Last night I let myself listen to a few Christmas songs. My very, very favorites are by John Rutter. Exquisite music and lyrics that set an idyllic mood for the coming season – and all about the birth of Christ. One in particular, Mary’s Lullaby, brought tears to my eyes for it’s tender reference to a mother’s love for her little one.
When each grandchild is about three, I set them on the counter in the kitchen and shake my finger in their little faces, scowling (but not for real).
“Now, I want you to make Grandma a promise.”
This gets me a grin and maybe a giggle. They can’t imagine what that promise could be.
“I want you to promise me you’ll stop growing.” Hands on my hips I wait for the answer, the one I always get.
“Grandma! I can’t do that!”
“I know,” I whisper as I hug them fiercely and kiss their noses. I lift them back down to the floor and give them a cookie. I pat their little rear ends and tell them to go watch Dora. I think they understand how much I love them and how silly my request is, but they don’t know the whole of it.
The Rutter song puts me in mind of the times when I was a new mother. I can completely relate to the longing Mary must have had when she rocked our Jesus. Her world was not so wonderful. The trip to Bethlehem was fraught with danger – nine months pregnant on a donkey – come on! Besides being worried sick about the impending birth in a stinky stable, she knew what a few short years would bring for her precious child. Her desire to keep him small, and safe and unaware of the perils of living in this earthly realm was so real.
I listen to the words of the tune. . . lullaby, sing lullaby, my own dear child, my son . . I have a vision of my own mother rocking me and her other children – all nine of us. One by one, on her shoulder, stroking our silken hair and not wanting us to leave the protection of her arms. I wonder if, when my brother, David, forty years later, died in an old van in a dark lonely parking lot, she remembered the tender days when she stroked his pudgy cheek humming to him as he drifted off to sleep. Did her heart break at the thought of it? Could she think of it at all?
These are some of my thoughts when I ask my grandchildren to stop growing.
They won’t, of course. They’ll grow and leave and live and die. Life will batter and change them and the very few years of their real innocence will be woefully short.
But I won’t bother my little angels with the details of the promise I try to extract from them – for now. I won’t share the fears that haunt my vision of the more ugly things the world will throw their way. And I’ll wait a few years yet to tell them what that world did to the baby who grew out of Mary’s arms and into the mess he loved enough to come down and save.
I’m going to make Christmas wait a bit, too. I'll try to replace my worries with the Joy I also know is coming. Last night was just a peek at it all and that’s good enough for now.
Image: David Castillo Free Digital Photos