Before the smoke went out
TBO.comEDITOR'S NOTE: This column originally was published on Dec. 14, 2008.
Published: December 23, 2012
Published: December 23, 2012
When my kids were small, a friend whose children were grown gave me a large Christmas card with 24 little flaps inside, one for each day from Dec. 1 through Christmas Eve. Inside each tiny opening were a picture and one short sentence of the story of the birth of Jesus. From the angel telling Mary that she would have a special child to the star guiding the wise men, it was all there, culminating with the birth of the Messiah.
For years, long before our children were born, I'd been collecting other holiday stories that illustrate the meaning of Christmas. So that year, a tradition began. At bedtime on Dec. 1, I sat on my bed propped up against the headboard and the three kids gathered around to hear one of the collected stories.
When the story was done, we opened the first little door inside the big Christmas card and read the first installment of the "Greatest Story Ever Told." Night after night we did the same — read a modern-day Christmas story and then the next installment of the original Christmas story.
The children loved it. In fact, they loved it so much they didn't want to go to bed when story time was over. So, the next year, I added something to the tradition.
I got a special candle that was inside a little lantern and each night, while the children brushed their teeth and got into their pajamas, I would light the candle. It would burn the whole time we were reading. After one of the children had opened the tiny door for the day and we had read that day's portion of the Nativity story, one of the children would blow out the candle, and then all three had to run and jump into bed before the smoke went out.
I can still see the knees and elbows flying as they scrambled down the hall to their rooms. And I can still hear them hollering from their beds, "I'm in!" "I'm in!" "I'm in!"
This past week I hauled out all my Christmas decorations, most of which I've had for many years. In the bottom of one of those boxes was a big zipper bag filled with all the Christmas stories we used to read together. There were "Frosty the Snowman" (a Little Golden Book version) and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (a beautiful old hand-illustrated version).
There were also all the stories I had clipped, over the years, from magazines like Guideposts, Woman's Day and Family Circle. Finally, on the bottom of the stack, there was that big card with all the little flaps inside. It's becoming fragile and tattered now and it made me sad to think that it might not survive many more Christmases.
So this year, among the gifts I'll be giving my grown-up children will be scrapbooks of all those old Christmas stories we used to read together when they were small. I've mixed in a few photos of my three little pajama munchkins from Christmases past.
Maybe someday I'll have grandchildren. And maybe Erin or Heather or Matt will haul out their scrapbook to read and pass on our Christmas tradition. I hope so. Maybe it was all much more important to me than to them; I don't know. But I do know that I'll always enjoy rereading those stories about the wonder and magic of Christmas. And I'll treasure forever the memories of that giggling, mad scramble to get into bed before the smoke went out.