Friday, December 17, 2010

The Year the Wise Men Lost Their Heads

(I wrote this when Elizabeth was 18 months old....she celebrated her 15th birthday this past July. I think about this every year at this time).

        My excitement at the first Christmas with my grandchild overrode my common sense.  As I busily decorated, my husband asked, "Don't you think you need to leave some of that in the boxes?"  Arrogant and impatient, I answered snippily, "Why would I want to do that?"  As if on cue, the expected answer, "Elizabeth is only 18 months old; you can't expect her to leave the decorations alone."
            What?  Of course I expected her to leave the decorations alone.   Hadn't ours learned to leave them alone?  Visions danced through my head of a perfect little grandchild, much like her mother and uncle had been, who would mind, respect and leave the Christmas decorations alone.
            Little did I know this doll-like, angelic, less than 2 foot, blue-eyed little person would have her Nana's number.  Big time!
            "No!  Elizabeth, " I exclaimed, as I rushed behind her taking Christmas odds and ends out of her little hands.  Lord, I thought, not for the first time, did her mother have this much energy when she was 18 months old?  Realizing it was Nana who didn't have the same energy, I patiently explained the rules in Nana's house.  Do not touch the Christmas decorations.
            To say I enjoyed this Christmas would be a tiny lie.  Oh, I loved having my children home.  My son had been away teaching, and my daughter had lived out-of-state since her marriage.  The house brimmed with laughter and love, the recapturing of memories, the creation of new ones, one of which was Elizabeth, Nana, and the Christmas decorations.
            On several occasions, I caught my husband laughing at me.  Not grinning-- laughing.  In our house, everyone knew, Christmas decorations were to look at, not touch, push, drag, or slide.  Even friends knew this instinctively most likely from the gasps of breath if a hand went toward a particularly breakable piece.  Did it really matter?  Why now, after so many successful Christmas seasons, was my obsession going to hell in a hand basket--or, perhaps better stated, to the floor with a swoop of an 18-month-old hand?
            To cover my impatience, I cajoled. . .I bribed. . .okay, yes. . .I took Elizabeth to Walmart to buy her own decorations.  Nothing worked.  The beautiful setting around my "big people" nativity scene became disintegrated when bright red connected beads were jerked off.  Baby Jesus scooted to the very edge of the table, precariously hovering on the brink of disaster.  The wise men had fallen back into the cotton snow so artfully patterned between them.  Their unstable positions were no less dubious than mine.  The beads had been placed precisely, so the appealing motif captured minds while viewing my work of art.  The beads did look pretty around Elizabeth's little neck, though.
            It became apparent to me Elizabeth was enamored with the "little people" nativity scene, a child's rendition of the birth of Jesus.  Eye level to my little angel, she would stand in awe, putting her chubby little index finger on the crib, saying "Dis iz Bebby Desuz, and diz is de mommie, and diz iz de daddy."  Maybe it was a mistake to clap our hands in joy because this child appeared to be the smartest child known to
date.  I watched in amazement each time we went through this routine, the wise men were ignored.  Patiently, I explained about the wise men and how they were led by a star to the Baby Jesus, but Elizabeth's attention span ran to play with the doggie.
            Feeling somewhat sure my decorations were finally safe, I settled in to enjoy the holiday only to hear Elizabeth and Freckles, our border collie, running up and down the hallway.  Elizabeth shrieked and Freckles barked.  During one of the minute run-by's, I saw "little people" wise men tightly ensconced in tiny little fingers.  Not knowing I could get out of a rocker so quickly, I ran and rescued the wise men, telling Elizabeth one more time to play with her decorations, not Nana's.
            Time flew so quickly, with just hours away from airport delivery.  Something caught my eye--Elizabeth standing in the archway to the living room holding the "little people" wise men in her hands.  As she raised them high into the air to show her prizes to Nana with hope she could get by with having them, heads clicked together.  Wise men's heads toppled in unison to the floor.
            Elizabeth's eyes widened.  My eyes widened.  In the split second we stared at each other, so many thoughts raced, wrecked, and healed within my heart.  Tears welled in her eyes as I walked and kneeled beside her.  In her fear, and with a child's limited understanding, she placed the bodies in my hands and spoke her name the best she could, "Bibbabeth boke.  I sawwy, Nana."
            I laid the bodies down in the middle of heads gone askew.  I hugged her tiny body close to mine and as those chubby arms circled my neck, I knew I had to teach this little one in a different way than I had my own.  After all, I only had her at short intervals.
            We gathered bodies and heads and took them to the dining room table.  I sat her on the table, and with glue in hand, we put the wise men back together again--all the while, Nana explaining to Elizabeth the valuable lesson learned this Christmas.  I felt good about what I had learned.  Material things, even the destruction and repair of the precious wise men, were not worth the loss of love and happiness that flowed throughout our home.  I somehow knew Elizabeth learned something. 
            Looking up, I saw glue in her baby-fine blonde hair and across her new Christmas dress.  Her index finger balanced a big dollop delicately on the edge; blue eyes mesmerized by the wondering look of “I'll bet this would really taste good."  I sighed as I smiled and touched my hand to her cheek.  Her eyes moved to mine, bestowing the most beautiful, unconditional loving smile.
            My tears finally came.  I silently thanked God for this lovely child, the true meaning of Christmas. . .and washable glue.

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