Sitting Thirty-Two

Lights, Camera, Christmas

Christmas Eve.

Premiere night had arrived.

Generosity was still being expressed from grateful individuals and companies who wanted to be included as part of a miraculous evening. Gifts poured in. Although there were articles in the newspapers and critics who insisted they had “seen the production” or “read the script” and were savaging it as a “worthless piece of tripe,” the public as a whole was prepared  for magic.

The auditorium was packed. Limousines had been donated by the National Limousine Association free of charge. The Lighting Associates of America brought in seven banks of lights, including special effects with snowflakes and candy canes, which were mounted—once again, without charge.

Everyone in the cast was so moved that a tension settled in—a fear in every person that he or she would be the fly in the ointment which would ruin the night.

On December 23rd, after the dress rehearsal, Charrleen rented a jet and flew everybody involved in the project to the Bahamas to have a luau on the beach. She made sure the plane was large enough that they could all comfortably stretch out on the flight.

The tension lifted as everyone enjoyed themselves—replaced by a determination to make theatrical history.

During make-up, Golda’s headaches returned—more severe than before. Charrleen, in a panic, was prepared to call the whole thing off, but Golda tugged on her floor-length dress and pleaded. “No, Aunt Charrleen. We’ve got just a little further to go.”

Charrleen’s spirit was nearly wrecked but practicality about the performance and respect for Golda caused her to join in. Golda asked to be left alone. Charrleen kissed her and said, “I’ll see you on stage.”

The makeup artist left as well, and Golda was alone in her dressing room—a girl just barely twelve years of age, staring into a huge mirror surrounded with lights, feeling tiny. Her vision was blurred by the intense pain.

All at once, Golda heard something behind her. Without turning her head, she said, “I would like to be alone.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said the voice from behind her.

Gilda turned around and there he was.

It was Santa Claus from the spirit world, wearing the most stunning red velvet coat and hat—so very different from other costumes. They were respectable. But this one was…everlasting.

So red. So white.

And the beard—it was so full and curled so elegantly at the ends.

“Santa Claus,” Golda breathed.

Santa put his fingers to his lips, motioning her to be quiet. “You know me, right?” he asked. Golda nodded, yes.

“Well,” said Santa, “I have made a wish. If you will allow me, I’m going to come over to you and take this wish that I have placed in my hands, and I’m going to lay it on your head, so you can go on that stage tonight without fear—without pain—and sing until the walls rattle with the power of your voice.”

Golda blinked back tears. She didn’t want them to ruin her make-up. She nodded at Santa.

The distinguished man in the gorgeous red suit stepped over to her and placed his hands on her head. She closed her eyes and he said simply, “This is my wish.”

Suddenly one of the makeup artists came storming into the room. “I’m sorry, but I need to retouch your makeup, whether you want to be alone or not.”

Golda quickly opened her eyes and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. This is Santa Claus.”

The makeup lady put her hands on her hips and said “What?”

Golda glanced in the mirror and turned to look behind her. He was gone. But Golda was energized. She was hopeful. She was ready.

The entire performance was like a picture book story from a fairy tale. Song after song received ovations. Harry and his friends, running across the stage in their costumes, kept the audience into peals of laughter. And Shanisse, rolling the huge die, was so charming that the audience was stilled into silence.

At no point did Golda feel pain. Even during a break in the music, when Charrleen leaned over to whisper, “Are you all right?” Golda just nodded, still feeling the touch of Santa.

And in the finale, during the new song, sobbing could be heard all over Madison Square Garden, and the audience accepted the Christmas wish of a child who wanted to go to the North Pole to encourage Santa Claus—but ended up encouraging the entire world.

The network was astounded at the early ratings. A standing ovation refused to stop, going on and on for ten curtain calls until Charrleen and Golda stood together in the middle of the stage and sang, a capella, the chorus from “Great Jubilation.”

No one hurried out of the auditorium that night.

Everyone was a little kinder on their way to the parking lot.

People got out of the arena more easily because they took turns letting each other in instead of crowding one another.

Golda’s mother and father came backstage, broken and in tears—but so grateful that they had made a decision to spend more time with their precious gift—their daughter.

While hugs were being exchanged, pats on the back received and text messages were being sent from everywhere to everyone, young Golda lay her head down on a pillow and went to sleep.

Nobody thought much about it until Charrleen noticed that she was terribly still. Cautiously moving toward her, she lifted her arm and felt for a pulse. It was very weak. An ambulance was summoned and arrived to take the young girl to the hospital.

The cast, wanting to be by Golda’s side, traveled by limousine in their costumes. Three waiting rooms were filled with performers, anxious to hear what was to become of their dear, sweet leader.

After about an hour and a half, the doctors came out to speak to the parents. They included Charrleen and Chris in the discussion. The doctors were serious, but not grim. They explained that they had performed several cat scans, and discovered that little Golda had an occipital tumor, which had attached itself to her visual cortex. This was the cause of her headaches. The tumor was about the size of a walnut. The doctors were overjoyed to report that it could be easily removed—but needed to be done immediately.

Charrleen interrupted. “May I ask a question? What are some of the symptoms of this type of tumor?”

“Well, it varies,” answered one of the doctors. “Some people have double vision, and some have their taste buds affected. Or some have strange dreams.”

Charrleen thanked the doctor, thinking about what he had said. Several hours later, the surgeons emerged from the operating room with smiles on their faces.

A younger physician, whom the parents and Charrleen had not seen before, gratefully shared, “It was a wonderful operation. I wish they were all like that. She’s a miracle girl. It could have been much worse. There’s going to be some rehabilitation, but no cancer. Not malignant. She’ll be out of here in about a week.”

