To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing about this song. I decided to include “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. on my summer playlist for two reasons. First, I remember it playing practically non-stop last summer (2016) and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around its success. And second, because (eventually) its haunting lyrics and melody spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.
A piano ballad on the Billboard Top 100 might be unusual, but the term “unusual” pretty much describes this song from start to finish. The Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. said she wrote the first line of the song after watching the television show Once Upon a Time. She then “debuted” her partial song via the Vine app. Fans encouraged her to write a full song, and thanks to internet demand, she released a YouTube video in late 2015. Record labels finally took notice and an official music video arrived in Spring 2016. Many in the industry thought the idea of a song about Peter Pan simply wouldn’t fly (pun intended.) Several said it was too “Disney” and others wrote it off as anything but a summer music hit. Obviously, they were wrong. A ballad about a young boy who refuses to grow up, a rebel of sorts who will not conform, a carefree character who chooses fantasy over reality…it was a song that resonated with so many…even a 40 something year old mom.
“Lost Boy” was the song that played on the radio when we headed to the ballpark and played again on the long rides home. On nights when our team won, the song’s melody suggested that these were absolutely the very best days. Peter Pan was definitely on to something–never, ever grow up! On nights when the team lost, the song resounded with a heartbreaking quality. A reminder that perhaps these were indeed “lost” years, where boys transform into men despite the alluring idea of living in “Neverland.” Watching your children grow up is something that no one can prepare you for…believe me, I know. I’ve read all the books, sought out advice from everyone under the sun and I still sit in awe. My mind can barely wrap itself around the idea that these kiddos are becoming adults and my heart practically refuses to believe this is even a possibility. Yet here we are.
I remember what it was like to be fifteen. It was the absolute best and it was the absolute worst. It was fun and it was lonely. It was exciting and it was scary. It was pivotal. Neverland never looked so good (at least to this mom.)
UP NEXT: Song 13…”I would walk 500 miles….”
In case you didn’t know it, that’s MOM upside down!
Okay, all kidding aside, WOW is the only word that comes to mind for me this Mother’s Day. I’m not sure what made this year’s holiday different, but I feel very compelled to give a huge shout out to other mothers today. I feel like belting out a great big THANK YOU…complete with song and dance (not to mention a few hugs!) But mostly, I just want you all to know that I see you and I really just couldn’t do this mothering thing without you.
Some have said that being a mother is the most important job on the planet. Something along the lines of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” And there’s plenty more sayings out there to describe motherhood (and, believe it or not, most of them are favorable!) Still there’s nothing like being deep in the parenting trenches to remind you that you cannot do this alone. We need each other…sometimes desperately. I need you to be my eyes and ears, I need you to catch my kids doing good AND to give me the heads up when they make poor decisions. I need you to double-check our kids whereabouts and sleepover plans with me…because communicating in the tween/teen years can be difficult and responsibility/accountability are crucial. I need you to share advice and help me navigate through tough situations. And I need you to be loving examples, safe places, and trusted adults whom my kids can turn to, if needed. And I promise to do the same…because motherhood is an interesting club. It’s not necessarily hard to join (although I’m sensitive to the fact that it can be.) There’s no pre-mom exam. No age limit. No “green light.” Some of us fit in from the get go. Others clamor to get in. Some of us enter hesitantly, if not reluctantly. Many of us trudge through. And some of us never quite find our place. Regardless, once you’re in…YOU’RE IN. And there’s no guarantee of success in this club. There’s no real manual. No graduation. And sometimes, in spite of the numbers, it can be a pretty lonely place. I can’t speak for everybody, but for myself I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into. Albeit the oldest of four, growing up in a very large extended family, having countless hours of babysitting under my belt and with a “mother hen” type personality…I never felt like I was ready. In fact, during my teen years and early twenties, I was pretty dead set against becoming a mother. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t up for the task. At age 26, my son was born…and while this was a well thought out and planned event I still knew on some level that I had no idea what I was in for (despite all my research)–and I was right!
