Remember the stories of our past, can be stories that have you rolling on the floor with laughter, deep serious conversations, or stories that you wish you did not have in a chapter of your life. I have been asked, and I have asked the question, "what are some of your fondest memories of Christmas past?" Given the dramatics of my childhood one might thing I run for cover when asked this question. There is one story I like to tell. In telling it, it reminds me of a young girl who loved Jesus and trusted. A young girl that could turn what most would think tragic into a party. If you know me, you know I love little parties. When I think of this story, I smile, even now as I write I smile. Did God design me as a party girl, even at the age of nine years old?
It was December 21, 1974. I woke up to a special day. No one said Happy Birthday. My mother was in one of her deep dark depressions. Days when she did not get out of bed and the curtains closed. I got dressed and found my favorite shirt. It was easy to find, I had very few. My older two sisters always ran out the door earlier. I gathered my younger sister and we walked to school. She said "Happy Birthday" and we walked the four blocks to school. It was not often that my birthday came on a school day. Typically school was on holiday, and my birthdays would quietly pass, but today was P.A.R.T.Y. day. Our class Christmas party.
Mrs. Davidson had Barbara Streisand on the record player singing Christmas songs. The room was decorated and I went to my desk. Mrs. Davidson came over to me excited, she asked, "Did you give the note to your mom? Is she going to come for the party and bring treats to celebrate your birthday?" I never gave her the note. I did not want her to feel bad that she could not come that day, or any day. "She is sick today," is all I said and Mrs. Davidson's smile faded. Mine did not fade. I knew every word of Barbara's Christmas Album. I found my friends and the party was getting started. We said the pledge to the flag, and then we were handed out our crafts for the day. Mrs. Davidson gave us boxes to decorate, this way we could take our boxes home and put something in them for our parents.
The day went on with merriment and soon it was time for the treats and parents to show up. It was a party like I had never seen. Plates of cookies, cupcakes, candy-canes, chocolates. I collected all that I could and neatly placed my treats into my box. There were Christmas pencils, and glitter pens, and even super balls with Christmas sparkle. All fit tightly into my little box. Sometime during that day, Mrs. Davidson had me come up and put the birthday hat on me. For five minutes it was my very own party. Everyone sang Happy Birthday. The teacher got her paddle and pretended to spank me, and then she hugged me tight. Poke her fingers into my dimples, like she did almost every single day and told me I was a terrific kid. I am not sure those were her exact words, but words that made me feel ten feet tall. A P.A.R.T.Y.
The party did not end there. I carefully carried my box home. I hid it from my sisters and brother. I gathered some of my stuffed friends in a bag and then went into the field next to our house. It was bitter cold outside, but today, was going to be the first day I remember being responsible for my joy and happiness. I sat in the field and laid out my stuffed friends and a favorite doll. I took my decorated box of treats out and served up the treats to my party attenders. I thanked Jesus for loving me and giving me such a wonderful birthday to celebrate. A nine year old girl, out in the cold enjoying her party. It brought me so much joy.
When Emily was three years old, her birthday started with all her stuffed friends gathered around a box. In her room on the floor I collected her favorite animals. I bought little gifts and placed them in the box, and she could wake to the joy of her birthday. A tradition that started when I was nine years old, a gift to myself when no one really noticed or cared turned into treasures and fun for my own children.
I do not grieve that little nine year old girl that did not get birthday parties or notice of a special day. Rather I take joy in knowing that Jesus showed up in my life, brought joy to me, and I could see it, even at the age of nine. Many have situations and circumstances that are hard. A time of year when we get asked the questions of Christmas past. There is joy in this season. We have to take responsibility for owning that joy and then passing it along. I did not live in a home that was filled with merriment and cheer. My home was dark that year, no presents under the tree, no Christmas dinner served, yet today I think it's the most memorable because I saw Jesus blessing me in ways that only a nine year old girl would understand on her birthday. Now a mother of many kids, so far three nine year old kids on my resume of mothering I see that they see Jesus in their lives too. He is waiting, He is there holding that box of whatever you want to put into it. Merry Christmas Friends, Love Elizabeth