Its smallest part
Is a child's faith
And a Father's
I had originally titled it, "Hi Ho Silver-bells," but the St Louis Post Dispatch gave it the moniker shown below. The year was 1998 and the powers that be at said periodical were kind enough to print the story on Christmas Day. I was grateful then. I'm grateful now.
It's a true story; an episode in this writer's life and, if I'm not mistaken, it was 1994. What brought it to mind is that in the recent searching for "something" else (how often does this happen?) I ran across an item I wasn't searching for...a copy of this story. Being reacquainted with the words and the memories I thought perhaps new eyes and hearts might find encouragement in the lines. So, in this festive season for most, and especially for those whose spirits are on a more somber plane...here is a simple gift. Please enjoy; find encouragement; and may God richly bless you and yours this holiday season...and beyond.
Christmas Joy from a 2-bit pony ride
(by Robert P. Edwards)
There we were, my two-year-old daughter and I, the day before Christmas, crammed into a department store lobby. All around us the last minute, "Gotta buy it! Gotta buy something...even if I have to run over YOU to do it!" yuletide feeding frenzy swirled and pressed relentlessly against us. For some reason I had been sent out for a last minute do-dad and, having weathered the maddening isles and the raucous registers, we had nearly escaped when the dark-colored, "I know your kid will see me," plastic pony beckoned my innocent miniature. And I, being the obedient parental "sucker," proceeded to feed the merry-go-round thoroughbred its costly race horse fodder...2 bits.
Christmas. Memories include lying in bed, early 25th. I, a mere tot, excitedly waiting for reveille. I didn't want to catch Santa in the act, so I waited...and waited. Then, as was our family custom, breakfast had to be eaten before presents were orderly distributed and shucked.
I remember the night before...Christmas Eve. We would sleepily (the kids anyway) attend "Midnight Mass." None of that "day before" stuff. If you were going to church on "Christmas," well, by golly, its going to be on Christmas proper! After the service Mom and Pop would allow us to open our "hung by the chimney with care" stockings. Among the interesting trinkets contained therein I could always count on finding a variety of chocolate. My favorites were the "Bells." Real milk chocolate, mind you; not that imitation "waxy" junk. And a netted bag of gold-foil coins.
But, that was years ago. Now I was "Pop" and, although "money" is theoretically not the point, it seems to always come down to the "green." And this particular year...there was precious little. I won't go into the gory details, but two weeks before the big day, a collection agency that we thought we had appeased, informed us, with all the delicate charm of a Great White Shark, that they were in the process of litigation. This all happened just as our, "When it gets here we'll buy presents" check from mom and pop arrived. We dutifully turned around and sent our Christmas money to Ebenezer. Despair ruled.
So, there we were. In my arms, my precious Katrina. She, who with childhood innocence was oblivious to the life-draining maelstrom that gripped her father. And, although the "Christmas Spirit" seemed to dance all about, I viewed it with the eyes of a foreigner, an outcast, a prisoner looking through iron bars. Too many years of always being behind. Too many years of seeing my spouse travail, and even weep, over finances. Too many years of relying on the charity of others. Too many years.
"Maybe I can't give you everything...but I can give you this."
Gently, I placed my darling on her waiting noble steed. She joyfully gripped the reins and bid him go. And, with the drop of the coin...she was off!
Then, and I'm not exactly sure how, but something amazing happened. For, you see, out of this arcade animal came not the short-lived tinny tune--a ten second loop with a 30 second life span--that I expected. But rather, from this fiberglass filly poured a beautiful rendition of the William Tell Overture, or, as we laymen say, "The Lone Ranger theme."
On and on it played; the graceful mount with the beautiful girl. Music and laughter in wonderful, glorious harmony. And, as I stood there amazed; I, who moments before was cloaked in the weighted garment of depression; I, the thirty-something failure in pursuit of normalcy...I felt a quickening. It was as if the death-mask I wore was being slowly chipped away by each liberating note. And, by the time the lengthy chorus was completed, I too had joined my ascending eaglet in her flight far above the tempest.
Well, it's been a few years. The horse is gone and our financial state has improved. But, even in the months that followed, when the quarter was dropped with child aloft...it was never the same. Indeed, it became what I first expected.
So...what had happened on that special Christmas Eve? What had occurred that made this dead man live again? Believe what you may, but I think it was nothing less than a divine intervention...a gift, if you will, from the one who was born to bear our burdens; from the one who offers hope to the hopeless, and rest to the weary.
So..to Him, my Savior, on this blessed occasion, I say, "Happy Birthday!" And to all others I say, "Merry Christmas! Peace and prosperity be yours. And in all your pursuits; in all your endeavors; may you always remember the greatest gift that was given to human-kind...the gift given on that first Christmas Day!"