We all know that our bodies change when we have a child. Hormones fluctuate, things shift, etc., but what happens to your heart has to be the most remarkable, extraordinary change of all! While the other changes occur over a matter of months, it seems that your heart changes almost immediately. Your priorities change, your instincts change, your thought processes change…basically, what I’m trying to say here is that EVERYTHING changes. What I was really least prepared for was the general roller coaster ride of motherhood. The wins and the losses. The ups and the downs. I’m pretty much a planner (and a bit of a control freak) and motherhood is everything but a well-defined plan and you can throw any hope of control out the window. Plan A quickly moves through the alphabet to Plan Z, and in no set pattern. What works one day (and for one child) quickly falls to the wayside in lieu of something completely different for another child (or the same kiddo down the road.) Uggghhh.
So for all this (and so much more) I continue to look to you, fellow mothers. Without other mothers, I’m not sure where I would be. I’m grateful to have my own mother to serve as an example and a guide. Grateful for a mother-in-law who offers love and encouragement. Grateful for a sister, who lovingly mothers all the nieces and nephews and her own stepkids with a natural mothering gift. I’m grateful for sister-in-laws who treat my kids like their own. And I’m especially grateful for the mothers of my children’s friends, the “church” moms, the “teacher” moms, the “neighbor” moms and other mothers in my community. You all ROCK! BIG thanks for your kind hearts, for the rides to and from practices/games, for the driving them through the fast food line and including them in your family plans. Thank you for the birthday cakes, countless sleepovers, day trips and shopping excursions. Thanks for bridging the gap when our family schedules were overloaded. Thank you for sharing photos of my kids and yours just doing their thing. Thank you for the “Walmart Updates.” Thank you for not judging them harshly, for understanding that they are in a unique circumstance (as are most kids) and for offering them grace and love. Thank you for including them in your family life. And thank you for your example…often times it’s your own mothering actions that speak volumes.
So let’s forget the mom-shaming, the parenting peer pressure, and all the other nonsense. And instead, keep breathing life and love into each other’s kiddos. Keep talking, keep texting, keep cheering, keep showing up and keep vigilant. Please continue to keep your eyes open…looking out for my kids and others. Thank you for filling my ears (and heart) with bright spots that you see in my children. I see the same bright spots in your kiddos, too!
We truly are on each other’s team. Happy, happy Mother’s Day!
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. Galileo
A “cool” Mom would have packed the kiddos in the van (snacks and blankets in tow) and strategically driven into the darkest part of the night to view this summer’s Perseid Meteor Showers. But I never said I was a “cool” Mom. So instead, I mandated the offspring turn off their devices, shuffle out into the backyard, and plant themselves on carefully arranged patio furniture (all under threat of a grounding if they took ONE look at their tablets or phones.) “Your eyes,” I said, “need several minutes to adjust.” It was shortly after midnight…and just two days before the first day of school.
We should have already been a week into school night “practice,” but we weren’t. So putting respectable bedtimes on hold (yet again,) we looked to the sky. We were on a mission to see a shooting star…or at least I was. Prior to that summer evening, we had spent several nights staring at the heavens. I had studied a constellation app and was armed with lots of information–some I learned as a kid, some I had just recently found on the internet. It was still super warm outside and oh so humid! Aside from the crickets, the only sounds at that late (early?) hour included two passing cars, our dog’s crazy panting (not sure what her deal was) and the occasional meow of the neighborhood cats. So on this particular night, starwatching was an exercise in patience. I’m not sure what you know about the Perseid Meteor Shower, but I heard upwards of 30 shooting stars per hour! WOW! That, however, did not happen.
Within the first five minutes the complaining began. I decided to impress the kiddos with my knowledge of constellations. We picked out the standards…Big Dipper, Little Dipper. I taught them how to find the North Star. We saw several planes fly through the night sky. And finally we moved on to Cassiopeia and the story of Perseus himself. I should be happy that the children politely listened to my little lesson, but it wasn’t very long before they shifted back to their “we’re bored” posture. Convinced they were outside for no reason at all–we finally saw a shooting star! And what a shooting star it was….
