I’m in need of a good uplifting story today, so I thought I’d tell one. It’s my very favorite Christmas story so hang in there with me. When we were first starting out we didn’t have much but we tried to make the holidays special. The kids always wrote their letters to Santa well in advance and we always let them ask Santa for 3 wishes (thus giving us a clue what they wanted and limiting them at the same time). We reinforced how important this decision was and that they had to chose carefully because children only got to send one letter per year (Santa is busy after all). So the kids always fretted for weeks before deciding. This always involved hours of “test driving” in the toy store, circling items in ads, and paying more attention to the toy commercials then the cartoons on Saturday mornings (Remember when cartoons were on Saturdays only? No?…I’m aging myself). This was always particularly hard for my DD…choosing between many things you want has always been hard for her. Just go clothes shopping with her sometime…after a few hours on the bench in the fitting room you’ll know what I mean. When my oldest (DD) was about 5 she had a particularly hard time choosing that year. She finally sent off her letter to Santa and we were set. We bought our presents, wrapped them all up, and loaded them in the car.
We used to take turns traveling to each set of Grandparents every other year and that year was my parent’s turn. My Dad has been “playing Santa” since I was a baby and he has always done an awesome job! I remember sitting in my grandparent’s house with all my cousins and hearing Santa’s bells and then seeing his face coming through the snow toward their big picture window…I thought my heart was going to burst with excitement! We each took a turn on Santa’s lap to whisper our wishes into his ear and he always had candy canes to give out. We’d sing him our best Christmas carols and then wave to him from the window as his sleigh-bells slowly faded away. I swear I could hear the reindeer on the roof! I was wonderful…up until the year that my cousin whispered in my ear who Santa really was and I burst out in tears (my Mom had to rush me to the bedroom before I traumatized all the other cousins). Sorry, back to the story…
So this was one of those wonderful Christmas’ at my parent’s home now and there was Santa in their window. I thought my DD was going to die of excitement. It was finally her turn on Santa’s lap and he asked her what she wanted for Christmas…we’d been practicing this with her for weeks…she could rattle off those 3 wishes like nobody’s business…so cameras and camcorders blazing we waited for her reply…I knew her well…no whispers in Santa’s ear like the shy kids…I knew she’d list them loud and proud…a pause…then she thoughtfully looks at her grandparent’s mantle points to it and says “I want a manger just like Oma's (Grandma’s) only I want a PINK light in mine.” WHAT’S THIS???!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 3 WISHES WE’D BEEN PRACTICING FOR A MONTH??? Well Santa must have seen the surprise in my face because he promptly asked “Well, what other things do you want Santa to bring you?” “That’s all Santa…that’s all I want.” she says matter-of-factly and she wouldn’t budge. You’d have to know my DD to understand this…this was NOT one of those spur of the moment decision that kids make just because they can’t think of what else to say…oh NO…she had obviously given this a lot of thought. She’s one of those kids whom other people, from the age of about 2, have been telling me that she’s a kid who’s going to get what she wants out of life…she’s bright, precocious, outgoing, likable, adventurous, is always the life of the party, loves attention, and can smooth talk the pants off anyone. The manger my mother puts on her mantle every year is a beautiful antique one with 14 figures and animals. It’s from Italy, an old one from about 1920, with a yellow light in it (with a fabric covered cord that will probably cause a fire some day) and it was given to them by my father’s parents. The kids all love it because every year (I told you this story in my “Traditions” blog) on Christmas Eve a child gets chosen to carry in baby Jesus to place in the manger while we all hold candles and sing “Silent Night”. My DD loved having her turn to do this. OK…now what’s a parent to do? It’s Christmas Eve and no stores are open to look for a manger even if we wanted to. What could we do? We spent Christmas Eve assembling the kitchen set she’d asked for and said a prayer that she’d love it.
Christmas morning dawns and the cousins arrive. Santa always wraps all his presents in plain Red and Green paper…except each child’s big gift which is left unwrapped. We let the kids come into the family room and my DD ran right to her kitchen set with squeals of delight…all was well and I breathed a sigh of relief. We start the “great unwrapping” with Opa (Grandpa) handing out gifts one at a time. A few presents into it my DD gets a red gift box from Santa that I didn’t recognize, but sometimes the grandparents do that. She opens the box and screams with delight….she starts to jump up and down pointing and can hardly breath! It’s a manger set…identical to Oma’s…and yes, it has a big pink light in it. I look at the box…then I look at the mantle…double-take…I check again…yep, Oma’s manger is still there, yellow light and all. It’s a Christmas miracle! I start bawling and saying “I believe in Santa!!...and Christmas miracles!!” At this point I see my middle sister in tears laughing and crying with me. Pretty soon we’re all laughing and crying. I later find out that my Grandparents had originally bought two identical manger sets…they’d given one set to my parents and one to my father’s brother and his wife (my aunt). My Aunt had passed the manger on to my sister (her Goddaughter). Long story short…my sister already had a manger set so she’d never put it out…it had been down her basement for years…waiting for it’s moment…all she had to do was switch out a big pink bulb from my parents Christmas tree for the yellow one!
The manger set now adorns my mantle every year (until my DD gets a home of her own)…and yes, everyone who sees it curiously asks about the big pink light so I have to tell the story (it does kind of make the crèche look like a brothel…but I love the pink light)…and I still believe in Santa!