Alison and I re-read Peef the Christmas Bear the other day. It's a book her Aunt Lois gave her a few years ago, and we've read it many times.
Peef is a bear Santa Claus makes one day and while you could interpret it that the Saint had actually created a little slave for himself, the general viewpoint is that he was lonely and wanted a friend: a friend who did all his errands, managed the elves, kept up with the office paperwork, including maintenance of the all important list, and served as co-pilot on that all important night.
To be fair, Peef also got to share a cup of tea at the end of the work day and was Santa's best friend. I suspect he snuggled a bit on those cold nights, too, but I don't think it was that explicit.
Anyway, after several years of this involuntary servitude, Peef wised up and started noticing how children loved their bears and played with them. They cuddled them and hugged them and generally showered them with affection. These bears had no discernible chore list.
Perpetual youth and neatness, including instanteous healing of any seam ripping, stuffing or button loss were part of the benefits package at Claus & Co. But after a while, Peef thought he might just trade his brand new image for a chance at grubby love.
But he couldn't leave Santa for fear the old elf would become more lonely and less jolly. So Peef toils away for a few more holidays, longing with all his heart for a change, but keeping silent out of devotion to Santa.
Finally, Santa takes pity on the little guy and contrives a way for him to become a real toy. Their separation is the saddest page of children's literature outside that damn forest fire in Bambi. (Or, well any of many Disney stories where they off the mom.)
But joy returns on the very next page and it's a struggle to decide whether to be sad or happy.
While I generally don't like to see Ali cry, knowing she gets the meaning of a story like Peef makes me a little bit happy. I have some years before I explain that Santa should really have been paying Peef a living wage after his creation, and that the elves might need a little union representation.
I'm not sure she's going to read Peef again this year. She might be at her limit for the sentiment of the season. Jeff remastered the children's DVD he'd made for her last her. Her copy was skipping and she had some ideas about which versions of certain songs she'd rather have and I think she even asked to replace of few songs she'd never really cared for.
I convinced Jeff to include "Santa, I'm Right Here," a Toby Keith song about a man finding a letter to Santa from a little boy whose family was freshly homeless and who was worried that Santa might not find him.
He doesn't ask for toys, he's hoping Santa could hire his dad to replace the job he lost, and his mom needs a new coat. It's a tear jerker of a song -- mostly because you know there are lots of people who truly are struggling -- and for many of them, it's not a situation of their own making.
Alison, heck, we all could do with a reminder that we've got it pretty good, and that we need to help others who aren't so fortunate. Ali gets it, mostly, but she still just a little ticked that her Dad had spoiled a perfectly happy, upbeat and rockin' collection of Christmas songs.
"That song is TERRIBLE! It's SAD!" she exclaimed.
Upon questioning, she admitted that she doesn't hate the song at all. It's just that it makes her sad and she wants to go out and help that little boy. So she and her little Ogden friends spent some time with me shopping for our Giving Tree items last week.
We might have to go again if I listen to that song again....