It’s not like my husband and I had not seen a shooting star before. We had. But despite all the time we had spent stargazing this summer, the kids hadn’t been so lucky. But right then and there we had finally witnessed one…and it was a good one! Very dramatic, very bright and especially long-lasting—given the fleeting nature of shooting stars. It streaked across the night sky right above our heads! It was a spectacle to behold and an experience we will never forget…for several reasons: 1) because all four of us saw it together, 2) because everyone made a wish, and 3) no one told what they wished for (not even a hint.) The last part was sort of a surprise. We had never talked about wishing on a star and yet, it was the first thing we all instinctively did.
As we looked to the sky I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone had wished, especially the kiddos. As a child, I can remember wishing for lots of things…everything from new shoes to a “good” hair day to getting to go someplace special. As I got older, my star wishes moved on to passing a tough test, getting a certain boy to notice me and making it through college. Nowadays, my wishes are typically for others…and especially for my kids. But I wouldn’t necessarily call them wishes…because they’re more like prayers. That night as that star streaked across the sky…the wish on my heart was really a silent petition to God.
Later, after everyone else had gone back inside, my daughter asked if I thought wishes came true. We had seen two more meteors that night. She said she was pretty sure that she had wished hard for a flat screen TV one Christmas, but she didn’t get one. It was the start to a long conversation about magical versus miracle, God versus “genie,” and the incredible power of prayer. Thank you, Perseid Meteor Shower…for one last summer hurrah! Under that night sky, when we should have been fast asleep, the heavens opened the door to something truly amazing…a blessed conversation. An answered prayer. I honestly could have stayed out all night.
I’m already looking forward to more sky watching. I hope that someday the kids will share their wishes (and prayers!) with me–because if (when) mine comes true…you know I’ll be the first one to tell.
The only difference between a wish and a prayer is that you’re at the mercy of the universe for the first, and you’ve got some help with the second. –Jodi Picoult, author
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. –Bruce Lee
People ask questions. Some appropriate, some inappropriate. Some thoughtful, some downright stupid. I have to admit that as I’ve aged I’ve noticed that I’m often on the receiving end of very polite queries (because being 40-something has its perks?) Gone are the days of fielding ridiculous questions from peers. Adios, unseemly questions from guys. It seems like the only people with a license to ask me anything personal has been narrowed down to family and a few close friends. It’s not that I’m anti-question…I just think for the most part my matronly disposition wins out–“respect your elders” and all that. I wouldn’t even be entertaining the topic of questions if it hadn’t come up recently. And when I went to file it away in my little brain I realized that I put it in a folder that I’ve labeled “My Least Favorite Question,” and let me tell you…this file is getting thick.
The funny thing about this file is that My Least Favorite Question has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my kids. I’m trying to decide if I’m overreacting…and if nothing else, just get to the root of why it bothers me so much. So here it is. My heart absolutely sinks when people ask my kids, “Are you going to be a Pastor like your Dad when you grow up?” It probably doesn’t sound like much but it’s bothered me for years and now that my kiddos are getting older (tween & teen,) it actually bothers me more. I mean, if your mom’s a teacher does that mean you’re going into education? If your dad sells insurance is that your child’s assumed destiny? Not necessarily, right? So hear me out. I would love for my children to go into the ministry! What an amazing blessing it would be to see my children choose to serve the church full-time. I would be so incredibly proud if they opted to attended seminary/Bible college and become ordained clergy. I can think of nothing better. Still I cringe when people ask…mostly because I think it is unfair. Unfair…and maybe even detrimental to their faith development.
If you have a minute just google “pastors kids” or “PKs.” There’s a lot more out there than I expected…and most of it negative. Despite the stereotypes, I’ve tried really hard to raise “regular” kids. “Regular” kids who go to church. I remind them that they are loved by God, created for a purpose, and gifted with talents and abilities. These are things that I think all parents should say to their children. They are not more special than anyone else, set aside or placed on any sort of pedestal. They are works in progress (as we all are) and yet in a recent conversation I’ve discovered (again) that they have been placed in uncomfortable positions and asked faith questions that no youth should have to answer to. One child responds politely (perhaps because this child hasn’t been asked particularly difficult questions yet) while the other child has been asked about homosexuality, evolution vs. creation, validity of the Bible, and more. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t answer these questions as a kid…I’m not sure I want to debate these questions as an adult…let alone with someone older or in a more authoritative position than myself. It’s not right…and it never takes place while my husband and I are around.
