December 14th, 2006

One and a Half Christmas Stories

I was a bejeweled child: always a pair of gold posts in my ears, always a narrow silver ring around the third finger of my right hand. Of course I had different rings throughout the years, as my fingers grew. My favorite was a gift from my mother’s father, of whom I was very fond: a band of silver so fine it was almost a thread, holding a little silver heart.


The day I lost it was my first experience with near-despair. (Not a joke! I always did take things waaaaaaaaaay too seriously.) My mother and I searched everywhere. We prayed to St. Jude (patron saint of lost causes), bypassing St. Anthony (patron saint of lost stuff) for the bigger guns. She got me a new ring, and it made me feel not one bit better.


I’m not sure what time of year The Great Loss occurred, but by the time Christmas rolled around, the wound had nearly healed. (And, after all, who can hold onto near-despair at Christmas, for Pete’s sake? When you’re eight, I mean. Adults can probably manage it just fine.)


We were about to head out to church on Christmas Eve. I remember standing in the entryway, the little chandelier lit up above my head. I reached into the hall closet and pulled out my raincoat, and heard something ting onto the linoleum.


I looked in every corner, and couldn’t find whatever it was that had fallen. My mother was urging me out the door, but I hung back, still itching to find the fallen object. (I always have appreciated tidy resolutions.)


And then I spotted it. Sparkling on the linoleum. My beloved lost ring with the heart in the middle. And it still fit.


To this day I can’t figure out where that ring had been hiding, or how I jogged it loose. At the time it seemed to me simply a Christmas miracle; nowadays I can’t come up with a much better explanation for it.


Years later I remember feeling that same awed sensation of Christmas joyousness when we were at church on Christmas Eve, and a little carrot-top in the pew in front of us kept turning around to stare at me. I tried to smile at her, which is very difficult to do while you’re belting Christmas carols. I have no doubt that I looked like some kind of gape-mouthed freak. That, I decided, was probably why she kept turning around to look at me.


But then, just as we were all about to head up to Communion, she turned around and thrust a piece of paper at me. It was folded in fours, and had a drawing of an angel or something on the front. I don’t remember the picture very well, but the message is graven in my memory: “To ?  I like you. Love Corey.”


That felt like a little miracle, too, especially when she and her family disappeared after Communion so I couldn’t even wish her a Merry Christmas.


What is it Ralphie says in “A Christmas Story?” Something about Christmas being the entire point of the year for kids, I think. I remember that feeling of almost unbearable anticipation, the urge to start my Christmas list in August, the thrill of watching the same Christmas specials year after year. But mostly I remember these little miracles, and the way they filled me with a sense of almost relentless optimism. I hope the universe kicks in with another one this Christmas—I think my relentless optimism could use a jump-start.



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