“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” (Matthew 1:18)
December 22, 2013
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“It was a cheap vase, like something you’d buy at the dollar store, so the kids were surprised at the look on their mom’s face when their horsing around caused it to fall from the dresser. It shattered into a hundred pieces, but Holly didn’t yell; her reaction was far worse. She just stared at the shards of glass with sadness as her eyes filled with tears. It was an ordinary vase so the children stood silent wondering why their mom was so devastated.
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“To answer that question I’d have to take you back 25 years when Holly was a senior in high school. Her guidance counselor told her the best way to get into the best college was to have some volunteer work on her resume, so when she saw a blue post-it on the cafeteria wall advertising the need for students to read to residents of the local nursing home she jumped at the chance.
“Holly would have been happy reading to anyone, but she was lucky because she got Rosemary. Ninety-four years old, hair of white, never one to parade around in a robe and slippers, that seemed like ‘giving up’, she’d say. No, Rosemary always dressed well and was waiting in the study every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons when Holly arrived after school.
“It started out the way it was supposed to with Holly reading from a novel Rosemary had chosen, but three months into it something changed. The two women, 77 years apart and with so little in common, somehow became good friends. The reading was replaced by talking and the visits became more important than a line on the resume. When spring arrived and it was time for Holly to graduate, she and her new best friend shared one last cup of tea on the patio. Rosemary was holding purple violets she’d just picked in the garden, when she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and told Holly a secret.
“‘I made a lot of mistakes when I was a young and if I had one wish back then, it would be that someone older, maybe a little wiser, would have set me straight on a few things, especially about parenting.’ Holly leaned in so only Rosemary could hear and whispered, ‘Tell me.’
“‘For starters, don’t have kids until you’re ready to have kids. People think there’s some clock to follow, but there’s not; you’ll know when it’s time. This next part is hard to tell you, but be ready to have your heart broken because sometimes, no matter how much you want a baby, you’ll lose them. Understand one thing child, it is not your fault, it just wasn’t meant to be.’
“The old woman continued, ‘When you are pregnant don’t tell anyone the name you’ve picked out. Half your friends won’t like it and the other half will want to steal it. When it comes time to have the baby remember this; people call it the ‘miracle of birth’, but the reality is you’re pushing a watermelon through a garden hose, so it’s going to hurt something awful, but trust me, it’s worth it, and once they hand you your angel, you’ll forget all about the pain. When you take your child home you’ll be terrified. That’s okay, all parents are. Just know you can do this.
“‘At first they aren’t much good around the house with all that crying and pooping, but just when you’re about to bring ‘em back to the hospital for a refund, that baby will smile at you. Then you’re hooked. Contrary to what you’ve heard, saying ‘no’ to a child is not a sin; in fact you’ll be thanked for it later. Nothing worse than a little brat who got everything.’
“Rosemary continued, ‘Between the ages of three and five, try to spend every waking minute with them. They are little people then, so they think and laugh and make mud pies in the rain, and they are all yours for this short time. Once they hit five, you’re putting them on a school bus and losing so much of them to the world. Teenage years are tough, but understand this, they don’t need a best friend in you, they need a parent, so set those boundaries. Even if they say they ‘hate you’ and slam the bathroom door until it comes off the hinges you keep after them. Lots of parents bail at that point, it’s easier I guess. Don’t!’
“Rosemary reached out to brush Holly’s cheek. ‘And even when you think you’ve lost them, they come back to you eventually. Usually in their twenties with a trunkload of laundry, some unpaid bills and a boy or girlfriend you can’t stand. Just love them and encourage them to be who they are not who you or anyone else wants them to be. And don’t get so upset over the mistakes they make along the way because you made them too. If there’s one thing I wish I could go back and change it was the times I lost my temper with my children. That hurt you put in their eyes when you lash out in anger. You can’t ever get that moment back.’
“A horn honked in the distance and Rosemary knew it was time for Holly to go. She reached into her purse, produced a small white vase and placed the violets inside, ‘For you dear. Thank you for everything.’
“That was the vase that now lay scattered on the floor. Holly was furious and about to yell in anger at her two boys when she heard a voice she hadn’t heard since she was a teenage girl. It was Rosemary, in her head saying, ‘It’s only a vase, child. Be careful. You can’t ever get this moment back.’
“Her son broke the silence, ‘We’re so sorry, Mom.’ But she cut him off. ‘It’s okay, honey, it was an accident. I’m sorry that I’m crying. Let me tell you why.’ She sat her boys down at the foot of the bed and told them about a special woman she met at a nursing home many years ago.
“Later that evening, Holly’s boys slipped out to run an errand without saying why. The next morning when she woke, there on her dresser was a new vase filled with purple violets. And somewhere in heaven an old woman was smiling.” (“Good Advice,” John Gray, Capital Region Living Magazine, August 2013)
Yes, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” (Matthew 1:18)