In this latest exchange, my child was so put off by the questioning that the only way to move the conversation forward was to change the subject altogether. And for the first time, I sensed a weariness in the retelling…almost like this might not be worth it. God. Faith. Church. Often times, Christians are characterized as being judgemental, but I’m pretty sure it works both ways. I hate that this happened (again.) I can only imagine how uncomfortable this must be…to have what was a fun evening with friends, suddenly interrupted by an adult who puts you on the spot about what your Dad does for a living. So now I’m scrambling…for coping mechanisms and tools, for words and remedies. How can I make this better? How can I better prepare them? Being a Pastor is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is being a Christian or going to church. In a world where anything goes, why does this put my kiddos on the hot seat?
Here’s a newsflash…these kids didn’t choose their parent’s profession. These kids didn’t go to Bible college alongside their parents. And I’m pretty sure these kids aren’t giving sermons on Sunday morning. Today, I know of a handful of PKs who have left their faith…and statistics point to so many more like them. Each story varies but a couple of comments stick out like “glass house,” never feeling like a “regular kid,” and “negative experiences.” Countless blogs and articles have been written about these types of hurts. Intense feelings that lead them to walk away from God altogether. My heart sinks more. I’m not asking that you handle my children with kid-gloves. I’m asking that you not single them out, understand that they’re not Biblical scholars, and please stop asking them if they’re going into the ministry (because if they do, I’ll let you know. In fact, I’ll probably throw a party!) In the meantime, just let them be “regular” kids…”regular” kids who go to church.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” Matthew 7:12
There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Used to be that if you found an interesting news article, you’d clip it out of the newspaper/magazine and store it in a safe place. Sometimes, if it was particularly moving or important, you’d haul yourself down to a Kinko’s or something and make copies. If one deemed it EXTRA pertinent, you might purchase a stamp and mail it to someone. In today’s “copy and paste” world, news nerds like myself are one click away from sharing various news links…or in my case, SAVING, interesting articles.
I have several dozens saved. I won’t give you an exact number…as it might be used against me as a measurement of my nerdiness. You can probably imagine that several of these saved articles fall into the faith and family categories. What can I say other than that I’m fairly predictable and in some regards, very old school. I tried sharing a SAVED article with my son recently…via a link in a text message…to which I received a sullen reply and an interesting emoticon followed by the words “you know, I’m not reading this.” Sure, I’ve been known to send him (and my daughter) preachy sorts of things, but in my defense this was actually a sports article and a good one at that. But my kids are too wise and know their mother too well…the warning lights start flashing, “SHE’S TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING.” And, yes, they’re right.
Lately, my SAVED files have been focused on one subject–SUBSTANCE ABUSE. I have countless, tragic articles on teens dying as a result of drinking games, drunk driving accidents, and every type of drug overdose. It’s morbid, I know. Some of these news links have photos…sweet, smiling photos of adolescents who have become victims and horrible, graphic photos of teenagers lost too soon. These are the kinds of things that break my heart. In the sweet smiling photos I see my own babies…innocent and full of promise. In the horrible, graphic photos I feel my eyes well up with tears and my throat tighten at what I can only imagine is a mother’s worst nightmare.
The researcher in me keeps hitting the “save” button and then I pour over the article looking for what went wrong and scanning the account for early warning signs and prevention strategies. The mother bear in me keeps hitting the “save” button, vowing that I will protect my children from drugs and alcohol at all costs. The realist in me keeps hitting the “save” button knowing that these sorts of things are happening NOW, in our schools and in our community. I do these things all the while praying…for an angel to watch over my kiddos, for good role models and friends for them, and that I might be the kind of parent that can love them through anything. I do this because I am not naïve, families (like mine and like yours) have been hit over the head and completely broken by these sorts of tragedies. If my research has proven anything, it’s that no one is immune.
