Unable To Bear Christmas Without One

, , , , , | Hopeless | August 19, 2019

(I take my young son to visit Santa. He tells Santa what he wants and then says:)

Son: “And please get my little sister a Bedtime Bubba Bear.”

Santa: “Of course! It is very nice of you to ask for something for your sister.”

(Santa is clearly touched. He winks at me and smiles at the tiny girl I am holding. But I am horrified! This is the “Tickle Me Elmo” of that year. EVERYONE wants that toy and all stores are sold out! The next few days are spent calling stores. No luck. I look in the paper and see several listed in the classified section. Some are outrageously priced. The silly things are expensive to begin with and everyone who has one wants to make a profit, of course. One person is selling two at not too much more than the store price. I call the number and arrange to pick up one of the bears. When I get there, they indeed have the prized bear. I’m a pretty strong woman. I’m tall. I work in a field that, at the time, is dominated by men. But I see that bear and just fall apart!)

Me: “Oh, my! Yes! Finally! I HAD to find one! My son asked Santa to bring this bear to his little sister. His sister is disabled and can’t ask for anything for herself. This may be the last year he believes in Santa. I couldn’t bear to disappoint him. He saw the commercial and said maybe this bear could help his sister learn to talk. Everything at home is about his sister. Therapies. Modifications. He wanted to be able to help, too. I couldn’t let such a kind thought not come to fruition. I just had to find this bear! Thank you!

(The poor lady just looks stunned, having been run over by my word-train.)

Lady: “Um. Oh. That’s really something.”

Me: “Oh, no! I forgot to get change. I only have 20s. I can go to the store and get change if you don’t have any.”

Lady: “No. No, I have change.”

Me: “Oh. Thank you. And, again, sorry for that.”

(I give her five 20s, take the bear, wrap it in my jacket — the kids are actually in the car — and take the change the woman puts in my hand. I thank her again and head out to the car. When I get home, I realize that instead of $15, this woman has given me $40 in change. I call her to let her know I’ll drop the money off on my way to work.)

Me: “Hi. I’m the crazy woman who bought the bear. I’m afraid you got the bills in your wallet shuffled. I got too much change. I’ll swing it by in the morning if that’s okay. I can slide it through your mail slot if that’s too early.”

Lady: “No. You got the right change. Your daughter needs that bear. Your son needs your daughter to have that bear.”

(She hung up. And I cried. My daughter is in her 20s now and has three toys from her youth: the bunny who accompanied her to the hospital for her surgeries, a bunny a sweet lady gave her in the hospital, and Bedtime Bubba.)

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One Final Dessert

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 17, 2019

I was a young adult dining with my parents at a small Classique French-style fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant seemed to have fallen out of favour. When we arrived, there were only two other tables, both well into their meals. By the time we had finished our mains, we were the only table in the restaurant. We discussed quietly if we should order dessert; we felt guilty keeping the staff there for longer.

Just then, our waiter, who could not have overheard our conversation but had presumably guessed at it, came over with the dessert menus and offered us a complimentary glass each of “noble rot” wine to accompany it if we ordered. There couldn’t have been a nicer way to say “we want you to stay for dessert and continue to enjoy your meal.” We, of course, accepted it, and took our leisurely time over it, as the wine offer implied. The meal was excellent, the service impeccable.

Sadly, fashion had moved on, and the restaurant closed a short while later. 

Salut to the hard-working front of house staff, and the chef and his underlings. I hope they went on to bigger and better things.

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Everyone Remembers Their First Time, And Sometimes Someone Else’s

, , , , | Hopeless | August 16, 2019

I was flying with my husband for our first anniversary to Paris and I’d never flown before. Unfortunately, we got separated due to a ticket mixup; he sat at the front of the plane, while I was at the back next to this very nice German lady. As the plane began to make its way down to the runway, I began to panic, telling myself I could do this, but as soon as it sped up and began taking off, I broke down crying, my hands clutching the armrests for dear life. The German woman held my hand, rubbing my back until we were settled in the air, telling me I would be all right. 

I don’t know who she was and I know I’ll never see her again, but I want to say a massive thank-you to the woman who helped a complete stranger cope with her very first flight, while said stranger was covered in tears.

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It’s Not A Game To Some People

, , , , , , , , | Hopeless | August 15, 2019

The weekly game night at my college was just starting for the night and one of the regulars had brought a less common game called “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” I had already signed up to play, as had a new gamer who had never been to our game nights before. A classmate of mine, who I’d only seen at our game nights one or two times before, arrived and asked to join, as well.

