Tuesday, December 25, 2007
My favorite Christmas was the one which brought two of my most cherished gifts. I didn’t even need to unwrap the package before I squealed in delighted recognition of what lay hidden under the paper and in a cardboard box – my very own ‘Howdy Doody’ rocking chair. It was the exact one I wanted, with Howdy and Buffalo Bob, and Clara Belle the Clown stenciled on the headrest – each one waving ‘howdy’ just to me.
I could barely contain my joy and in ten seconds flat, the paper was ripped off, the box torn opened, and I was rocking rapturously, eyes closed in sweet, mystical delight, as the little music box on the rocker tinkled the anthem of my childhood: “It’s Howdy Doody time.”
Suddenly, my mother exclaimed as a little joke on my enthusiasm, “Oh, Elizabeth, if you keep rocking like that, you just might rub off the stencils of your favorite characters.” I instantly jumped out of the chair and was frozen in horror at the thought.
My mother, distressed by the unintended impact of her words, took quick remedial action. She looked around the room and silently, so silently, surveyed the doilies, hand-tattered by my grandmother, which covered the headrest of every chair in the living room. To my astonishment, she chose her very favorite one to place on the back of my chair. “There,” she said, “let’s put this right here and whenever you rock, this doily will protect all your favorite characters.”
The rocking chair is long gone, but I still have that doily, all these many years later, folded carefully in the bottom of my drawer. I couldn’t have known it then, but it was to become my most treasured Christmas present, a token of my most cherished Christmas memory – the time my mother redeemed a moment tarnished by few unintended, ill-timed words and restored the glow of Christmas joy to my child’s heart.
For me, that doily represents the true spirit of Christmas. For it is in such small, simple redemptive acts of generosity and kindness that the reason for the birth of Jesus, the Holy Child of God can be found: that the whole world might be reconciled to God and each other and be at peace.
May your Christmas memories and moments find such joy, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope, that your voice may be one among the angels who eternally sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”