Teaching young children that it’s better to give than to receive is always an important lesson, but especially so at Christmas. Unless you’re a child of mine, in which case such lessons might end in a disastrous event involving innocent little old ladies, ominous threats, and scalded eyeballs.
Allow me to explain.
When my son Chris was about twelve, we lived in Manitoba. It was Christmas time and a spirit of generosity and good will was in the air. I’d baked a wide array of yummy treats that month, far more than we’d ever consume ourselves.
Buttery spritz, crumbly shortbread, and thumbprint cookies, as well as gooey butter tarts, spicy gingerbread and the ever-present sugar cookie, were only a few. It seemed a shame not to share them with those who weren’t able to bake for themselves.
So, I decided Chris and I would take an attractive selection of treats to several seniors in our town, beginning with an elderly woman who lived up the street. With a smile I told Chris to pay close attention, since this was a fine example of spreading Christmas cheer. It sounds like the perfect teachable moment, don’t you think?
Insistent that we warm ourselves before the fireplace and visit, that first, sweet, little old lady haltingly led us into the living room. Her eyesight had failed her the last few years which was why she’d come to live with her nephew and his wife.
Chris and I sat down in front of the roaring blaze and I glanced around the room while holding out my hands to the heat.
“My nephew is a wonderful painter,” she said proudly, squinting sightlessly at the wall.
And he was. A dandy painter, if you liked realism. A dandy painter, if anatomically correct details were your thing. A dandy painter who specialized exclusively in – NUDES!
Every last inch of space had been filled with canvases depicting naked women. They draped over chairs, lounged on tables and clung provocatively to doorways. They smiled, winked and gazed boldly at us from every vantage point, each one of them stark-naked.
My son’s eyes grew wide with wonder, and then full appreciation.
Whirling on him I grasped his scrawny little arm and growled menacingly into his tender ear. “Look here kid, I want you to stare into that fire and only that fire do you hear me? You will not peek. You will not glance. Your beady little eyes will not even flicker toward these walls.”
Startled, he shifted his gaze, and began to peer unblinkingly into the flames.
The sweet old lady and I chatted. I kept an eye on my son.
Presently, without moving any portion of his body apart from his lips, Chris mumbled craftily. “My eyes are gettin’ pretty hot mom. Can I look up now?”
And, like the kind and caring parent I was, I smiled at the little old lady, leaned toward my son, and from the corner of my mouth snarled, “I don’t care if they burn outta your head. You keep staring at that fire until I tell you different.”
They didn’t, we skedaddled, and another Christmas memory was made. You never know from where life lessons may be gleaned.
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