But the news nerd in me says, “Tell them, show them” as I compile my montage of anecdotes and news links about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. I play out in my head conversations about how to handle alcohol and what responsible drinking looks like and then, oftentimes following beer commercials (while watching sports on TV,) we talk about it. I remind the kids that alcoholism has taken the lives of family members. We talk about some of the science behind addiction. I quote my mantra (courtesy of the Saved by the Bell television show,) THERE’S NO HOPE WITH DOPE. (I have actually told my children that I would foot the bill for that tattoo!) I scrunch up my nose every time some one tries to convince me that recreational marijuana is a good idea…and then I talk about it with my kids. I tell them that while I worked as a reporter that I met a woman who was my age (22 at the time) and addicted to meth. She looked gaunt with leathery skin. She slurred her words because she had lost so many teeth as a result of her addiction. Her hair was falling out and she was in jail. I remember this so clearly because in talking with her we discovered that we had similar backgrounds…middle class upbringing, two parent household, grew up in a small town, etc. And yet our lives were so different. When I share these things, I’m bold enough to tell them, “This is NOT for YOU.” And then I pray some more.
So here’s what I want them to know….
- With one “hit,” they can drastically change their life.
- Drinking games are not games.
- Underage drinking and drug use is dumb (you’re destroying brain cells) and dangerous.
- Being “under the influence” of anything will cause you to make horrible decisions.
- Be on guard. Today strangers (and so-called friends) can put drugs/alcohol in your drinks and food.
- Bad guys will prey upon girls (and boys) who are under the influence.
- There will be photographs and I will find out.
And here’s what I also want to tell them….
- I love you. I will help you and care for you first…but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences or a lecture for bad choices.
- A bad day, date, break-up does not determine your worth. Don’t add to your heartache by throwing drugs and alcohol into the mix.
- Peer pressure sucks. I taught you to the difference between right and wrong. Be strong. It won’t be easy, but I believe it is in you to say “No,” in fact I’ve heard you say it a thousand times already.
- I’m going to ask you where you’re going and who you’re with. This is for both of us. It makes you accountable and helps me gauge just how much I should worry about you and whether or not I should just NOT let you go.
- And finally, don’t die doing something stupid!
I’m sick of people glamorizing drugs and alcohol…in music, television and social media. It turns my stomach to see celebrities practically endorsing this kind of lifestyle. It’s gut wrenching to see so many young people, full of hope and promise, end up broken or dead…and for what? I wish I didn’t have a SAVE list full of these horror stories, but I do. So listen up, kiddos, I will continue to tell you (and your friends) all about them. I will even share the photos. Know that I’m adding to my arsenal of articles everyday…because you are loved and I truly do have so much more to tell you.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8
“I am not a perfect mother and I will never be. You are not a perfect daughter and you will never be. But put us together and we will be the best mother and daughter we would ever be.” – Zoraida Pesante
Lately, I’ve been marveling at my daughter. It’s not that she’s doing anything special really…it’s just that she’s growing up and I’m trying to take it all in. I get like this sometimes with my kiddos…making an extra effort to be super present, wondering what they’re thinking and how their brains work…basically just staring at them (sometimes they catch me–that’s a teeny bit awkward!) The funny thing is, that while she may not actually be getting any taller (she’s doomed to be short like her mother,) I can see all kinds of other changes…in her maturity, her personality, and the way she carries herself. She’s really becoming her own person and as a consequence separating from me…at least as much as any 11-year-old should be allowed to do. So when I came across this article titled What Your Ponytail Says About You on the Man Repeller website, it really caught my eye.
You see, Casey and I both LOVE long hair. I would say about ninety percent of the time we both choose to wear our hair down, but we are not strangers to ponytails. As soon as Casey’s hair was long enough, I would put it in pig tails or a nice high pony. I loved fixing her toddler hair and adorning it with those cutesy little girl bows! Then came Disney Channel and it wasn’t long before she boycotted wearing her hair up and started favoring long locks carefully styled with a head band (a la “Gabriella Montez.”) No more funny “fountain” ponytails on the top of her head! Recently, however, after years of only wearing ponytails to play sports, she has decided that the pony is in style again…only now it’s on her terms. This is what made the ponytail article stand out. No longer would she settle for my favorite style (the high pony,) but rather she preferred the low and parted ponytail–and she could style it all by herself, thank you very much. The low and parted ponytail, the one the Man Repeller article labeled the “champagne” of ponytails for its elegant and timeless look. The description basically screamed “Casey.” It went on to say that this was the look of someone who is “making a knowing decision to look put together.” Yes, that’s my girl.
