I pull the Christmas music box string very slowly and wooden figures of snowman, elf, angel and Mr. and Mrs. Claus peek at me through the windows and door openings of their little yellow house as they travel backward, winding up in Ferris wheel fashion. The small nails that hold them to the rotating board are delicate, allowing them to sway back and forth as they make their rounds…
I’ve pulled that string, watched the figurines peek out at me and listened to the slightly tin sound of Jingle Bells, for just over 45 years now.
I was three when my brothers gave the music box to our mom for Christmas in ‘67. Three years ago when my parents passed, my siblings granted my wish to have the music box. Now as I hang it on my kitchen wall, I don’t see the age it carries or the areas where the glitter, meant to be sparkling snow on the eaves, has long since rubbed off in the packing and unpacking over the years. What I see, what I feel, is a direct link to my childhood Christmas and all the magic it held.
Twenty nine years ago this Christmas, about to celebrate my first Christmas married and in my own home, mom gave Steven and I a ceramic manger scene. In two words, it’s big. With 18 pieces and camels and wise men that stand eight inches tall, it could be overwhelming, but her artistic talent shines through in the incredible detailing of each piece, the deep, rich colors she used and in the delicate features conveying the wonder of the moment. Amidst the often hectic holiday madness, it never fails to make me pause and renews the spiritual meaning of Christmas for me.
Our home is not large. These two very different holiday pieces are physically about five steps from each other. Yet they bridge the years for me between child and adult, between daughter and wife/mother seamlessly. There’s no theme to my Christmas decorations. The house is not done in ribbons of blue and silver, in red and gold balls in glass vases, nor in country chic. It doesn’t look like any spread in the pages of a magazine. It’s much like my mother’s was; warm and comforting; a blending of pieces that hold more meaning in the history or memory of receiving them than in the purchasing of them for a “look”. What’s developed is a blend of my Christmas past with my Christmas present.
I pull the string and listen to Jingle Bells. My eyes travel from the figurines in the music box to the figurines in the manger scene. A final gift from mom, a mixture of magic and the wonder of belief.