December 20, 2012

Small Christmas Miracle



There's a musical nativity figurine I take out every December since 2002. It's a pretty ceramic piece that plays Away in a Manger and has beautifully painted figures of the Holy Family in the classic scene: Mary kneeling, hands folded in prayer, gazing adoringly at the Baby Jesus in the manger with Joseph standing watch over them, a staff in one hand and a lantern in the other. The bottom of this figurine has the date, December 2001, and my mother's name, Carmela. And that's the important part.

This particular figurine was not my first choice when I shopped for a musical nativity for my mother that Christmas. I had glanced at it quickly in the store then passed it by, moving on to other stores. My mom loved nativity scenes and musical boxes, and I was looking for one that revolved while playing a tune (this one is stationary), and one that was larger (this one is a bit over 6 inches tall), so my mother could more clearly see the details given her failing eyesight. After shopping for hours and not finding what I wanted, I chose this one because it was pretty and it played one of my mother's favorite Christmas tunes, Away in a Manger. I wasn't totally satisfied with it...the melody sounded rather tinny and the music didn't play very long before needing rewinding...but with time running short, just a few ways to Christmas, I bought it with the idea that it was fine for now and I'd get her a better one the next Christmas.

Before wrapping the gift, I wrote the date and my mother's name on the bottom with a magic marker because she was staying in a nursing home. When I arrived to visit, she looked at me with the faraway blank stare that had become her daily expression. She said my name, as she always did, and nothing more. Sometimes you could not engage her at all, as if she just wasn't there. I handed her the gift, she opened it...and then she smiled! Yes, she smiled and that was a big deal, she did not smile often anymore.

With her failing eyesight, I wasn't even sure the figurine was big enough for her to see the wonderful detail in the figures. But no matter, she seemed to see it well enough to smile right away when it was unwrapped, and then an even bigger smile that lit up her face when she heard, Away in a Manger. She loved music; she loved to sing. In her younger days before the illness that left her body alone but took her mind...and oh, did it take her mind to places where a dark unreality could turn a warm summer day into a harsh winter night...she sang whenever she could. When my siblings and I were children, my mother sang along to the radio every day. She had a lovely singing voice. Although I enjoy singing, I can honestly say I did not inherit her vocal talent, but one of my sisters did. Then gradually, the illness took my mother's body as well as her mind.
"Away in a manger, No crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus, Lay down his sweet head."

Mom lay down her head for her eternal rest just a few months later. I didn't know it at the time but December 2001 would be my mother's last Christmas. Much sooner then I was expecting. Was it a Christmas miracle that she smiled for me that day? Certainly, a Christmas miracle is anything you want it to be. And so it is for me. Every Christmas since then, when I play the musical nativity, I smile and think of my mother on that Christmas Day. The music I once thought sounded rather tinny, doesn't sound tinny anymore. Now it just sounds like a wonderful memory.

Text and photo ©2012 JerseyLil’s 2 Cents. 

20 comments:

  1. That's a beautiful story, Madilyn, and I'm glad that you're reminded of your mom's smile (and her singing) at Christmas every year. You have such a kind and resilient spirit, and I admire the fact that you emerged from your difficult childhood with such grace, instead of bitterness.

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    1. Yes, her spirit does shine though with much love and grace!

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    2. Kris, that’s very kind, thank you! Resilient I am, I think I was born that way...lol! It took years and distance to understand my mother’s illness and gain perspective on my childhood. I very much appreciate your words. (Btw, those nuns from my childhood would roll over in their graves to hear I had “grace” lol!)

      And Thank you, Angie, you are so sweet!

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  2. What a wonderful memory. Thank you for sharing this touching story. I wish you a Merry Christmas and many more happy memories.

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    1. Thanks Kristina! It was a nice Christmas memory about my mother that I wanted to share. Merry Christmas and happy memories to you and your family!

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  3. There are miracles all around us, but I think we don't always have the eyes or aptitude or ability to see them... What a precious memory. We never know when our 'lasts' are going to be, do we? Your little trinket is now infused with something precious - and each year as you get it out, you will relive the memory behind it. Thanks for sharing your heart with us this Christmas!

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    1. Melody, thank you! I agree that there are miracles all around us every day. And it’s so easy to miss all the little miracles. That’s why when I pulled out the musical nativity for Christmas, I thought about my mother smiling that day.

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  4. Carmela, what a lovely name. Memory invests even the most mundane things and events with a magical afterglow, enshrines them in our hearts where they stay incandescent as long as the power of memory stays.

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    1. I think Carmela is a lovely name, too. Thank you, Marty! My mother’s name was Carmela but she was often called Millie by her family. Your thoughts on the power of memory are so beautifully expressed!

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  5. I think Carmela is a beautiful strong name!

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    1. Thank you, Ana! Merry Christmas to you!

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  6. A beautiful, touching story that I'm sure will have perfect ending in eternity. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you, Robert! I'm glad I could share this story about my mother. Merry Christmas!

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  7. This is very touching Jersey Lil. I love when you share part of your life with us. This reminds me of that post remembering your dad. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thanks Crazy Mama, I really appreciate your comment. Good to see you stopping by my blog again! And thank you also for remembering the post I did a few months back about my dad. Hope you and your kids had a very Merry Christmas!

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    2. I'd love to see it again JerseyLil, maybe Father's Day?

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  8. Little gestures can mean a lot to some people. Giving should be something done all year round. Touching story.

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    1. Yes, little gestures can become small miracles because of what it means to someone else. Thank you, William, I really appreciate your comment. And thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  9. Truly nice memories, your mother smiling and her singing. Thanks for sharing this with us. Hope your holiday season has been nice. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thanks Bev. When I took out the musical nativity, those memories of my mother came to me and I decided to write about it. I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season!

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