The Wisdom of the Children
You say, “Since we will be alone for Christmas eve, I’ve made dinner reservations.”
“Great,” I say.
We arrive and you notice a 30’ beautiful Christmas tree in the courtyard, “We should take our picture in front of that on our way out.”
Once seated and orders taken, you suggest we talk about meaningful Christmas’s in our lives. Memorable ones. Childhood experiences and traditions. Adult moments. Painful and beautiful and funny ones. The perfect ones of our imagination. It was a precious conversation.
As we are leaving, you notice the tree and remind me that you want to have our picture taken there. As we approach, four children and three adults are, one by one taking their pictures. You offer to take all their pictures at once. They agree.
When finished, as you are handing their cameras back, the youngest one, maybe three, runs up, throwing her little arms around your knees. At first you don’t notice, because you’re showing the Mama and Aunties the pictures to see if they are satisfactory. The little girl hugs harder. You notice her, bend down and return the hug. Then the second little one, maybe five, not to be left out, rushes up and gives you her hug. Then the eight-year-old.
I so want to take a picture of this spontaneous love moment, but I don’t want to interrupt the energy. What I do do, is enjoy this wonderful, Christmas Eve, moment.
Then they notice me. And the scene is repeated. As the last one steps away, the oldest, maybe twelve, steps out from behind her mom and aunties, comes and gives me the biggest of hugs. I return it. As I look down, I see tears behind her glasses. Tears form in mine too. She turns to you.
I have this impulse to go hug Mama and the Aunties, but don’t. I’m amazed that they have allowed their children such proximity to two complete strangers. They have every reason to not allow us that close. They are all Americans of African ancestry. They have all lived long enough to pay the price of being different. I imagine that part of the twelve-year-old’s reticence and tears come from that “knowing”, already.
I want to tell them I am sorry for what they have suffered, but I don’t. I want to tell them of the little ones just like them in my life, but I don’t. I want to tell them Merry Christmas, and I do.
As we walk away, we throw kisses to each other. Just as I do my grandchildren as we part. Grandchildren, who look just like them. I wish I would have had the courage to look up and do the same for Mama and the Aunties, but I didn’t.
Next time we talk of our experiences of Christmas, I’ll have one more. This night. Amazing. The time I lived the “Christmas Spirit”, and the “Kwanzaa Spirit”, and the “Hanukah Spirit”. That place of seamless giving and receiving, this possibility of being human. Pure love and acceptance. Sacred and Holy moment.
“…we must begin to seek the wisdom of the children…. (they are) …. a promise of the future and a blessing for today.” John Denver “Rhymes and Reasons”