So, out of curiosity of course, I had to look up the hidden meaning to my go-to ponytail look–the HIGH pony (a look I’ve been sporting for practically my whole life!) Turns out it’s the preferred style of those who exercise (what?) and it’s also great for “signaling that you don’t give a what!” Apparently this is a very versatile look and its meaning depends upon the method in which it is executed (combed and smoothed, tousled and messy…that’s a lot to read in to a ponytail!) It goes on to say that the “high ponies are the maxi dress of their kind,” suggesting that the look is only for some and definitely NOT for all! This made me giggle. Here I am a forty-year old wife and mother, and the high pony has always been my go to updo. Yes, I like the “fountain” as my daughter so affectionately calls it (did I mention that she’s pretty well versed in sarcasm these days?) The high pony is my all-time favorite!
All fun aside, this was just a cute reminder that while we have so many mother-daughter similarities, my girl is certainly growing up and developing her own thoughts and ideas. It’s causing both a swelling of pride and quite a bit of anxiety as well. In a matter of months, we’ll be talking about locker décor and what table she landed at for lunch in the middle school cafeteria. We’ve already had numerous conversations (or was it disagreements) about clothes and shoes…not to mention what’s in and what’s definitely OUT! Occasionally, I get to be labeled “cool,” but mostly I “just don’t know anything.” Still, I’m the first person she comes running to on a bad day, when she doesn’t understand something, or gets herself into a jam. Which just goes to show that what goes around, comes around. My own mother probably has loads of stories about my tween/teen years and the occasional ups and downs of our relationship back then. And I know that when I talk with fellow mothers today, it seems we’re all in some kind of yo-yo territory with our own girls at one time or another…a reality of growing up.
So, I may not be fixing her ponytails anymore…and that’s okay because every girl has to learn to style her own hair. It’s all just part of the process. And while I learned through curling iron burns, crazy perms and tons of AquaNet…it’s fun to watch her develop her own sense of style. (And in some ways I think she’s got the advantage–we didn’t have YouTube tutorials back in the day!)
May your ponytail be high (or low) and your mother/daughter relationship blessed 🙂
Hair doesn’t make the woman, but it definitely helps! –Unknown
The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence. –Unknown
I’m just CRAZY about Christmas! I always have been. And somehow, I have managed to let both the secular and the sacred share space in my heart (with the tie going to the sacred, of course!) during this magical time of year. As a kid, I remember Christmas Eve worship and how I especially loved the nativity at my Mom’s house. I can recall that it was tucked away each year in its original box, every piece finding its place in the foam packaging. When my mother set it out…baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary and the gang all hung out in a miniature stable that my grandpa made. Examining each piece, I can still see the beautiful face of Mary and the baby Jesus…surrounded by hay…looking so heavenly and angelic. Both a baby and a Savior. The little set symbolizing an extraordinary and miraculous moment in time. Joseph looking so noble…the epitome of honor and faithfulness. There were farm animals, an angel, a shepherd boy, and the three wise men, of course. It was pretty wonderful.
So, it sort of surprises me that I never had a nativity of my own. Not when I went away to college, not when I took my first job in Arkansas, not when I moved to California, and not when I got married. In fact, I didn’t have a nativity until after my son, Sean, was a year old. It all happened in another magical moment at Hobby Lobby (seems that this store is the scene for many Spencer Family Christmas memories!)
