The Little Shepherd’s Lullaby

The others are gone and the choir too;
The new star’s in the sky.
Joseph’s watching and Mary is holding you;
Now, it’s just you and I.

So dream, dear baby Jesus;
Sleep this night with me.
We, lowly shepherds, came to you;
A silent prince of peace.

The world closed its eyes as the sky went to sleep;
Our sheep were gent’ly laid.
An angel’s light stopped the darkness’ creep;
She said, “Don’t be afraid.

“He sleeps, the tiny Jesus
A tiny, lonely King.”
Glory to God in the highest
She and her friends did sing.

And so, as we heard, of a newborn child,
We talked, and chose to go
To the manger wherein you slept and smiled
Beneath the heav’nly glow.

Keep sleeping, little Jesus
Friendless and cold no more.
I came to stand beside you,
To comfort and adore.

In slumber, so perfect, I watched you rest,
Though I was called to leave.
You needed a friend; I will do my best
To stay and watch this eve.

So lay there, little Jesus,
Asleep just like my lamb.
Smile, knowing you’ve company:
I’m here for you, I am.

Mary holds your hands, sweet and small, like mine;
The fingers gently curled.
Yours will grow to heal hearts and bless all mankind:
The Savior of the world.

So sleep, my baby Jesus
Savior, meek and mild.
Many men will find you yet;
Tonight, though, just a child.

 

Submitted in the nick of time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Christmas Story Contest.

The Festival of Trees, with Children

I had a brief announcement up yesterday explaining the delay in announcing the poetry contest winner. Despite some residual tiredness and inability to lift heavy objects, I honored our family’s annual tradition of attending the local children’s hospital’s fundraising event, Festival of Trees.

Donor companies, families, or entities decorate a Christmas tree, small Christmas tree, door, gingerbread house, quilt, or other item and completely donate it. Wednesday evening before the event begins, companies and extremely wealthy entities bid for purchase of the items they wish to own and display in their lobbies or front rooms.

Some trees still had their price tags. An elaborate one we saw was labeled as $3,500. All of the money goes to the hospital, to use for patients who cannot pay for hospital services.

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This first tree pictured is one donated by 1-800 Contacts and decorated by them. It was purchased anonymously; always noted as Friends of Festival. The next image is a mantel 1-800 Contacts decorated as part of the display as well.

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Sometimes, tree-creators are creative. One year we saw two made from ascending wood planks. Other designs have included marble works, an upside-down tree, and a few formed from recycled glass bottles.

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I was impressed with the idea of a tree dress, and with the execution of the idea. It made for an elegant result.

On the less-elegant side, many donations are character-themed. I liked the fun, colorful elements of this Muppets arrangement.

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And, I’m always up for literary references. Besides two ‘trees’ of stacked books, we found this Where the Wild Things Are model. It has a furry tail coming down off the side of the tree, plus a tent and sailboat.

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I’m not a personal fan of My Little Pony, but was impressed with how very, very pony this piece of …work was.

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Many, if not most, Christmas trees are donated in memory of someone. Often that someone is a family member who passed away from disease (prematurely) or old age, though some groups donate in the name of one who miraculously healed.

When I was a young Girl Scout, I volunteered for Festival of Trees. I learned that, occasionally, the story of the tree is printed and put on the back of the identifying card nearby. Gabi was a sweet, happy child who never seemed to mind the nurses coming in every day. She always loved horses and we just had to build her a galloping tree... or Dale led a life full of friends, family, and a love of skiing… or Despite a hopeful outlook, Mia lost her battle with leukemia. We will miss our little angel…

I tear up as I walk around with my children, remembering those stories and seeing the pictures and references for this year.

The following pictures are from the gingerbread houses area of the festival. I love the talent, creativity, and feeling of the whole event.

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This amazing ‘gingerbread’ tower is a bit tangled up.

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Last but not least, my children appreciated this decorated door after watching The Muppet Christmas Carol Thursday evening.

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“We’re Marley and Marley!”

I neglected to note that ticket sales also go to the hospital. In addition, there are the following for purchase: a gift shop of homemade items, fudge shoppe, chocolates counter, desserts cottage, a Santa with purchaseable picture ops, children’s area of crafts, concessions, and cinnamon rolls or scones.