It was great news. All those who had hung around for the report were thrilled. It was Christmas—and what a supernal gift they had received.

Charrleen went home to clean up and collected all the reviews which had come in—which were ninety percent rave, as if written by Golda’s aunts and uncles. She made sure she was there the next day, when Golda was awake, so she could read her the reviews and tell her that the overnight ratings on the television were what they called “Super Bowl” numbers.

Golda was exhausted but ecstatic. Yet there was a quiet reticence in her tone. Charrleen figured the trauma of going through brain surgery might make anyone a little subdued.

After everyone left with all the papers signed and arrangements made for the upcoming few days in the hospital, Golda took Charrleen’s hand, and with tears in her eyes said, “They’re gone. My friends are gone.”

Charrleen was puzzled, so Golda explained. “The spirit world. My friends. They’re all gone. I don’t want them to be gone. Can they put the tumor back in my brain, so I can have my friends?”

Charrleen was stunned—horrified. Golda, however, was serious.

Knowing that such a trauma and loss of her companions could hinder her rehabilitation, Charrleen gently said, “You know, is it all right that even though you’re a great star now—much bigger than me—is it all right if I disagree with you?”

Golda crinkled her brow. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” said Charrleen, “I think what I heard you just say is that your friends from the spirit world are gone.”

“They are! They are!” said Golda emphatically, sitting up in the bed.

Charrleen calmed her. “There, there. I just want you to know that you’re wrong.”

“What do you mean, I’m wrong?” challenged Golda.

“Well, I happen to know that they’re all still here.”

Golda shook her head. “Don’t play me for a stupe.  I’m not some little kid you can trick with a story about imaginary friends or fake people. Charrleen, these were real. Matter of fact, Santa Claus from the spirit world? He came into my dressing room right before the show. He touched my head and he prayed for me.”

Charrleen smiled. “Well you see,” she said, “that’s wrong. Because when I left you in the dressing room I went out and saw Chris, who was all dressed in his new costume for the show. I insisted that you weren’t feeling well, but he pushed past me and went into your room. So, Santa Claus did pray for you—but he came from the Spirit World into our world—through Christopher.”

Golda shook her head, disbelieving. “I could have sworn… I mean, the costume was better.”

Charrleen laughed. “Yes, you’re right. It was. The day of the show a tailor donated a new costume to Chris, which he had measured him for two weeks earlier.”

“Wow,” breathed Golda. “That was Chris?”

“No,” said Charrleen. “It was Santa, from the spirit world—working through Chris. And Santere? Is that the right name?”

“Boy, you’ve got a good memory,” admired Golda.

“Actually,” laughed Charrleen,” the day you told me about your friends, I went out and wrote down their names.”

“Why?” asked Golda. “Why would you do that?”

Charrleen pushed her hair back. “Because I love you and because it was important to you. Well,” continued Charrleen. “Santere, the Wise One? Well, you know who he came to be? None other than Grandmama Eloise, who brought us all the great wisdom which bolstered this whole thing and made so many things possible.”

Golda considered. Grandmama Eloise had adopted her as part of Charrleen’s family and had done everything she could to help Golda—from making special teas to running lines with her.

“Okay,” said Golda. “So, who’s Mary and Joseph?”

“Come on, now,” admonished Charrleen gently. “You’ve got that one. Remember Dennis and Gwendolyn? Who had their baby in our theater, just like it was Bethlehem?”

Golda’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “That’s right! It was just like Bethlehem! And their baby was even named Golden! Like a Golden child!”

She sat up in bed. “What else, what else?” she asked, excited.

“I can’t talk about it unless you calm down,” said Charrleen. “You’ve just been through brain surgery.”

“Okay,” said Golda.

“Then there’s Lit. Don’t you remember—two nights before the show they brought in hundreds and hundreds of lights to illuminate what you wrote?”

“That’s right!” said Golda. “Sometimes I almost forgot to sing because I was looking at the gorgeous lights!”

Charrleen was a little unnerved at that but pushed on. “And if it’s not too strange to you, and if I don’t sound presumptuous, I think you might agree that I might be Christmas Carol. I came by your side to join in the beauty of the melody of the season.”

“Oh!” Golda gasped. “You are! You are! You are! Nobody could be a better Christmas Carol than you!” She paused for a moment. “Well, how about Everett Green?”

Charrleen laughed. “That’s the easiest one of all! Where did we get started?”

Golda thought for a minute. “At Fenswick Park.”

Charrleen clapped her hands. “And what’s at Fenswick Park, but hundreds of Everett Greens?”

Golda kept shaking her head back and forth, astonished.

“That only leaves one,” said Charrleen. “One person who brought the decoration—the beauty of the event. She is our Holly Sprig.”

Golda lifted an eyebrow, trying to figure out who that might be. Charrleen punctuated. “Let me ask you. Who helped us? Who joined us? Who decorated all the advertising? Who added the color to the experience? Who offered the promotion? The posters? The signs? The television commercials—to make this a once in a lifetime event?”

Golda put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my goodness. Shelley!”

“You see, Golda,” said Charrleen, “you didn’t lose the spirit world. You did exactly what you’re supposed to do. What we’re all supposed to do. You brought the spirit world to Earth.”

Golda just sat, her eyes sparkling. “Oh, Charrleen! Would you tell them? Would you go tell them? Tell them I’m hungry—because I want to get well—so I can spread more spirit into the world!”

Every afternoon from now until Christmas we will be posting sittings from the story, “Jubilators,” for your enjoyment. Good reading and Merry Christmas!

Published by Jonathan Cring