After moving halfway across the country from California to Kansas, my mother-in-law, Sean and I found ourselves in the Hobby Lobby in Salina…for what I remember was a brief and snack-filled trip to do a little Christmas shopping (by the way, Cheez-Its make for great toddler payola…just saying!) Strolling through a craft warehouse with a 1 year old BOY is no easy task! So when it looked like Sean was going to leap out of the cart at any moment, Karen suggested that Sean help us pick out a nativity for our home. This was a genius idea because it gave my toddler a sense of purpose and I was just thrilled with the thought of having a nativity of my own. In record time, my excitement turned to worry as I remembered that something as fragile as a porcelain nativity probably wouldn’t last but a second in our house. Sean was just so hands-on about everything! In the back of my mind I had planned to buy him a Fisher Price Little People nativity set for Christmas. It was important to me that he understand the Christmas story…and at an age appropriate level. He already had a few Little People collections…the train set and the airport. Still, it couldn’t hurt to look at the nativities on display at the store.
It was pretty amazing…an entire aisle with nativities in every shape and size imaginable. My thoughts were racing…where would we put such a fragile item? Karen must have heard the wheels grinding in my head. After explaining my thoughts, she said, “Sean will pick out the one that he likes best…and we will teach him to care for it and look after it.” My heart was touched as I watched her talk with Sean about picking out a baby Jesus to take to his house. She reminded him that he would have to take extra special care of it! And asked him if he was ready to choose one. Sean beamed! From an early age, Sean could tell a story with his eyebrows (a talent he inherited from Grandma Karen.) One second the eyebrows would be arched high as he caught a glimpse of something intriguing. The next minute the eyebrows would be furrowed as he inspected his options. Sometimes just one eyebrow would lift as if he was thinking really hard. It was a wonderful little dance. When he finally picked one, all three of us knew this was the nativity for us. It was perfect. A chunky little wooden nativity…not too big and not too small. Sean touched each piece and seemed very delighted with the farm animals in this set. Since all the nativities were technically “on display” we found a store worker who immediately set out to find us a boxed set from the storage room. However, when she came back, she wasn’t carrying a box. Uh-oh. She explained that they hadn’t ordered many of this set and that they were sold out. She had also checked to see if getting one before Christmas was a possibility. It was not.
Karen is always cool as a cucumber in these sorts of situations. Clearly, THIS was the set that Sean wanted. She didn’t want to disappoint her grandson so she did what ANY grandmother would do. She asked if we could buy this very set. The store worker said that in any other situation she would love to sell it to us, except that this set had been GLUED to the foam board it rested upon. She pulled off one of the wise men to demonstrate. Stuck to his base was loads of navy blue paper and foam. Both Karen and the worker tried to pull it off. It was no easy task. Even if we pulled each piece from the board we would then have to pull off loads of paper scraps. The lady said that the pieces might not even stand correctly given the amount of glue left on the base. She obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with…Karen said she would work all that out later if we could just buy this nativity set. And so, it was settled.
Sean held the wise man in his hot little hands as we arranged the foam board and the glued down pieces across the shopping cart basket. There were quite a few stares, but we managed to check out and make it to the car. From the moment we got home Karen worked on releasing each character from the foam…carefully pulling off paper and glue. Her beautifully manicured nails probably got the raw end of the deal that day as she scraped and scraped. Each time she finished a piece she handed it to Sean. His eyebrows went to work again…doing their little dance as he checked out each one. He would show it to me and then go and show his Dad and then show me again. I think Sean had already had a bath and was tucked into bed before Karen had finished them all. It was truly a labor of love.
Sean played with the nativity all December long. Each day he would rearrange them and make sure the animals were “fed.” Since our set didn’t come in a box, we lovingly packed them away in an oversized shoe box after the holidays, unpacking them with great delight the next year and the year after that. Sean never seemed to tire of “playing” with the set. When Casey came along (and was old enough to follow her brother everywhere,) he explained the cast of characters to her. “This is baby Jesus…His mom’s name is Mary and His dad’s name is Joseph…,” and on down the line. These are the moments that live in a mother’s heart for eternity.
Today, the nativity makes its home in front of the fireplace each Christmas and it serves as the centerpiece of our Christmas Eve dinner table. I still love taking it out of the shoe box each and every year…a flood of memories spilling out with each “sticky” piece.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.