More than 75 years ago, a little girl with skinny blond pigtails is waiting for Christmas. It seemed the day would never end, but night is finally deepening around the little house perched on the bank of Summer’s Fork Creek.
Summer’s Fork Creek flows into the waters of Big Laurel Creek, which in turn empties into the Elk River, which turns its waters into the Kanawha River, which sweeps into the Ohio River, which rolls into the mighty Mississippi River, which slides smoothly into the sea.
The little girl knew nothing of this, of course. Her whole world consisted of the little house, with its Wallrite papered walls and tar-papered roof, which housed her, her mother and father, and a younger brother and sister. Too, there were her Grandpa and Grandma, who lived just across the yard in their own bigger house, with a porch on the front, a porch on the back, and a porch on the side. Their house boasted a tar paper roof also, with rough outside boards silvered by the rain and snow of many winters. Woodbine and rambler roses crept up the front porch posts and shaded the old porch swing in the summer, and made a snug hideaway for little girls.
Grandpa, with his pipe always clenched in his toothless gums, and Grandma, with her gold-framed spectacles perched on the end of her nose, were extra special people to the little girl. As a matter of fact, it was her grandmother, with her healing hands, who had brought both her and her new baby sister into the world. For some reason she hadn’t delivered her brother, but instead old Doc Smith had brought him in his mysterious black bag.
But right now, she wasn’t thinking about them, or about anyone else, for that matter. Her whole being was concentrating fiercely on making this day pass as soon as possible, and speeding up the night. For this was THE NIGHT!
It had taken days and days to arrive to this point. It seemed that she had waited forever for this night to finally come, although she had enjoyed each prior day with feverish excitement. She thought about the cold, snowy day that her father had pulled the homemade wooden sled up the hill to the woods, and came back with the fragrant hemlock tree with its short, green needles. It had to be adjusted just right, and her father had even drilled a few holes down one side of the trunk to insert extra branches to balance the beauty of the tree.
It had been trimmed so carefully with fragile glass balls, metallic icicles, and bright-colored, twisted candles inserted in their own tiny brass holders that clipped to the tree. It had stood there for days, with its precious candles, and tonight they were going to light them!
Her mother had spent lots of hours in the kitchen baking pies and cookies, and gingerbread men. She had let the little girl sprinkle red and green colored sugar on the cookies that were shaped like stars, and angels, and Christmas trees. The tiny baby sister was too young to know anything that was going on, and her younger brother was mostly a pest. Oh, she loved him dearly, and guarded him with maternal devotion, but sometimes he was a trial.
She is watching out the window with rapt attention at the clear winter sky. The stars blink and twinkle and seem to reflect the bubbling excitement that threatens to spill out of her at any time. Her brother, pulling a paper box by a shoestring and making choo-choo noises, bumps into the back of her legs and earns himself a dirty look. Soon, however, she has her arm around his neck and is telling him of the gifts they are sure to find under the tree the next morning. His eyes sparkle in anticipation, and soon both of them are jumping in delight.
It is growing dark now, and their mother comes in to light the gas mantles. Her chores over for the day, she sits down in the rocking chair to read the Bible to the children. The little girl leans on the arm of her chair while her brother plays quietly at her feet. Many of the words are over her head, but she listens, enchanted, as her mother reads the beloved story.
Her attention is caught by the words, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
She thought of Grandpa’s old log barn, and pictured the rough manger where the cows munched their hay. She could see the tiny, newborn baby bedded down in a mound of sweet-smelling hay, and wished she could pick him up and hold him. She grew sleepy as her mother’s voice read on and on, and barely made it through her “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer.
Almost in a daze, she watches her father light the candles on the tree. From candle to candle he moves the wooden match, as each twisted candle flares and lights. Her mother turns out the gas mantle, and now there is only the glow from the candle-lit tree to illuminate the room. The gas fire reflects the candle glow, and the room is rich in love and contentment. The little girl drifts off to sleep; floating on the aroma of candle wax and warm pine needles. Her last conscious thoughts are of a helpless, newborn baby, looking much like her own baby sister, reaching out to her from the manger of Grandpa’s barn.
It is morning, and she is awakened by her father, who is pulling the covers from her and gently shaking her shoulder. Grinning hugely, he says, “Get up and see what is under the tree for you!” Suddenly wide awake, she jumps out of bed and runs to the tree.
She doesn’t see the tricycle sitting there for her brother, or any of the other presents. Her attention is focused on the doll that is reaching out to her. A warm wash of maternal love flows through her as she cuddles the doll, with its composition head and cloth body, close to her. It is her own; her very own baby.
Many Christmases have come and gone, and the little girl is now a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother, many times over. But she has never forgotten that special Christmas so long ago, when she became a mother.
(I would like to wish all my readers a very special, blessed Christmas. And remember the Child that was born; the Son that was given—the greatest gift the world has ever known.)