the back of my mind and kind of picking at my soul. My maker, who always knows what I'm thinking, felt my uncertainty. Abbot, however, yanked my ears and begged for a Christmas story in which he's the main character. I told him I'd think of one and I'd write it here in my blog. It would take me a couple days to think it up, and he would need to be patient. He promised patience and he promised not to bother me while I think. He jumped off the chair and ran to join his friends, who I imagined were doing something naughty when I heard Abbot tell them to stop because, not only was Santa watching them, their guardian angels were too.
So, I asked my maker, if everyone has an guardian angel then why do bad things happen? "Caruthers," she said, "That's a good question. I would think people hurt each other because they have the free will to do so. It's a choice we make. We can choose to be good, or choose to be bad. A guardian angel may be hovering overhead, like Abbot thought, screaming at us to do the right thing. But if we're not listening well enough, or if we are and don't care, that's when trouble happens." OK, well that I could understand. I can CHOOSE to steal a cookie, or wait until I'm offered. Either way I'll get the cookie. So why does stealing it and getting it right away feel so good? "Sometimes, Caruthers, being bad can feel good, and being good can feel bad. But ultimately, after those initial feeling pass, being good DOES feel good and being bad DOES feel bad. You may not understand so well because you're so good. Remember when you left on an adventure when Abbot was sick? It felt fun at first, but then you felt bad. You knew you made the wrong choice. A guardian angel can only direct you, they cannot make a decision FOR you." So, why do people get sick? Why are there poor people? Why isn't everyone happy? Guardian angels should make sure bad things don't happen, shouldn't they? "Not necessarily, Caruthers. Things happen to people because that's just life. Angels help you through it, maybe help you makes sense of it. If everyone was happy all the time, or sad all the time, they couldn't appreciate the other. Do you understand?" I supposed I did. The purpose of life is to teach and for us to learn, was that right? And some people learn faster than others, which is why bad things happen, which is why there is so much unhappiness. "Happiness lives inside all of us, Caruthers. The trick is to let it out and shine." I liked that thought. Happiness shining like the snow on a sunny day. Shining like sugar on a cookie. Shining like a halo above an angel's head.
May your happiness shine this Christmas season.
My next post will be Abbot's Christmas story.
Until next time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Am Art

I am not sure what art is.
Is it beautiful? Is it playful? Is it wonderful? Does it make one happy or sad? Can it do both? And can it do both simultaneously? Can it elicit emotions of every kind? I am not sure.

The dictionary describes art as follows: The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. The concept of art has me scratching my head, and not because I haven't cleaned behind my ears in a while. I mean, I've seen paintings and sculpture in the books I've read. And the settings in the books I've read have art in them. Music is art, as well as writing. There are so many forms of art, I am sure I cannot list them all in my blog. And to make things more complicated, what some people consider art, others may not deem worthy to call it art. So where to draw the line? Rather, should a line be drawn? My maker says that the subjectivity of art has been a debate over the course of time never to be truly resolved. Why cannot some agreement be made?
These were some of my questions when my maker took Abbot and I to a gallery show opening last night. It was wonderful! And I enjoyed it so! But I am afraid, as usual, I left the show with more questions than with which I came. But the real surprise was the fact that my maker's dolls were part of this gallery show.....part of an ART show. A show all about the love of the toy, and toys as art.

Abbot and I first had a seat on a chair so we could read about the work of the terrific artists we would be seeing. There was Kathy Weaver, who made quilts and drawings with images of robots; Rachel Klees Anderson who makes very realistic dolls; David Holmes who makes sculptures out of found objects; Bill Reid who constructs sculptures from metal and paints them in bright colors; Marilyn Ward who creates magical dollhouses; and my maker, who makes dolls like Abbot and I. It was going to be such a thrill to see the toys that other artists make!
However, getting Abbot to behave is always a story in itself.

After reading the brochure I felt prepared to walk into the show with a little more knowledge about what I would be experiencing. But Abbot had other plans. While my maker was busy chatting with the other artists and all the people who came to visit the show, Abbot charged about the gallery looking for what he liked He hadn't eaten for about an hour so he was ready to devour something tasty. Of course he was first to find the candy table, and I must admit, I was a little taken with it myself. In the center stood a giant house made of gingerbread, with candies and cookies as decorations. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to go inside.

But all I was allowed to do was look.

Abbot had a difficult time leaving those little cookie people to their yard. One too many times I caught him sneaking back onto the table to get another

But that quickly ended when Abbot saw the cupcake table. Here he needed even more restraint. Even though both of us are green in color, that green frosting did not look like it would come out of our wool with much ease. Our tongues, on the other hand, no one would notice. Careful, we were, while eating those.
(Unfortunately, my blog had some technical difficulties. The top two pictures were the ones I wanted down here. But I may have typed the wrong key and turned this page all catywampus. So I'll just continue my thoughts.....)
Abbot and I, having filled our bellies a tiny bit with candy and cupcakes (we didn't care for the cheese or the alcohol) now got a chance to go onto the gallery floor and look at things. We climbed the sculptures (with the artist's permission), and peeked inside all the crevices of the dollhouses. We scurried along the smooth floor, dodging the legs and feet of the viewers who remained. We were given some stern looks, but it was worth the fun we were having. Abbot got kicked a few times, but he knew it was his own fault.
But then I felt a kick. It wasn't from a boot or a shoe, but it came from inside my head. I guess it was an idea, a concept, a thought. As I slid across the floor I came upon my maker's doll display. I had seen these creatures many times before. In fact, I sat in the room where they were created. I watched my maker give them faces and arms, much as she did for me. I watched them go from scraps and pieces to fully formed beings.....well, as much as a being that I am...... Suddenly, I was fascinated. These dolls that looked a little like me were a part of an ART SHOW. So what did that mean for me? Was I a piece of art? Was Abbot? Were the dolls more of an art object because they sat still? Or was I more of an art object because I was animated? The questions that flooded my mind! I had never considered that I could be ART! I could sit still and pose like the other dolls! I trotted over to my maker and pulled on her skirt. She picked me up and cradled me like she sometimes does. She told the person with whom she spoke who I was and they seemed delighted to meet me. I had to ask her my question. But it would have to wait.
Later, it was busy as we prepared to leave the show. My maker held Abbot and I in her arms as we walked briskly to the car in the winter chill. The stars were out and it was peaceful. My maker saw me looking at the sky and said, "Caruthers, you wanted to ask me something earlier. Something about art." My maker can read my mind, so I only had to look at her to ask, "Am I art?"
"That's a good question, Caruthers," she said. "Art means different things to different people. Some people think they are not artists because they don't paint or sculpt or draw. But that's not really true. Art, to me, Caruthers, is all about creation and expression. The creation of music, of life, of joy, of words, of love, of peace, and even of sorrow. Because art is the creation of a human mind, in that sense you ARE art. So is Abbot, and so am I. Human beings have so much potential to create in so many ways, it's tragic most of them never do. And maybe the reason they don't is because they think they can't. We should do something about that, shouldn't we?"
My maker gave me even more to think about as we walked to the car. Abbot had fallen asleep in her arm. His jolly, candy-filled belly rose and fell under the blanket of night.
Until next time.