 

I also realize this is a rather mind-numbing description of the whole event. Perhaps I’ll have the likes of Geoff narrate the next one.

The Best Christmas Ever

Four eventful years ago, on Christmas day, I was still recovering from recently giving birth by Cesarean Section.

He was my third trip down the necessary-surgery route, so I knew the drill. I wasn’t carving any turkeys or wrestling other offspring.

In fact, I was lounging like a holiday whale in my parents’ armchair. I sat within reach of my newborn on one hand, and the Christmas tree and presents on the other.

At some point, I got up to adjust something. My short-term memory is barely reliable, so we’ll assume I was changing the music on the CD player behind the chair.

I slipped.

I fell onto the arm of the armchair, with said arm jabbing me cushily at about my uterus.

This was the worst spot to land on. The armchair had struck true. Panicked, I checked down South in the bathroom. Sure enough, I’d started bleeding heavily.

Bless my parents; they immediately offered to keep the other three boys entertained, while my husband drove me and our youngest up to the emergency room where I had delivered just two weeks before.

I told my story to the check-in, to the nurse on staff, and to the on-call doctor.

Fortunately, the bleeding stabilized. Happy ending.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to remember this Christmas, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff went home to their respective families that end-of-shift and said, “The best Christmas story today was this woman, who slipped on a present…

I’ll ‘Twas You

Don’t get me wrong. I think Clement C. Moore threw together an excellent bit of rhyming in his day.

My favorite parts are the classic words one just doesn’t hear anymore; like sash, lustre, and droll.

That, and the specific stanza

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

But, I just can’t stand reading it anymore.

Okay, okay -I can tolerate once. Only the original version, however.

I have a medically-certified reaction to knock-offs. The doctor was a questionnaire online and the tests run were a personal evaluation of how much I wanted to throttle the author of each parody -but, still certified.

“‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving / and all through our den / Not a turkey was clucking / Or even a hen.”

My body jerks, like a convulsion. I’m reminded of the times I felt sick but was straining to not vomit, like during pregnancy.

My blood pressure rises. My fingers begin twitching, itching to banish the sorry knock-off to the Downvote Pit of Internetland forever.

I’ll rip their attempt at poetry from their webpage, light it on fire, then burn down the rest of their creative works to keep this brainlessness under wraps.

Or, I’ll realize what’s going on by the second line and simply not read it.

Either-or.

Snappy McSprinkles

Elf

They’re sleepin’, so quiet-like. Little pink cheeks smile in dreamland. Soft breathing’s moving their fluffy blankets.

Perfect.

Now, time to untie this string. I’ve been hangin’ around all day, grinning like a fool.

They’ll be the fools soon.

C’mon, striiiiing! I broke through thicker ropes back at The Pen’!

Good ole North Pole Pen. You don’t hear any annoying Christmas songs about that place. Just crap about naughty and nice and coal and presents.

Candy-coated lies, that’s what.

If I just twist this way -oh. The dog. Glaring. Waiting for me to fall. You can fool those fat humans, but never the slobbering dog.

I even tricked a pet parrot once. He was completely clueless, right up till I pulled the first feather. Would’ve had bird for dinner if Blabbermouth Jingle hadn’t seen.

Made for an impressive scar, anyway.

Nice, doggie. Stop growling; go to bed. I’m just a toy, ya dumb mutt. Just a tied-up toy hanging EXACTLY WHERE FUDGING MOM STRUNG ME UP!

What kind of mom ties up a toy, anyway? What kind of twisted caregiver can’t even use a toy the way she’s supposed to?!

Oh! Footsteps. Stop swinging, string. It’s just the wind, dumb broad -I swear.

“Stay, Duke.”

That’s right, ya drooling waste. Stay there. You’ll be asleep soon, too. She doesn’t tie me up every night.

“Hmmm. Where should we put Snappy tonight, Duke?”

Why ya talkin’ to the dog, lady? It’s not like he can answer you. Just wait till you hide me near the Christmas presents. saw that chemistry set. Ha ha. Dead dog, anyone?

Yeah, don’t whine at me. I’m more valuable than you, dog. I’m Santa’s secret messenger and all that.

“I think we’ll do a treat tonight.”

