They look to her with wondering eyes. She dares not look too long for they may see that for the first time in their lives, she is just as terrified. She looks away. She tells them to have faith, and that all of this, is really “ a part of God’s plan.” The alternative seems far too bleak.
They find comfort in the words of a strong woman who has always managed to see them through their trials and tribulations. From whom or what does their mother find comfort? With the faith that was always present wearing thin, she sits quietly to calm herself as not to allow them to see her anguish. By now, she has learned that life, for all is wonderful qualities, simply is’nt fair, and the world really is and can be a terribly cruel place.
The oldest, who having lost her sight, doesn’t realize that the one in whom she believes is losing her vision for a better day. Her ability to see beyond the current circumstance and into a brighter future is fading. She speaks softly to the elderly woman with whom she exists in a rather symbiotic relationship. As much as they would not like to admit it, they both need each other. For as long as either one can remember, that is just the way it has been. The younger one says to the older one “ don’t worry, everything will be all right.” The older one accepts on the surface what she would like to believe but doubts to be true. She understands the importance of acting “as if” what she would like to see happen has already taken place. The younger one feels crushed the weight of disappointment over her inability to provide her family with one of life’s most basic needs; shelter.
Their ray of sunshine was dashed earlier by one who, appearing under the guise of offering help did little more than reinforce what her sons has told her; “they treat us like we don’t belong in their church.” Many months ago, she had dismissed the comments and responded by stressing the need to act more responsibility. Yet now, sitting face to face with one who utilizes the occasion to deliver the thinly veiled “you don’t belong” message, she imagines how her boys must have felt.
The camping trip (the one that would give them a taste of a father-son experience) did little more than cause them to cling to each other. When the members of “the church” told her that her boys would be looked, after, she believed them. When they told her she need only supply the basics and the rest would be taken care of; she believed them. In the early morning hours the boys (unknowingly) set off on a trip that would further reinforce the fact that “they don’t belong.” With very little provided, without the shelter of a tent, the boys learned one of life’s most valuable lessons; actions speak louder than words. Now, sitting there with one upon whom the church has bestowed a special title (Bishop) she understood what it must have been like for them. Her sons had managed to find their way out of the wilderness; would she? Those boys were changed by the pain of the camping experience; just as she had been changed by hers. She was deep in thought when this person from “the church” no longer caring enough to hide his disdain, asked if there were anything else she needed. She said quietly, “ a prayer…will you pray for us?” His response “ a prayer…you want a prayer?” Many things went through her mind, yet all that escaped her lips was “yes.”
Amazed by how much they all had grown, she accepted the hug that offered to her by her oldest son. Her oldest daughter pointed out the fact that she actually had to reach up to hug what was once a her “little bundle of joy.” Each one, in their own way, spoke of Christmases past and reflected upon how she had done all she could to make them great. They spoke only of their concern for the little one. They wanted nothing for themselves. Again she was surprised. Had her inability to make things better crippled her ability to see (and experience) what was right? Try as she may, the tears began to fall. She felt as if she had failed them. This time, her disappointment was with and in herself. How could she not see? So focused on she what she believed the “right” thing to do, that she failed to take them into consideration. Would they understand that it was for them that she had done what she had done?
The youngest one had broken down. From nowhere she began to cry loudly and ask “how come Santa wasn’t coming to her house?” Putting her head down she expressed her disappointment in the manner in which only a 5yr old could; “ Mommy, if we don’t have any decorations, if we don’t have a tree, Santa won’t come and find us!” The pain in her voice made her mother uncomfortably aware of the innocence of childhood. Did the youngest one deserve to have her belief in Santa, fairy tales, and all that is good destroyed by circumstances far beyond her control; of course not. Upon hearing this, her mother allowed herself to become completely immersed in the little one’s Christmas joy. While she slept with her oldest sister in the car, the mother made her way into the toy store and purchased the only thing she said she really wanted; a stuffed dog on a leash that walks and barks. When the child awoke, they made their way into another store and, for five dollars found a tiny tree (with lights already attached) under which Santa could place presents. The little one was excited and insisted that everyone sleep downstairs so they could wait for the arrival of Mr. Claus. During the movies they watched, the little said happily, “ listen guys…I hear a very soft jingling.” They pretended to hear them too.
She invited herself and her family to Christmas dinner at her sister’s house. She had hoped that upon hearing of their plight, her sister would offer to take their mother in. It became apparent however, as the day progressed that her sister would not. In their own way, all but the little one, understood that they were not welcomed to remain there. When the little one’s chatter about the stuffed dog that Santa brought her subsided, the car ride home was quiet. The oldest one reached for her daughter’s hand and in disbelief said “ we will be all right.” She questioned the oldest one’s statement and wondered if they really would be. She removed one hand from the steering wheel and in the darkness of a quiet car stated “ I know Mom. I am sure that we will be just fine.”