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Saturday, February 13, 2016  |  316 Days Until Christmas
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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Rediscovering the Christmas Spirit
by Nielsen, Barbara Werrett
Right Book

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Language: English

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T'was the season, and as Ann shuffled her list of "Things to do Wednesday," "Things to do Thursday," and "Things that should have been done yesterday," she wondered, "'Tis the season for what? For tired feet, volumes of extra work, and myriads of things to remember!"

She knew she had lost control of her "season" when she found herself the night before screaming down to the children in the living room, "And don't touch those packages, or I'll blister your bottoms til you look like a Solarcaine ad!" It had sounded so funny to nine-year-old Cindy, but she hadn't dared to laugh after taking one look at her mother's face.

Ann returned for the nineteenth time to her cookie-making. "I hate to make cookies at nine o'clock at night!" she thought, miserably, as she tried to erase thoughts of her comfortable bed from her mind. Bart had come in from school and announced that he needed twenty-four cookies for kindergarten. She had made a mental note. But mental notes don't taste very good, so after the children were all fed and bathed and their daddy (lucky man) had escaped to a meeting, Ann had tackled the cookies--and had told herself that if she really "got into it," she would enjoy it.

She had not enjoyed it. Just as she was about to drop the dough onto the cookie sheet, Angela had announced that she, too, would sure like to take cookies to her preschool Christmas party, and Ann had suddenly remembered the note asking mothers to help with the refreshments. She sighed, and removed all the ingredients once more from the cupboards so she could double the batch. At the precise moment that she slid the last tray of cookies into the oven, first-grader Jed had announced that he was supposed to take two dozen cookies to school in the morning. "That was the moment," Ann thought, clenching her teeth, "the precise moment that I lost the Christmas spirit!"

On the counter in Ann's kitchen were another unread newspaper, two issues of the Church News (she felt it a sin of omission not to read at least the back page), a pair of shoelaces that had to be threaded into Rhett's shoes before he outgrew them, and four Christmas cards that had arrived that day (the very day she had finished mailing out her Christmas cards). She jotted down on her list of "Things to do on Wednesday" to mail out four more Christmas cards.

Why is it, she mused, that just as you finish mailing out Christmas cards, you get a handful in the mail--all from people you forgot to send cards to? The same thing happens on neighborhood treats, she remembered- -you no sooner bake a Christmas pie for all the neighbors than three more families have the audacity to move in to the neighborhood!

Ann's life seemed mirrored in the pile of "Things To Do" she had growing on her counter. There was the list of fourteen new Primary children, all of whom she personally needed to welcome to Primary. And that reminded her of the sixty-two miniature nativity scenes she had cut out, but not yet assembled, for her Primary children.

"Birthdays should be outlawed in December!" she grumbled, wrapping a gift for her six-year-old's friend's party. "But," she mused with a tired smile, "I guess that would eliminate two of my children, and that's not such a good idea."

She had a play to finish writing for the Warner family party, a half- decorated Christmas broom for her aging grandmother, and twenty-four separate doll clothes cut out for her daughters' four dolls. (And Rhett had just asked her to make his Gremlin a pair of levis. "I must look like Betsy Ross!" she had wailed.)

The days sped by, and Ann's pile of "Things To Do" grew on her counter at a frightening rate. "I wish Fisher-Price toys proliferated like this mess on my counter!" she had cried out in a moment of utter frustration. Nine-year-old Cindy left the room, hiding a giggle behind her hand.

Finally, there came a day, very close to Christmas, that the pile on the counter began to disappear. Ann had finished up all the millions of details that seemed to sap her of her Christmas spirit. The birthday parties had been attended, and each child had left happy--present under arm, confident that they had mattered enough for their mother to supply the gift, brush the hair, throw the gum away, and get them there, somehow, on time. The party announcements could be thrown away!

