Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 6: Lesley Kagen: 12 Authors of Christmas

Like everyone else, I love the heavenly music, and balsam smelling candles, and whipping up a fudge recipe that's been in my family for generations, but when it gets down to it, at the very core of my Christmas spirit, there are two intangibles that mean the most to me.  First off, creating memories that I can swap with the other old biddies when I end up at Happy Trails Retirement Home.  Secondly, to remember how important it is for all of us-- to believe.  

This particular memory is one of my all-time favorites.

It was the Christmas of '92. The Christmas my five-year-old wise alec of a son, Riley, began to express grave doubts about the existence of the fat man. 

"That's dumb," he announced at breakfast that morning after I asked him if he'd been working on his Christmas letter. "I don't believe in Santa anymore." 

I was, of course, heartbroken, but also semi-impressed by his stance. "You sure you want to take that chance, Ri?  I mean...what if you're wrong."

He stuffed a piece of cinnamon toast in his smirky little mouth and said, "There's no Santa Claus, Mom.  Get over it."

"But what about--" I started to protest, when a glimmer of an idea took hold.  "Just to be on the safe side, honey, if it was me, I'd pull together a letter anyway.  You know, cover your bases.  Couldn't hurt, right?"

He gave me a disbelieving grunt, but a couple of days later I found this huffy, smudged note on the kitchen table:

Der Santa,

Your not real but this is what I want

1. Mario game
2. WWF Restlers
3. New sled

After I tucked him that night, I told him that he could rest easy because I'd sent the letter off to the North Pole.  He gave me a look that can only be described as a poor-Mom-how-did-she-live-this-long-without-getting-hit-by-a-bus kind of look.

Two weeks later, the family was traveling up to the American Club to celebrate the holiday.  One of the seasonal attractions the hotel offered was an up close and personal visit with Santa!  I chatted on the car ride up about how excited Mr. Claus would be to see Riley, and how I was sure he'd received his Christmas note.  Ri's back seat response? "Bah, humbug."  

While my husband checked us in, I mumbled something about looking around, and dashed off to find a hotel employee who could tell me where Santa's Workshop had been set up.  After I found the jolly one, we concocted a plan, and I rushed back to reception, arriving just in time to hear Riley tell his father, yet again, "I don't want to go see Santa.  That's for babies."

It was only after much cajoling, and yes, some threatening, that later that afternoon, our son dawdled through the hotel's hallways, stood impatiently in line with the other, much happier, children.  When it was my boy's turn, Santa gave me a wink, and said to my little non-believer, "And who do we have here!  Why it's Riley, if I'm not mistaken, and I never am," as he reached into his big ole red furry pants with a hearty ho...ho...ho and withdrew my son's Der Santa letter that I'd slipped him earlier.  

The jaw-dropping look on my son's face...worth it's weight in gold, incense, and myrrh.  

Lesley Kagen's newest novel is Mare's Nest.  She is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author, a mother of two, an actress, voice-over talent, former restaurateur, and accomplished equestrian. Her previous books include Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River, and Good Graces.  She lives in Wisconsin. Visit with her on Facebook, and at her web site

Mare's Nest

"The last thing in the world I wanted was for my daughter to climb onto the back of a horse. Riding is dangerous. Not only physically, but fiscally. Most of all...emotionally. I had the scars to prove it."

Annie Bellamy is a woman struggling to come to terms with her painful past. In her daughter, Teddy, she sees the opportunity for redemption. The chance to balance the scales by giving her girl the support and nurturance she feels she didn't receive from her own mother. What Annie didn't plan on was her daughter falling head-over-heels in love with horses the same way she had as a youngster. The buying, selling, and showing of horses had led to the bankruptcy and break-up of her family, and perhaps, her mother's death. Annie vows not to allow history to repeat itself. Yet, her Teddy's persistence and talent are not easily denied.

Torn between her distressing childhood and her daughter’s passion, concerned about how the astronomical cost of the sport will impact her son and husband, Annie embarks on a journey through the Midwestern horse world, where she and Teddy are swept up in a "saddle soap opera" that she couldn't have imagined. Crooked trainers, ruthless barn owners, shady veterinarians, and viciously competitive show moms lie in wait for the unsuspecting twosome. Too late, Annie realizes that her unrelenting pursuit to make her daughter's dreams come true will end up mirroring her own troubled past unless she finds the courage to stand up to her demons.

Based on a true story, MARE'S NEST is a wrenchingly funny, poignant, and ultimately uplifting tale about mothers and daughters, horses, and the redemptive power of love.

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