St. Nikolaustag morning my little ones found shining bags of chocolate coins in their tennies and maryjanes. I’ve always made it clear to my children that Santa can’t possibly come to America for a European holiday, so they run to me with their thanks and hugs.
It had been a particularly hard day and Gabriel hugged me long and often. Later I put my hands in my pocket and found a fistful of golden coins– “Gabriel,” I called across the room, “have you given me a chocolate with every hug?”
My answer came in echoes from the kitchen: “He’s been giving them to me too.” “And me.” “I sat down and felt one in my back pocket.”
“Don’t you like your chocolates, Gabe?” I asked.
“I love them,” he replied, “that’s why I want to share them with you.”
His reverse pickpocketing continued throughout the day and then expanded as his siblings joined in the game. And despite the growing piles of foil from the treasures we consumed, the supply of coins never seemed to diminish.
As I dressed for the Youth Choir Concert tonight, Erik expressed surprise that I was going. It’s been a harrowing few days and it’s difficult to mingle in public when your heart is aching. But it was my responsibility to attend and I am, if nothing else, responsible.
Slipping into the back row of the choir, I resolved to simply smile and refrain from sobbing– singing would be optional. Girls sidled next to me, offering a peek at their sheet music and compliments on my red shoes. And as we stood, singing “Away in a Manger” “Joy to the World” “Angels from the Realms of Glory” I drank in the faces of these good, good people who love me and care about my family.
A seventeen-year old girl reached for the hand of her frightened younger sister, toddlers wandered the aisles greeted with hugs and smiles, an older woman scavenged her purse and procured a shiny mirror to calm a crying baby. I’ve lived here long enough to be acquainted with the griefs of many of my neighbors and to recognize that there are many, many more that I can’t know.
The performance ended with a traditional nativity– Mary, Joseph and the babe in the center, a dozen untidy angels, wise men, shepherds and a flock of wild sheep that baahed and butted heads.
Laughter and good wishes filled the room as we folded chairs and shared cookies. Hugs and handshakes and tears were exchanged and we all went home with pockets filled with golden coins.