No Birthday Cake?
by Jane Curtis, TX
My new grandmother had just explained to me about Christmas. We were coming home from my aunt's house after celebrating Thanksgiving.
My sister and I were newly adopted and these holidays were very new to us. I was six and my sister was 4. Grandmother explained it was the celebration of the birth of Jesus. "You mean a birthday party?" I asked. She gave me a soft smile and a hug and said, "Yes." We call his birthday Christmas" I clapped my hands and replied, "Cake and ice cream?" When she said "No. Dear." I almost started to cry. I loved her cakes.
I had remembered when they celebrated my birthday, the day I turned six. My grandmother had been gathering scraps of materials for her quilting group all week. So, when I found her in the kitchen stirring up a batter in a big bowl I wanted to know what it was. She replied, as she ran her fingers over a page with writing on it and then without looking up she said, "I am making your birthday cake from scratch."
I ran out of the room without saying a word. I thought she had said scraps. I cried and cried in my room thinking I was going to have to eat scraps. When she found me crying I explained why. She laughed so hard her tummy quivered. She gave me a big hug, took me by the hand and led me back into the kitchen. She pointed to the glass window into the oven. I could see 4 big pans baking inside.
She said, "I made it from scratch means I did not use a cake mix." She then showed me the boxes of cake mixes in the pantry. She then gave me a hug. She said, "Your birthday cake had to be very special because you are very special."
I was thrilled. I had remembered helping her turn the crank on the homemade ice cream too. There were decorations and balloons and boxes all wrapped up with pretty bows. I had never had a birthday before so I was very excited about it.
I remember sitting quietly and thinking. We are going to have a birthday party for Jesus and not have any cake and ice cream. Poor Jesus. Then I could got worried. What do you give the Son of God for a birthday present? That was one to ponder. Christmas was new to me and my sister. Jesus was new. Everything was new. Some of what we were learning was frightening at first but I had learned to ask questions. Most of the answers took the scary out of what was happening.
Grandmother brought out the stockings she had made for my sister and I. We hung them so they dangled off the mantle. We had picked out a tree, decorated it, and started baking cookies. I had decided that maybe Christmas would not be so bad.
Nothing prepared me for Santa Claus. He was a very nice man who clearly did not need more ice cream. He was very nice but I was totally confused. I would not allow my little sister to get on his lap. The poor man was confused too. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told him I wanted to go home. Needless to say a visit to Santa Claus was a disaster. Grandmother was so kind. She did not push the issue. Instead that night, at home, we watched a movie called Miracle on 34th Street. Santa Claus was in the movie and I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I was a little mixed up still on why we got presents when it was Jesus who was having the birthday.
I watched as pretty boxes started multiplying around the base of the tree. I was very good about not shaking them. After shaking one and hearing a liquid inside and then I shook it harder until the package broke and Grandmother shouted, You opened the "toilet water" as it drenched all over me. I hated the idea of having toilet water on me. I smelled good but still... toilet water? I decided not to shake any more pretty boxes. I guess you thought I was just being a good kid. Nope. No one had to tell me anything about messing with the packages after I had to wash, "toilet water" off of me. I do remember grandmother giggling the whole time. I saw nothing funny about it. Like I have said before I was not the brightest crayon in the box but grandmother called me the most colorful.
I remember Christmas morning. Now, I am getting a little bit ahead of things for a second. Christmas eve my mother had given me my name as a present. She had given me her name. I told you about that in another story. Well, my daddy had come home from a business trip that evening. After all the hugs and kisses about my new name were done my sister and I were ushered off to bed. We were instructed to not come out of our room, until daddy came to get us. We could go pee but we had to go straight back to our room after that. We had absolutely no knowledge or any idea why everything was so hush, hush, about the next day.
Yes, it was finally Christmas day but why all the whispers? Everything was fine. We woke up Christmas morning, went to the bathroom, and (as instructed) went straight back to our room. We noticed the door to the living room had been shut but did as we had been told.
We did not have to wait long. Daddy came in and got my sister and I. He was in the middle with me on one side and Tricia on the other. He led us by the hand. We approached the closed door. As we went through the door grandmother had the movie camera held up to one eye filming the whole event. Mommy (as I now called her) held a bar of lights behind grandmother. This was all suddenly very scary. What was going on? What was going to happen?
We entered the living room. There were toys everywhere. Dolls, trikes, wagons, balls, a big doll house, ruffled dresses, spinning tops, and even a easy bake oven stood off to the side. I had never seen so many toys in the entire six years of my life. I screamed my head off. I grabbed Tricia and took her back to the bedroom and I pulled her under the bed with me. I was shaking and crying, Tricia was shaking and crying and all the adults were shaking and crying now.
Finally, all three adults came in the room. They coaxed me out from under the bed. I could see the streaks down Mommy's face and Daddy's eyes kept welling up with tears. "What is wrong?" They asked. "These are presents for you from Santa Claus." My eyes got bigger. "You mean they are all of that is for us? You are not sending us back?"
When we were at the orphanage every time they got toys donated it meant someone was adopted and was leaving. I thought they were sending us back. With a little more talking grandmother convinced me to go back in the room where all the toys were. I was extremely frightening for me. I walked through the room and touched each toy.
I stroked the hair of each doll, I had no idea what to do with a trike or wagon but the other things were so brightly colored I could not resist touching them. I started sobbing so hard my shoulders shook. I ran back to my room again. Tricia was just touching things she was happy and in total wonder.
Finally, Daddy came in by himself. He said, "What is wrong, Jane?" I was so pleased he used my new name. I wiped my eyes and looked up at him. I put my hands on his cheeks and asked, "Can you tell Santa to take it all back?" He cupped his big hands over mine and asked in almost a whisper, "Why?" It was apparent he did not understand my problem. If I played with one toy, the other toys would think I did not like them. I did not want to hurt their feelings.
"It hurts when someone does not want to play with you." Daddy suddenly smiled and pulled me into his lap. He gave me a big hug. He asked me to wait until he got back. He came back in a few minutes and said that Santa was going to pick up all the toys in just a little bit. He then handed me one of the dolls. He suggested I play with her in my room while he was getting the rest. That suited me just fine.
A little while later I went into the living room and all the toys were gone. I really got a big grin on my face when I saw my stocking full of things and with writing on the top that was not there the day before. Grandmother showed it to me. It was my new name. I was thrilled. I was so happy. Then Grandmother scooped me up and we sat down as Daddy started handing out the pretty boxes.
Grandmother whispered to me that she had made a deal with Santa. He would send the toys back one at a time so I could play with each one and introduce them to each other. I was delighted. For weeks after that new toys arrived and I introduced them all to each other. Christmas was saved.
My aunt and all the cousins arrived shortly after that and we all sat down to a big meal. I was explaining to my aunt that this was a birthday party for Jesus even though we were not going to have cake and ice cream. Grandmother grinned and left the room.
Grandmother brought out cake and homemade ice cream. I knew it was a real party after that. It became a tradition for us to have a birthday cake and ice cream on Christmas because it was a birthday party after all.
I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.
My first one started out scary but turned into one blessing after another. Love multiplies at Christmas. I have spent the last few Christmases visiting Children who are in the hospital during the holiday. It warms my heart. If you find yourself alone at Christmas someone else might need one of your smiles... give it to them for Christmas. This is the time of year I remember all the blessings I have been given. God Bless.