Today in our December to Remember series, my new friend Emily Wierenga shares a beautiful, bittersweet story that so many of us can relate to. How many of us have hoped — or are hoping this year — for our own Christmas miracle?
It’s Christmas and we’re shopping, piling rolls of paper and tootsies and candy canes and stopping now, to let Mum rest, and then on to the rows of Pillsbury dough boy and egg nog. I’m pulling Mum’s hand away from the stacks of Toblerone and she’s getting that look, the one that says we need go home so she can sleep, and we haven’t even started on main gifts, let alone dinner.
She laughs as we pull her to the rusted van, sister and I, caring for 53-year-old mother who homeschooled us long and made us homemade bread, now confined to a seven-year-brain tumor.
The snow is falling. Mum reaches out shaky. The flakes melt fast to her skin making her sparkle. Whenever I look at her hands, lined and worn and smelling of Jergen’s, everything seems okay.
We sing carols in the car on the way home and Mum’s cheeks are red as Rudolph and eyes like a Robin’s egg and Jesus is born in the seats and the song and the air between us.
Mum’s got a glazed look now and I know it will be hard to get her out of the car and into bed. We pull covers tight, pray angels be near and dreams be kind and may she wake to attend the candlelight service. The same service we attended as children with our other siblings, dressed in outfits Mum had sewn, too poor to buy any.
I’ll never forget my red velvet dress with the white lace color and how fancy I felt in eight-year-old skin. Dad would pull up the van, another rusted Chrysler, and we’d pile in and smile for thoughts of sugarplums and red plastic boots filled with candy come early morning. Thoughts of pouncing on Mum while Dad climbed out, set tree ablaze then called us. Thoughts of stepping into the living room and wondering if angels had descended for the glow.
The front door shuts, Dad shakes snow from the hat he’s worn for 20 years and we watch him as he climbs stairs, tired. He looks at us and we say, She’s down for a nap, and he swallows. How is she? A bit fuzzy, I say, and he nods.
I call up my husband and he brings the turkey and I baste it and stuff it and prep it for tomorrow’s feast for as much as Mum is fuzzy, it’s Christmas, and I’m hoping for a miracle.
The gym is coloured with candles and wreaths and wooden nativity scene and people are bowed over orange flames, and Dad is preaching about the long awaited Messiah and I’m propping up Mum praying she wakes soon. The children act out the Christmas story and a family stands to light the advent wreath, the final candle.
Dad puts Mum to bed, brother carrying her legs, husband helping to lift, and we all silently beg her to be fine in the morning, but no one says anything. Instead we pop corn and watch ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas’, and then we tuck in, too excited to sleep for we all become kids on Christmas Eve. We pretend to close our eyes as Dad puts red boots beside our pillows.
I want to hug him and tell him he doesn’t have to do this, he doesn’t have to pretend everything is okay, but I don’t because I know he does, because he’s our Dad and this is Christmas. And Jesus is born in the placing of red boot stuffed with candy.
Morning, and we trip upstairs to the hum of something holy. The lights are already lit for we’ve risen too late even though it’s still dark outside. The air smells of coffee and Mum and Dad are in the kitchen. Mum’s eyes shine like tinsel as she touches my hair and says, Good morning, beautiful, and everything in me sings hallelujah.
Then she looks at me with the same eyes she’s always had and they tell me, one day she will be better and all because of a baby born in a manger.
Tonight will be crackers and cheese and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Perhaps we’ll play a game and then we’ll tumble full into bed and tomorrow begins the putting away and the packing up and the saying Goodbye.
But right now, in this moment, Jesus is born. And so, I squeeze my husband’s hand and sit as still as possible in a room full of motion. For this is my miracle. And I don’t want to miss it. Not for the world.