Oh, good. Make it truffles, woman. I’m tired of eating that candy cane crap. That’s all I got in the joint, too: candy canes. You’d think Santa could hire someone who branched a bit, but no.

Maybe they have some sort of deal with Wal-Mart for all the unsold candy from a decade ago.

Dots and Dubble Bubbles! She is doing candy canes. And, duct tape. Why ya got duct tape? What the -no! No no no no no no no -ouch! Oomph!

“Good night, Snappy. Come, Duke.”

Oh, sure. Of course it’s a good night for your walking pet drool machine. He’s not taped to a box of Fun Dippin’ CANDY CANES! He can probably move to piss somewhere besides his own fleecy bottoms and jingling shoes.

Just keep it up, all of ya. I’ll wait. Every night you tie me is one more slit in a sleeping neck. Who’ll be seeing dancing sugarplums then, huh?

Greetings Cards Have Not Been Sent

Glass Balls

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve felt swamped this season. I’ve got a few balls spinning precariously in the air: the boring blog job, my day job of stay-at-home mothering, writing, present-buying, cookie-making, and THE Christmas Newsletter -all threatening to drop and break into a thousand tiny glass-ornament shards.

Someone should have taken all this into account, particularly knowing I’m a horrible juggler.

It’s the small hands. Might be lack of practice, too.

Point is, it’s December 21st and there is no way I am going to get these Christmas cards to people before Christmas. I know. The post office told me.

After navigating an endless, winding line of hopeful package-senders, I addressed the top of a head behind an overflowing counter. “WILL THIS ARRIVE BY CHRISTMAS?” I yelled.

I think the hair moved. A mumble made it through the wall of bubble-wrapped envelopes and Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes. A finger poked through to point at their posted notice: Priority Mail Not Guaranteed to Arrive if Mailed after December 20, 2017.

“So…. I HAVE A HOPE?”

I think the pile sighed.

And yet, I push onward. I’ve typed up a funny newsletter and sent it inside a crappy Wal-mart card for over a decade now. My audience needs me.

I think.

That, and it’s a decade of tradition. As Tevye would say, “…It’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do.” Though I don’t actually send one to any deity, you get the idea.

Besides juggling and general motivation problems (a standard writing prompt of mine on this very blog), I have made chronicling events difficult for myself. Impossible for myself.

I take my writing seriously when it’s not 2 a.m. before a deadline. I assume a new angle each time is imperative. So, the work gets pushed back and pushed back.

We got a few cards in advance this year, which was nice. Usually I don’t get so many until I’ve sent my famous offering first. All of them are photo cards; the families smiling in matching clothing, standing somewhere ethereal like their front yard.

“We should do a family picture next year,” my husband noted, examining our mail.

I glanced up from the 75 envelopes I was hand-addressing, trying to psych myself up for the next three steps. “I don’t know,” I sighed. “A picture seems like so much work.”

Christmas Morning

Boy Christmas Tree

Ella settled onto her blanket, squirming with excitement. She could hear her heart beating -almost as loudly as Baby Mia’s breathing, from the crib.

Ella knew, when morning came, there might not be presents under the tree.

When she and Jake wrote letters to Santa forever ago, Mommy had said, “Don’t expect too much.”

When they had gone to the stores to see Santa, Daddy had said, “Now, don’t expect too much.”

That night, they had read about Jesus. “Jesus was the greatest gift,” Daddy said. He had looked at them, reminding them what was important.

Then, they had unwrapped the pajamas Mommy made. Ella wondered why Mommy kept crying. “Don’t expect too much, Mommy,” she’d said.

Ella heard a knock. She scampered to her door. She could see Jake’s dark face, peeking.

Mommy opened the front door. There were happy voices. Daddy turned, and scolded, “Ella, Jake! Get back in bed or Santa won’t come!” Jake’s nose went back into his room. Ella went back to her blankets.

Who is at the door? She wondered, as she drifted off to sleep.

Soon, Jake was shaking her. “Ewha! Chwismas!” He danced around the room, shouting. Mommy came in, looking tired. She scooped up Baby Mia.

Ella jumped up and followed Jake to the family room. She stopped, toes curling in carpet. There were boxes and boxes in bright, shimmering colors. Slowly, wondering, Ella walked forward.

She stopped, then looked happily at Mommy. “I guess I should have expected too much!”

 

Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Holiday Contest