In the arms of an angel


Here’s the song reference.

Christmas is coming, and all throughout Advent, Bugaboo and Beanie, who are the most talkative members of our tribe, have been quite punctilious about making sure we know exactly what they would thrill to find underneath the tree on Christmas morning.  One of the biggest lessons we’ve been trying to teach all of them is that love isn’t measured in the number or costliness of material gifts, and sometimes we wonder whether we’re getting through.  There are those days (many of them) where one child gets cranky because a sibling has received something special, or something of larger size, or something containing more pieces.  We then do our best to explain to the offended small person that she or he is loved equally, and that while the sibling may have received an extra piece of candy or an unexpected toy, she or her probably had a little extra story time, or an extra hour of undivided attention from Manie or I, or was allowed to choose the movie we watched as a family.

Nonno’s illness has been a “teachable moment” in this regard, as they have seen our family sacrifice time, energy, talent, and rest tending to him and to Deedaw.  Bugaboo and Beanie have asked a number of very insightful questions, from why Nonno now has a bed in the family room to why we have to coax Deedaw to eat a little something, and have responded with great love.  It is a sad and somewhat confusing time for them, but they chose to understand that time spent with Nonno is now a limited time proposition, and they choose to spend some time sitting quietly next to his bed, patting his hand, singing him Christmas songs, and telling him stories about their days.  He smiles, and they see, and on the way home they tell us what made Nonno smile today.

Our parish Christmas pageant is fast approaching.  For the last two years, Bugaboo has played an angel, and we assumed, up until last Monday, she would do likewise this year.  Last Monday, after her Faith Formation class, she came home and announced to all and sundry that she would be a sheep this year.

We don’t have a sheep costume.

We informed Bugaboo that we did not have a sheep costume, and asked her if she would be willing to reconsider her costume choice.  She declined.  Over the next few days, in between our usual lessons, housekeeping, helping Deedaw, and keeping the extended family informed, I thought of ways we could make her an appropriate costume.  By Thursday, I had it figured out, and lacked only the materials.  Friday brought more chaos than usual, as did Saturday; sometimes, life happens and shopping trips don’t.

Yesterday morning, after we had ascertained what Deedaw and Nonno needed for the day, we sat in the living room talking about what we could all do together in the slice of morning that was without plans.  I pointed out to Manie that I desperately needed to purchase the few items I needed to make Bugaboo’s sheep costume, as the time I had left to construct it was very short.  We had to raise our voices a little to be heard over Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy, who had a running game of tag-and-tickle caroming through the upstairs.

As we talked, we suddenly heard Bugaboo’s voice above the chaos.

“I want to be an angel instead of a sheep.”

I sat down hard.  “Bugaboo, are you sure?  Really sure?  We can go right now to get the things to make your sheep costume.  I know you’ve been really excited about being a sheep this year.  We’ll have a good time making your costume.”

“No, that’s okay.  I’d rather be an angel.  I’d really rather be an angel.”

We repeated this exchange, with minor variations, a couple more times, always with the same result.

I couldn’t stop the tears (and can’t now, as I type this).  I pulled her close and hugged her tightly, whispering, “thank you, sweetheart, you really are Mommy’s angel.”  I proposed that she should have a sparkly new pair of “angel shoes” to go with her costume, to which she excitedly agreed.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, who fill our lives with love, laughter, and surprises of breathtaking beauty.  Thank You for using them as Your instruments to remind us that love is our highest obligation and most wonderful prayer of thanksgiving to You.  We try, Lord, to set an example for them of understanding love as being willing to sacrifice for the good of those who are beloved.  Please empty us of vain selfishness and fill us with a radiant, charitable love for each other and our neighbors, a love without resentment or envy, and thank You, Lord, for the lesson in sacrificial love Bugaboo gave us yesterday morning.

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