The first time I heard it this year was on December 8th: “Are you ready for Christmas?”
I effing hate that question.
It makes me bristle every time with anxiety about all the items not yet checked off my mile-long To Do List.
So when a friend cheerfully asked me this a few nights ago at the nursing home where we took our scout troop caroling, I turned to her and snapped, “Ugh! Why do people ask that?”
The look on her face!
She was visibly deflated by my sharp, growling reply.
“Gosh, I don’t know. Just making conversation, I guess,” she answered.
“Well, no. I’m not ready for Christmas. In fact, I have so much to do that I feel like my head is going to explode. My cards haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t wrapped or mailed a single gift. My husband keeps asking when I’m going to start baking and every time he asks I want to stab him in the eye.” I ranted.
“Oh. That’s totally not what I meant,” she sighed. Her shoulders were suddenly slumped.
I did that to her.
Desperately, “It’s not? What did you mean?”
“Well, it’s just that I love Christmas. Preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus is my favorite time of year! I just get really excited! And so I was wondering if you are as excited about it as I am.”
“So, you’re not trying to make me feel inadequate or guilty or more overwhelmed?”
“Oh my gosh, NO. Why would anyone do that?”
“Girl, you need to get your Christmas spirit on. Forget the To Do List. Think about God’s incredible gift to us: his Son.”
I was missing it. That’s so like me, to focus all my energy on the wrong thing.
We gathered up our girls and entered the nursing home. Most of the residents were already in the social hall, eagerly awaiting our arrival.
This was going to be a tough night.
And not just because old people scare me.
Our scout leader handed all the girls song packets and instructed each of them to share with one of the elderly residents. We spread out around the social hall.
A few minutes later, the room was filled with song.
It was going really well until I looked to my left and noticed this:
This sweet woman was gently patting her new friend on the back and then hugging her with her one arm. It was truly precious to behold.
I felt a lump slowly rising in my throat, making it really hard to sing. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be strong for the girls.
But I couldn’t help it. I was holding back a river. My lip was starting to quiver and my voice was cracking.
Thinking fast, I moved to another part of the room, pretending to go help one of the girls.
That is where I met Ginny Mae:
Ginny Mae had already made friends with one of our scouts, a beautiful 11 year old girl named Anna.
Ginny Mae was holding Anna’s hand and telling her “Thank you for coming here tonight. This is the best Christmas ever. I love you,” over and over. She was radiating love and light.
I could see that Anna was about to cry. And just like that, my tears spilled over. I turned away and rummaged through my purse for tissues.
Anna’s mom sensed that something was wrong and quickly crossed the room to check on her daughter. When she saw that we were both crying, she started to cry too. We were a pretty pathetic little bunch. One of the nurses came over and asked if we were all okay. All of this was happening during a rousing rendition of Up on the Housetop.
That’s when this lady turned around and signaled me over.
That’s when she quickly grabbed my arm with her bony hand like a scene from a Stephen King novel and hissed “Would you tell that lady [Ginny Mae] to shut up?! I can’t hear the God damn music!”
Alrighty then! Even in the nursing home, I thought to myself, haters gonna hate.
Then it dawned on me, like the proverbial lightbulb turning on over my head, I don’t want to be like her. I want to be like Ginny Mae.
Creeeeeeaaaak. I could feel my Grinchy little heart actually growing two sizes.
A few minutes later, one of our scout leaders asked for a handful of us to go with her to sing to Isabelle, a resident who could no longer get out of bed. My daughter Mini-Me volunteered. She grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me Mom.” How could I say no?
There were photos all over the walls of Isabelle’s room. One immediately drew me in…it was a beautiful, buxom young woman, probably taken in the 1940s or 50s. It was definitely Isabelle, but the change over time in Isabelle’s appearance was startling.
She couldn’t talk to us, only smile. She was so tiny and fragile, her hair white and sparse.
We sang Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. She smiled.
But as we sang Silent Night, a single tear rolled down her cheek onto her pillow.
I was a goner.
Looking around, I could see that everyone else in the room was silently crying now too. Even the nurse. It took my breath away.
Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
It was a transformative evening, no question about it. Thanks be to God.
And now, even though I still have a To Do List a mile long, I’m totally ready for Christmas. Go ahead, ask me.
joyously and with childlike anticipation,
© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved. Love each other.