Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Gloom of Night
By Zanne Blair
I took the letter out and read over it. I chuckled out loud, what was I thinkin’, there was no Santa
“Momma?” Sue’s voice cracked, she sounded stressed on the other end of the line.
“Yeah?” I was gettin’ ready for another of Sue’s problems that I couldn’t solve. Sue, my daughter, was a single mom to her four kids, my grandkids. Their daddy decided he didn’t want to be a daddy, so he left ‘em. I helped when I could, but in my state, I couldn’t even pick up Sally, the little one, let alone chase after Will, the next to little one. Jack was a terror in his own self, and Mary, the oldest, tried to help her mama and look after them all, but at 9 years old, there was only so much a girl could do while her mama worked two jobs.
“Doc says they are all sick from my pots and pans.” I heard Sue breathe, I was sure she was crying.
“Sue, how do you get sick from pots and pans?” Sounded like hogwash to me, maybe the doc wanted more money. But he already knew he was gonna get nothin’ from my Sue.
“Doc says it’s the coating. The stuff that makes nothin’ stick to them pans. He says the kids are allergic to it.” Sue took a deep breath. “Momma, have you ever heard of such a thing? Them pots and pans never made me sick.” Her voice was wavering now.
Sue was a good mama to her kids. She looked after them best she could after that dickweed of a husband left her. I was tired of seeing the bruises on her arms and when I saw that big one on her back, I told her enough was enough. Asshole left on his own accord, thank a god if there is one, best thing that ever happened to her and them kids. I felt bad that I couldn’t do nothin’ for ‘em. It made my heart ache. But I had my own problems, I was fat, too fat, and it was puttin’ a strain on my bones. My hips were killin’ me, so I tried not to move too much. Some days I wish I could just run after them grandkids, scoop ‘em up and love ‘em.
“Alice might have some extra pots. Let me see if I can borrow some until we can afford to get you a set. I got one pot you can use tonight if you want to stop by and get it.” It was my only pot, but I usually cooked up my food in the microwave. That nice gal from the community center always dropped me a bag of food I could cook in the micro. If that thing ever died, I’d starve.
“Momma, what am I gonna do?” Sue was desperate. Her kids had been sick, her jobs needed her back for the holiday rush, and she needed the cash.
“Them kids’ll get better real fast once you start cookin’ with the right pots. Did Doc give you any pills for ‘em?” My mind was looking for a friend of hers who could watch them kids so she could go back to work. But she couldn’t make any since she spent all her time workin’ them two jobs. I was just glad they hadn’t fired her for stayin’ home.
“He told me to give ‘em all some bone broth. Do you think the butcher will give me a bone?” I know Sue wasn’t helpless, she would figure this out, she had always taken good care of them kids. I was proud of her.
A week later, Sue and the kids stopped by with some dinner. “Hi Momma.” She stooped down to give me a kiss, Sally grabbed at my hair, the grey curls were always gettin’ stuck in my grandkids fingers.
I opened up my arms wide “Come on kiddies, give your grandmom a kiss and a hug.” Our group hugs stayed with me days after.
“They lookin’ good Sue, was Doc right? Was it the pans?” I looked up at her. She had been so worried about them kids, I think she forgot to sleep. She needed a haircut, and some lipstick would do her some good too. I was sure I had an old tube around somewheres I could give her.
“I’ve only been cookin’ in that one pot Alice let us borrow. She’s a kind woman, can you thank her again for me Momma?” I nodded at her. “I called around for a new set. Thrifty Betty’s don’t have none right now, but I put my name on a list. Pots and pans must be popular, you woulda thought she woulda had a few old ones lyin’ around. I called a bunch of places, but sets are pretty expensive. I started a tin can savings in the closet. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take me to get a couple hundred dollars, but seein’ as these kids are feeling better, I can get back to work.” She shifted Sally to her other hip. Will wrapped his arm around his mama’s leg.
“I’ll ask around again too. Crazy how them pots can make you sick.” I shook my head, lookin’ at my grandkids, their color was back. I felt better for Sue, it’s not a merry holiday if you got sick kids to take care of.
After they left, I sat in my chair, starin’ out the window. I felt for them kids, but what could I do? A fat old lady with grey curly hair who couldn’t stand up. I had nothin’.
I swirled my chair around to the desk. I had Humphrey’s old typewriter. It’s gotta be worth somethin’, I thought, someone has to need this enough to pay for it. I typed a few keys, it still worked. I remember how Humphrey loved to write. He would write letters on it all the time. He even had the kids write their letters to Santa on it every year.
I pulled out the old sheet of paper and put in a fresh one. I figured out of all the people in the world, if he was real, he could help.
“Dear Santa, I know you are busy. I don’t even know if you are real, but my grandkids believe in you. They been real sick, and Doc says they need real pots and pans, steel ones. Not the no stick ‘em kind and none of that aluminum that leaks out when you heat it up. I could only borrow one pot from Alice and I ain’t got none extra to give to my daughter Sue to help cook them kids up healthy. Thrifty Betty ain’t got none either. It will take Sue months and months to save up enough to get a set. If you find a set, even if it’s a used one, she don’t care, it would be great for them kids. Cause if you ain’t got your health you ain’t got nothin. I hope you have a Merry Christmas Santa. Love, Grandmom Kate.”
I took the letter out and read over it. I chuckled out loud, what was I thinkin’, there was no Santa. I shrugged my shoulders. If them kids believed in him, why couldn’t i? I found an envelope in Humphrey’s drawer and wrote Santa’s name on the front. I didn’t know his exact address, so I just wrote “North Pole”. I read the letter one more time. Santa’s a busy guy so I wrote the kids names and address on the back, just as a double check. If he was gonna be able to deliver, it needed to go to the right house.
When George the postman came, I called him inside and handed him the letter, he looked at it. “Kate, I didn’t know you believed in Santa?” He said it with a charmin’ smile on his mug of a face. Such a nice man.
“I asked him for some pots and pans for Sue and my grandkids. They sure do need ‘em George.” I could smile as he left, his back was to me and I didn’t mind showin’ that most of my teeth were missin’, ‘specially since he weren’t lookin’.
There weren’t nothin’ but a week before Christmas I guess. I looked out the window hopin’ Santa would get my letter in time.
This story is based on a letter I found when looking for a family to adopt during Operation Santa about 18 years ago. Grandmom Kate did ask for a gently used set of pots and pans for her daughter, a single mom and her four kids who were all allergic to the non-stick coating found on their cookware. All of them were terribly sick, so the letter stated, and could not find, nor could they afford suitable cookware. After I left the “North Pole” at the James Farley Post Office in New York City, with Grandmom Kate’s letter in hand, I walked two blocks to Herald Square and with the gift cards accumulated from my job and bought a large set of stainless cookware. The store was kind enough to wrap it in brown paper and I carried it back to the post office to mail it to Sue and her 4 kids.
I hope the things on your list this year include giving back. There are people in your community, kids at your local school that need winter coats, the food bank that needs more food to feed your hungry neighbors, the homeless person outside of your grocery store that could eat a week from a $25 gift card from that store. Surprise the person in line in front of you at the coffee shop and buy them a coffee. Happy Holidays, may your world be shiny and bright and filled with giving. –Zanne
Ed. note: After a good run of 42 issues, our magazine app is no
longer available, but we’ve archived the content here on our blog.
Also published on Medium.