This classmate was, without a doubt, the smartest person in our class; he had to be removed from the grading curve of one of our tests because he did so well he threw off the curve. However, he had a severe case of ADHD and was also somewhere on the less severe side of the autistic spectrum. He never explicitly told me his diagnoses, but I could recognize the symptoms from having volunteered with special needs children for so long. His ADHD meant that he could get overstimulated quickly when excited. When he got too overstimulated he would need to take a break to calm himself by “stimming,” basically repetitive actions to work out his stimulation. In his case, the stimming involved bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet and making a loud sort of keening sound in the back of his throat. While I recognized and understood the symptoms and why he was doing it, I could understand how this stimming could grow annoying to people who didn’t understand.

The owner of the game told my classmate that the game was already full, which I knew wasn’t true. I didn’t like the lie, but he was the owner of the game so I supposed he had the right to refuse someone from playing. My classmate accepted this and, after failing to get any of us to join in the game he wanted to play, he wandered off to ask people in other parts of the room if they wanted to play with him.  

While my classmate was away, a friend of the game owner arrived and joined in to the game. Unfortunately, my classmate wandered back over a little bit later, apparently having failed to find anyone to play his game with him, and noticed the addition of another player to our game.

The classmate said, “I thought you didn’t have room for more players?”

The game owner responded, in a very gruff and uncaring tone, “Yeah, well, we found more space.”

The classmate just said, “Oh,” in a dejected way.

Then, the new player spoke up, gesturing to the game owner’s friend. “Yeah, he’s taking my place. I didn’t know how long this game was when I signed up for it. I wouldn’t have had time to finish it, so I let him take my spot. I was planning to watch for a while, but if you want, maybe we can find a shorter game to play, instead?”

The new guy had jumped in so fast, and managed to sound so honest and casual about his statement, that I don’t think my classmate ever guessed that he had made up the excuse on the spot to explain the extra player. The two wandered off to play a card game, and my classmate did seem to enjoy himself, judging by how often he got overstimulated and had to stop to take a break for some stimming. 

As for me, I struggled to enjoy the game because I kept feeling really guilty for having been witness to such rude behavior and not having done anything. I’d like to think I’d have gotten around to doing something similar, but I was still processing how cruel the owner was by the time the other play had spoken up. Either way, I was very thankful someone was able to come up with a way to prevent my poor classmate from feeling rejected on one of the few times he tried to come out of his shell to socialize.

The new player who had sacrificed his spot at the game came to more of our game nights later, so I got to know him well and became friends with him. I learned later that he had been really excited to play “Betrayal” because he had only gotten to play it once or twice before but had really loved it. He also confessed that he never liked the card game he got dragged into playing with my classmate, instead, but leaving the game was the only idea he could think of at the moment to keep my classmate from being hurt. I’d eventually help to explain to my new friend about stimming and why the classmate acted the way he did; my friend had figured that the classmate had special needs but didn’t know any specifics beyond that. I also ended up eventually buying the “Betrayal at House on the Hill” game myself — being a board game addict who can’t help buying new games anyway — just so I could invite my friend to play his favorite game with me.

As far as I know, my classmate only attended a few other game nights that semester, it was pretty intermittent when he would show up. However, whenever he did come, my friend and I would both try to go out of our way to find a chance to play a game with him so he wouldn’t feel rejected.

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Don’t Question The End Result

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 13, 2019

I work with a group of elementary school students who need extra help in math. Right now I’m doing multiplication flashcards with three students: two girls, and a boy. They’re all brilliant students, but the girls have a lot more self-confidence, while the boy frequently has fits where he keeps saying he’s stupid and the worst at everything. It breaks my heart because he’s shown that he knows the material, but if he gets the tiniest thing wrong — or even if he gets it right! — he goes into a full meltdown. Often he will say the wrong answer just so he can complain about being dumb. 

During this practice, the girls are on a roll, and the boy is getting increasingly upset. He’s getting the answers right, but he doesn’t say them fast enough so the girls are getting all the points. I try to remind him that it’s just a game, and what matters is that he knows the correct answers, but he’s not having it.

After a little bit, I notice that one of the girls is being more hesitant about answering the questions and even starting to answer them incorrectly. Soon, the other girl starts to do the same thing. I realize that they’re doing poorly on purpose so that the boy has a chance to give the right answers.

Normally, I wouldn’t want the girls to sacrifice their practice time, but as the boy gets more and more points, he gets visibly happier and stops speaking poorly about himself. When the game is over and he sees that he won, he’s through the roof! The girls seem genuinely happy for him. I know it’s not the most honest method, but all three of those students are equally good at math; the boy just needed a confidence booster to get him out of his rut.

At the end of the year, the school hosts an assembly where the principal reads the names of the students who tested at or above grade level for math and reading. All three of those students’ names are called, and to see that boy’s smile as he is recognized for his hard work is beyond worth it.

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