Every year at the beginning of Advent I bring out our family’s collection of Christmas stories. It is rare now that the kids will let me read to them, but I still like to get out our favorite books and have them around – a reminder of some very special times. We have Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, a beautiful book book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But I think my favorite Christmas story might be one I discovered just a couple of years ago. I found it when I was looking for something for my 9th grade Pre-Ap English class to read.
A Christmas Day in the Morningby Pearl S. Buck is the story of a young boy who suddenly realizes that his serious, hard-working father actually loves him and what that boy does to show his love for his father in return.
I think I am so enamored with this story because it underscores the power of a simple act of kindness and of the power of knowing that you are loved. But perhaps the reason I love it the most is because it reminds me of so much of my grandfather. The young boy’s act of love is exactly like something my grandfather would have done or something he would have appreciated. And even though, I am sorry to say, I never did anything as meaningful for my grandfather as the boy in this story does for his dad, I do remember Papa’s “queer, sobbing sort of laugh” and his misty eyes when he was particularly delighted with one of us. I remember how happy it used to make me feel to know I had pleased him and shown him a bit of the love we always felt from him.
A Christmas Day in the Morning isn’t a religious story. There’s no manger scene, wise men, or shepherds. It is simply a charming story about the love between a boy and his father and how the boy carried that love with him his entire life.
For weeks now my kids have been asking me what I want for Christmas. And I have said the thing that I am supposed to say, that I always say – I don’t need anything. I just want all of my children to be happy and healthy. It’s true. I don’t need anything. And I do want my children to be happy and healthy. But they are good children, so no matter how often I say that I really don’t need anything, they will pool their money and buy me a new bathrobe or nightgown, or a maybe well-intentioned kitchen gadget. And I’ll be grateful because I know they are buying me presents because they love me and want to show me that they care.
But here’s the thing. I’m lying. I don’t just want healthy happy kids. Sure that’s the most important thing, but there are a few things that I desperately want. I want ’em real bad. Perhaps it’s not too late to give my family my real Christmas list…
I want everyone to lick or wipe the peanut butter off the spoon before dropping it in the sink. Better yet, lick it off and drop it in the dishwasher.
I want to never hear the words. SHOTGUN! again.
I want to never open the cabinet and find a box with approximately two tablespoons of cereal left in it.
I want a vehicle free of dead french fries and straw wrappers.
I want all the socks in whole world (or at least in my house) to find and keep their forever mate.
I want counter tops free from crumbs.
I want well-fed dogs and chickens and livestock. And I want to eliminate the phrase Did you feed the…. from my vocabulary.
I want to stop pretending that the little flecks of green in the pasta are seasonings. It’s spinach, ya’ll. Okay. It’s spinach. It has always been spinach.
I want to sit down with my coffee or my computer or my book for more than five minutes at time before someone says, “Hey Mamma! Will you…”
I want to always be able to find a pen. And my scissors. And the duck tape. Seriously. Who keeps running off with the duck tape?
I want to stop repeating myself.
I want to stop repeating myself.
I want a TV show that comes on during primetime that I can watch with my whole family and that does not involve wildlife or people wearing cammo – and that will not be interrupted by commercials for tampons, Viagra, or Victoria’s Secret.
I want to learn how to use the television remote control, and I want the kids to forget how to use the television remote control.
I want, just now and then, to arrive at church with a relaxed, well-dressed family at least 15 minutes early.
I want to pray more as a family.
I want to play more as a family.
I want to sit down to dinner more often.
I want to cook from scratch, and I want someone else to clean the kitchen.
I want more nights at home with my family and fewer nights all going in different directions.
I want to slow down time.
Obviously, some of the things on my list are within my family’s power to give me and some are not. But in the end, I know I will get bathrobe or a nightgown or a kitchen gadget. And that’s okay. Because even though whatever I get might not come with a life-time supply of spotless kitchens or perfectly matched socks, it will come with love. And I really could use a new bathrobe.