Sunday, December 12, 2010


For me, a most spectacular childhood memory of Christmas was a crimson Christmas bell that appeared before my sleepy eyes one early Christmas-season morning when I was six or seven.

I had come downstairs for breakfast, and there it was ; and I knew it hadn't been there when I had gone to bed. Its splendid glowing red was framed within the wide wood doorway between the living room and dining room. It seemed so big and beautiful and magical, crafted as it was by a creative mother who had wrapped some crimson fabric around a wire form, while her children were asleep.

AND THEN I RECOGNIZED that heirloom fabric, and I was stunned. It was my mother's special shawl!

I had never seen her wear that shawl, nor had I ever known that it existed until one day I saw her pull it from a dresser drawer with careful hands. When I asked to see it, she let me hold a corner of its softness to my face and then returned it to the drawer.

Sometimes after that, I would open up that drawer and peer in at the shawl and touch it, but I never let my mother see me do that. I pondered on the mystery of that shawl.

Mom would never say from whence it came, only that she'd had it for the longest time, and I could see she loved it. It was a talisman; a thing of beauty for her. In years to come, I would make up many stories in my mind about that pretty piece that seemed to hold a special meaning for my mother.

And when that morning, in the week of Christmas, I saw the special decoration Mom had made from it, I was shocked at the enormity of her sacrifice.

But then I looked more closely at my mother and I could see her eyes were smiling at the pleasure that lovely Christmas bell would paint upon her children's faces.

Despite the Christmas tree nearby, the bell was all I seemed to see that year. It could have been a year without a tree, and I would not have known it.