Buried deep in the Pacific Northwest, under albums by The Ventures and Joey Cora jerseys, Ballerball was able to uncover a vast number of writings from Shawn Kemp’s old diary. These are his words.*
December 25th, 1997
I’m in Sacramento right now. That’s where I’m spending my Christmas. We’ve got a game here tomorrow and I am sad and I am alone and I look out the window at the naked streets and I travel inside my mind.
I miss Kentucky. I miss the snow. I miss walking into the living room on Christmas morning, the tree aglow with lights, homemade ornaments grinning at me, the angel at the top shining an auburn halo above everything. Bacon and eggs were thick in the air and my eyes would be full and wide seeing my new treasures, a small hill of presents sitting like lovely rocks underneath the tree. My mother would be there, smiling, camera covering her face, snapping pictures of me. I would take my time opening presents then. I wanted to hold onto the feeling for as long as I could. I would savor that moment when the box first becomes visible underneath the wrapping paper and I would make it a guessing game as more paper was stripped from the package. Is it Legos? No. Is it a remote control car? No, baby. It’s a G.I. Joe! Oh my gosh thank you, mom! Thank you!
My mother told me early on that Santa wasn’t real and I do not blame her. She worked too hard to put presents under the tree to allow me to believe that some mythical creature I’d never met had brought them in the night. So it was a celebration on those mornings. She would position herself in that old wicker-back chair across the room from the tree and after I unveiled a present I would run to her and hug her and tell her how I loved the present and her so.
I never told my friends the truth about Santa. My mother was explicit in her demands that I not ruin it for other children my age. Whenever I was nine and of mind enough to understand a bit, she explained it further. I’d prodded her in the parking lot of a Denny’s and she stopped me dead on our walk to the car, the Kentucky breeze blowing slow, catching her hair.
Magic is a good thing, she’d said. It helps people who need explanations on everything relax a little bit and just believe. Believing in something is good, baby. My vanity just couldn’t take you not knowing. Don’t punish other people for your momma’s selfishness.
I don’t know that I want to speak to her selfishness. Seems to me that a woman who works 50 plus hours a week is about the furthest from selfish one could get. I’m biased, though. I don’t want to wax poetic on Momma. She’d just tell me to stop being so dramatic.
I will just tell you, Diary, a memory I have. It is Christmas day and it is the afternoon and you cannot see the sun. The sky is gray and snow is falling out of it and I have no idea how old I am. It was some time in middle school, I believe. But it is me and my mother and we are standing on the porch after having come in from playing in the whiteness. She’s making me take my snow clothes off on the porch so I don’t track any snow in the house. And I’m taking off my boots and my coveralls and my hat and my scarf and when I look up she is looking out into our backyard. The snow is carpeting everything. We’d sprawled about out there for a good hour making snow angels and snow men, kicking up the falling uniqueness. We’d wreaked havoc on that yard because that was what we were want to do. But the snow kept falling at such a rate that now, after 5 minutes of inactivity of us on that porch, it looked anew. There was a fresh blanket there on the ground and it looked smooth like marble. She touched the back of my head and I looked up to see her eyes wet. She scratched my head a bit and then grabbed her coffee from the railing and went inside.
Don’t be tracking any snow in my house, baby. Dress down to your long johns and come on in. I’ll make some cinnamon rolls.
I’ve thought of that day often and what she must have been thinking. I think that was the first time I knew I was looking at a person while they thought about something important to them. She was lost in her mind for a few seconds that day, I don’t know what for. Something about rebirth, maybe. That no matter how much we mess up something God will be there to make it whole again. Or maybe she just thought it looked really pretty. She sure was that day. She was everyday.
But I stare out the hotel window at this still town and I am sad. I miss her and I want to see her and tonight I’ll turn on It’s A Wonderful Life and remind myself I’m not a failure because she exists.
*No, they’re not.