Last updated on September 5, 2023
|The lighting of the Christmas tree in Atlanta
Each year my sister Paige invites all of us to her house. We sit around the dining room table, where odd knickknacks are transformed into lovely Christmas decorations. Paige is an artist, and it’s a good thing for my daughters. Most of my art projects never go as planned. I always miss an important step and my results are memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.
Last year all the cousins created angels to hang on our Christmas trees. The ornaments were dressed in white lace, had feathery wings, and a red rose dotted the front collar. Instead of halos, the kids crowned the angels with macaroni noodles.
Joy, my youngest daughter, proudly hung her angel on our tree. Christmas came and went. January rolled around, and I packed the ornaments away in our attic for another year.
I fetched the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed up all the droppings. Visions popped into my head of hundreds of roaches crawling over my beautiful ornaments. How many roaches would it take to make that much crap? I cringed. Living in Florida has its dark side.
Then Joy cried out, “Mommy, my angel has no hair.”
“What happen to her hair?”
“I think the roaches ate it,” Joy said.
We broke out laughing. The roaches had spent the summer feasting on the macaroni hair of my daughter’s angel.
As I reflect on my fondest Christmas memories, many of them are also quite eclectic. There was Christmas in downtown New York when we got trapped inside a car on fire. The electric windows were stuck, and my grandfather smashed the driver’s side window with a suitcase. Mother pulled me out through shards of broken glass. Sirens blared, and emergency lights flickered in the cold night air. We never got to see the tree lighting but spent the evening in a fancy hotel.
Later, Mother told me a Hollywood director was there for a children’s beauty pageant and had pleaded with her to let him take me to Hollywood. Sometimes I wonder if I missed my chance to be the next Hayley Mills (who I was often compared to when I was young).
My most vivid memory from that snowy winter was Christmas Eve when I heard Santa’s reindeer pounding on the rooftop of the apartment building. It was a loud swishing sound followed by gallops. I didn’t believe in Santa Claus until that night. I lay in my warm bed imagining what Santa and his reindeer looked like. I wanted to jump up and peek out the window, but I was afraid he wouldn’t leave me presents if I saw them.
The next morning I ran to the window and looked below. To my surprise, there were large sleigh marks in the snow. I stared out the window for a long time.
Mother said, “I saw them, too, and heard Santa land on the roof.”
“You did?” I asked, surprised. “I also heard the reindeer hoofs pounding on the roof. The swishing sound woke me up,” I added.
Silence followed as we thought about the strange coincidence. Sometimes I wonder if God allows fanciful moments to bring comfort to children. Maybe that’s what I needed at that time—to have something to believe in.
Many years later, I was in Vietnam on Christmas Eve to adopt Joy. Christmas music wafted through the streets of Hanoi. The beautiful lyrics filled the nighttime air. I rejoiced, so far from home, realizing nothing can silence what God proclaims from the mountaintops—or loudspeakers hoisted on poles in a communist country.
|Joy in Hanoi when I adopted her Christmas 1999
|This joyful season, I will pause to reflect on the gift of the baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, knowing someday, too, I will bow before the newborn King. And, just maybe, there won’t be any roach droppings there.
Hopefully, the roaches will find something else to eat besides angel hair. Life will resume its regular course, and I will be glad for the start of a new year.