The message from the Relief Society president about the Hansen family had been attended to--Ann had taken over a casserole and a box of toys. She threw the message away. She threw away the tickets to the ball game she and her husband had missed because of the caroling party they had attended instead. They had caroled at the old folks' home on Spencer Street. A note she had written in red magic marker and hung on the kitchen counter for months--WRITE YOUR MISSIONARIES!--was thrown in the bathroom garbage on her way out to the mailbox with their Happy New Year cards. "Better late than never," she thought, glad to have finally accomplished that task.

Little by little, task by task, Ann had waded through her "Things To Do" pile on the kitchen counter--and it was now three a.m. on Christmas morning. She had tossed and turned for two hours, too tired to sleep, and had finally decided to investigate the strange light emitting from the living room. As she came down the hall, she realized the light came from the Christmas tree.

"Utah Power and Light Company thanks you once again, children," she mumbled, bending to pull the plug on the glowing balls of red and green. But just then she decided she might as well sit and enjoy the tree rather than toss and turn in bed. She noticed the power switch to the stereo had also been left on, and she decided to treat herself, at long last, to some of her favorite Christmas songs. She chose Handel's "Messiah." As the sweet words "for unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given" reached the corners of her tender heart, great tears welled up in her eyes.

"I'm afraid I haven't taken much time to think about the real meaning of Christmas," she mumbled apologetically. But then, a thousand images crowded into her mind. She saw her little children with presents tucked under their arms, happily skipping to their neighbors' birthday parties. She saw her grandmother's smile as she received the broom Ann had made-- and she remembered the aged fingers happily placing the broom on the front door to welcome her holiday guests, perhaps for her last Christmas.

Ann smiled as she remembered the amateurish production of her family play, and the giggles of the wise men and the awkward announcement of the three-year-old innkeeper, saying, "There is no room in this inn." And she remembered how her father-in-law had put his arm around her waist and thanked her for taking the time to write them a play.

She remembered how proud her children had been to take her cookies to school--baked, under duress, at nine p.m. She thought with anticipation how each of her little girls would love those soft, fluffy new doll clothes when they opened their gifts in just a few short hours--and she was glad, so glad, she had taken the time to make them. She re-read a Christmas card, sent from a friend who had long ago lost her address: "Dear Ann and Kenneth, Thank you so much for writing to us! We think of you often. Isn't Christmas a wonderful time of year!" She thought of all her neighbors, whom she rarely saw in the wintertime, and how they had welcomed her as she came bearing pies; she remembered the warmth of their friendship, and the feeling that welled up inside of her because she had taken the time to reach out.

She let her mind wander to the far-off countries where each missionary in her ward labored--and where each would, in the next few weeks, receive her cheerful New Year's cards. She hoped that when her own sons served missions, others would take the time to cheer them, too.

She lingered on the remembered faces of those dear elderly people she and her husband had caroled to on Spencer Street. One woman had clasped her hand and whispered, "You remind me so of my daughter. It's been like having her back for a time, just to watch you sing." Her mind raced back to the Hansen home, and how she and her next-door neighbor had cleaned up the house, delivered the casserole, and distributed the toys to the excited children. "I wish I had bought them better toys," she sighed.

The music enveloped her, and she pushed her head back, far into the cushion of the couch. "I don't think I have ever just relaxed on this couch," she thought, as her eyes surveyed the pleasant room that was hers to clean, entertain in, have family home evening in, but never relax in. Then her eyes rested on a homemade envelope, addressed to "The Best Mommy in the World." Inside was a coupon in third-grade cursive writing: "Good for one day of tending the baby, so you won't have to be so busy. Love, Cindy."

Her record on the stereo had reached the "Hallelujah Chorus," and with tears dropping from joyful eyes, Ann held the coupon to her cheek and thought of the sixty-two nativity scenes she had made for each Primary child. The love and contentment of the Spirit of Christ entered her heart.

"Oh, Lord," she said aloud. "I was afraid I had lost the spirit of Christmas. But I didn't lose it. It was there all the time, in the pile of things to do on my kitchen counter. It was there all the time! just didn't have time to notice it until now."

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