Christmas is one of those holidays that brings love and good cheer. It’s also one that triggers memories from childhood or moments with loved ones. So I’m sharing a couple that crossed my mind this season. Enjoy!
Nativity in a One Light Town
In a small Virginia town, where the only traffic light’s hailed as a major fascination, one family dared to be different at Christmas. That family, led by a pastor and his wife, chose to share the true meaning of the holiday with everyone who passed their home.
Helping with this endeavor, the couple’s four-year-old placed straw in and around the manger for the plastic baby Jesus to rest while the ten-year-old wiggled Jesus’ synthetic parents into their hovering poses. The pastor secured the makeshift barn as his wife painted final touches on the wooden cutout animals. He’d string a row of colorful lights along the porch awning, replacing the center bulb with a clear blinking light to resemble the star in the east.
From the outside looking in, the scene held an air of family teamwork and bonding over the layout of the Nativity. Only those within, knew the sinister act that occurred and shook the very soul of one of its members.
At the age of four, I wanted to be like the big kids – my older brother, Kenneth, included. So when Mama asked me to help transport the lighter Nativity items, my heart beat with pure excitement.
I leapt the steep attic stairs with the biggest grin any four-year-old could muster. But as I hurried in the direction of the three wise men, one of them walked towards me. I high-tailed it down the stairs, tripping over a few on the way. I didn’t care. I needed to get away from this holy monster. Mama to the rescue!
I latched on to her, breathing hard and eyes stained with tears. Her maternal instincts must have kicked in without me uttering a word. Or maybe the laughter of a ten-year-old boy gave it away. She headed towards the attic with me closely behind.
At the top of the stairs, she locked eyes with my brother. His jovial façade went stark cold.
Mama: “What are you doing,” left hand balled on her hip.
Kenneth: “Nothin’ Mama,” meek and innocent-faced.
Me: “Uh, huh Mama. He scared me. He made the wise man walk.”
Mama: “Boy, you know better than that!”
My brother received his just desserts – a spanking. I watched in the corner smiling like a Cheshire cat. That was the last time he pulled a prank like that. But not the last time that wise man gave me the willies.
Back Door Santa
One of my family’s Christmas Eve traditions was watching television. We covered the gamut of shows from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to Frosty to A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Wizard of Oz. Mama fixed popcorn (the kind you shake in an aluminum pan on the stove), and Daddy cracked walnuts and sectioned tangerines from the stockings we received from the Christmas pageant. As you could imagine, I skipped the nuts. Never understood why anyone thought a small child would want or should eat nuts. Anywho…
Cramming popcorn and tangerine pieces in my gullet, I viewed the shows with wide-eyed anticipation (though I’d seen each a million times). When the boring commercials came on, I’d peek over at the Christmas tree, eyeing the presents relatives sent. I strategized which to open first the following morning, based on my desire and the shape of the package. Then a thought crossed my mind.
“Daddy, how does Santa Claus bring our toys? We don’t have a chimney.”
My parents looked at each other unsure how to respond.
Mama came up with a snazzy explanation, “When we hear him on the roof, we open the back door for him. You’re asleep so you don’t hear him.”
“Why doesn’t he come through the front door?”
Quick-thinking, Daddy added, “Well, he doesn’t want to wake you. And it’s easier since he has to walk though the kitchen anyway for the milk and cookies you left.”
I cocked my head to one side like a questioning puppy, mulling over the remark. My parents kept a confident stance, which propelled me to believe it all true. I returned my attention to the television, thinking nothing more of it.
After I became old enough and the truth about Santa Claus revealed, I finally realized my naiveté about my parent’s ruse. Lol
Trike for the Tyke
One Christmas, I received a red Radio Flyer tricycle like the one in the post image. I guess my parents sensed my disappointment when my brother and cousins rode junior bikes as I watched during the summer.
When my eyes caught sight of the red miracle under the tree, I couldn’t contain myself. I hopped on, placed my feet on the pedals, and churned my legs to make it move. Mind you, I ran over a couple of presents along the way. You’d think this served as a lesson.
I rounded corners, each time increasing speed. Mama warned me to slow down. Then it happened. I ran into the back of her heel. A pained noise emitted from her mouth as she stiffened like a solider at attention. Soon after, her body loosened without a single word between us. She never turned around to look at me.
Nerves trembling and unsure what action to take, I asked the question most caring kids inquire of their injured playmates.
“Are you ok, Mama?”
I knew the answer. A bleeding gash in a person’s heel didn’t signify well-being. But because she said nothing and didn’t look at me, my stomach twisted and turned. Finally…
“Get out of my sight! I told you to slow down.”
I rushed to my room crying. The tears streamed not because of a spanking in my future, but because I wounded my Mama.
When I thought she’d forgotten about me, I peeked around my bedroom door, which bee-lined to the kitchen. Mama sat at the table dabbing Merthiolate on her heel with a cotton ball. She winced before peeling the paper from a bandage, and securing it to the back of her foot. I cried harder until I fell asleep.
That evening, I sheepishly meandered to the living room where the family watched TV. Mama sat in her favorite spot on the end of the sofa, sewing something or another. She’d glance at the screen when something captivated her attention, but she didn’t look in my direction.
My heart raced as I inched my way onto the opposite end of the sofa. She must hate me still, I thought. How could I get back in her good graces?
During the commercial breaks, I slid closer to her until in my familiar position leaning against her arm. She didn’t flinch, which meant all must be right in the world again. I gazed up at her. “Sorry Mama.”
She smiled back. “Do you want some popcorn, Melanie?”
“Ok, let me finish this stitch.”
A weight lifted from my weary soul. And on that day I learned three lessons: (1) always know how to use your brakes, (2) there’s freedom in forgiveness, and (3) a mother will love her child through just about anything.
Making New Memories
Residential Christmas lights and displays have always tickled my fancy. Something about them makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. Maybe it’s the brightness of the lights or warmth of family memories. Either way, I look forward to it each year.
So this year, my mother-in-law has found a park decorated with massive lights and exhibits. This will be the first time my husband and I will partake of these festivities with extended family. Should be great!
This is my last post for 2016, but stay tuned for more great posts in 2017. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!