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Tuesday, December 18 2001

Christmas reflections

For the next week I'm going to share some random reflections on Christmas—Christmases past and present. The Christmas index, above, will give my original attempts at this, and ones that were less random and spontaneous. Today, it's Christmas "presents" from the past.

While decorating the house with Maya on Saturday I found one red and one green plastic bell that used to be part of a set of eight bells, one for each note on the musical scale. It was a Christmas present I received when I was probably...eight? nine? Some of the bells are totally gone now, but it's surprising that this present has survived even partially so long and traveled so far, from Blacklick Township 1951 to San Jose 2001. It came with a little music book (long since gone) that had not only notes but numbers and colors to denote the order in which each bell was to be rung to produce a song. It was much easier than the piano and maybe Mom had determined this would be as "musical" as I'd ever get.

In the storage shed or behind clothes in the closet there's a steel combination "strong box" and filing-top cabinet that was my main Christmas present wish when I was 13 (?—may have been 14). Somewhere there's a photo of me in a dorky pose under the Christmas tree with that "treasure" in the foreground, and also wearing a sweater vest received that year. I think it's the first clothing gift I'd ever received that I actually appreciated, and for that reason think it was the first Christmas on which I had a girlfriend. I used the strongbox part of the cabinet to keep my diaries and writing projects under lock and key, because I was very afraid of being embarrassed if my mother or brother should ever read them. I used the file top of the waist-high cabinet for the materials used in writing my column for the Mountaineer-Herald, and for my budget information. At that age, I knew how much I took in in a whole year (probably about $100)...wish I had the motivation to be so well organized now!

In that hidden lockbox are all the diaries and journals I produced in my pre-teen and teenage years. And I just checked: The key is still on one of the two keychains I always have in my pockets! Hmmm...but I don't remember ever having more than one key...wonder if Mom had the other one all those years?

Join the Forum! Please share your reflections, too! They might be random short thoughts or recounting more complete memories. What did you wish for? What did you get? Materially? Spiritually?

Don't miss...today's "inspiration." Bring Kleenex.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

A taste of heaven

An elderly man lay dying in his bed. In death's agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made
his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the doorframe, gazing into the kitchen.

Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: There, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture. His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth; seemingly bringing him back to life. The aged and withered hand shockingly made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when his wife suddenly smacked it with a spatula.

"Stay out of those," she said. "They're for the funeral."

—Sent by Sallie Covolo

Advent thought for the day

A baby's hug — We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a highchair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talkng. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.
I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. "Hi there, baby; Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik.
My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there."

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a- boo?
Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo."

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skidrow bum who, in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back, trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's "pick-me-up" position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck.

The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift." I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me."
I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?" when He shared His for all eternity.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children."

John H.B. Smith, Retired Forester
Sent by Bob Kennedy

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