ChristKindelesmarkt, Nuremberg, Germany, Circa 1973: awed by a display of beautifully crafted Christmas decorations, my eyes settle on five girl angels, each wearing a white dress with gold polka dots. One is playing the piano; one the flute; one a trombone; one is singing, and another is missing an arm at the moment, and I can’t remember what instrument she held. All five angels sit atop a six-inch-high music box with a six-inch diameter. Wind it up and it plays Silent Night. I’m attracted to the joy of it: the music, the little girl angels, the polka dots, the red hearts painted over white along its circular base, the Blessed Mother blue color covering the top and painted in alternating circles between the hearts. It’s strong and it’s happy; its music celebrates the sacred, and it’s not too expensive. What more could a 25-year-old US Army wife and mother of three little girls ask for in a Christmas music box?
Peter and I had been stationed in Heidelberg for three years and our tour of duty would end in just a few weeks. We were to return to the United States, visit our families in New York, Delaware, and Maryland during the Christmas holidays, and then move on to Ft. Rucker, Alabama, our next tour of duty. Having heard of the ChristKindelesmarkt many times, I was eager to get there and to find decorations that could grace our family’s holidays in the years to come, especially ornaments made in Germany since all three of our girls were born there. Looking back, I’m astonished to think that I left the girls with Peter and by myself took a 3 ½ hour train trip both ways in order to shop, but as far as either of us can remember that is precisely what I did.
Those memories are of long ago. Now our little girls are middle aged women 49, 48, and 47 years old, with children of their own. Their little sister (our grande finale) is 43 and thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark ruling granting same-sex couples a constitutional right to marry, they have a sister-in-law too, and we, a daughter-in-law. All of our girls and their spouses are working at home these days because of Covid, and all but three of our nine grandchildren are working at home as well, in virtual school. It’s hard and it’s uniquely stressful for all, but they’re handling it. They’re smart and they’re careful, creative, hard-working, devoted and loving.
The music box doesn’t play Silent Night anymore, and as I mentioned earlier, one angel is missing an arm (this should come as no surprise to anyone who has reared four children), but it’s still one of my favorite decorations. When I look at the angels in their polka dot dresses I think of our daughters, and how they’ve filled our home with the music of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m deeply grateful for each one of them, and immensely proud of each as well. Each one has, in her own unique way, been a source of great joy. Oh, how I will miss them, their spouses, and their children this Christmas! But the pandemic is real as are the public health guidelines, so we’re all staying put, trying to stay safe; trying to stay well, in the name of the Mother and of the daughter and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.