Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Each year,  my father went into the attic, and took out all of the boxes containing our Christmas ornaments, and decorations. Opening these boxes always made me happy. The smell of the ornaments, and tissue paper, and even the same old boxes, all had one scent. I have never smelled that smell ever again. It was the smell of Christmas, on Tulip Grove Drive. I can still smell it in my mind. I used to always put these fake gingerbread ornaments to my nose, thinking that they had to be the one that caused that nice smell, but it wasn't them.

We had a Nativity set that I loved. It was my job to set it up by the front door. I put the stable up, and arranged all the key players around the empty manger. My Dad placed baby Jesus in the manger every Christmas morning. Until then, it stood empty. My other job was to cut slivers of construction paper into "hay". I always chose yellow paper, although one year, we didn't have yellow, so the hay was purple, which upset my aesthetics, and annoyed me the whole season.

They "hay" was put into a basket, and placed below the Nativity scene. For every good deed my siblings and I did, we were to place a piece of "hay" in the manger, making a soft place for baby Jesus to lay on. We were not to tell anyone of the good deed we did, and we were to try very hard to do at least one a day. I loved looking at all the hay pile up, everyday. It made me happy to know that secretly, we were all trying to do something good each day.

Being that it was the "honor system", some of my pieces of hay in the manger, were debatable. Some days, I couldn't think of whether or not I did a good deed, so I would throw one in figuring I must have, and just forgotten. Other days, if I held a door open for two people, that equaled two pieces of hay. The intention was there I suppose. And every Christmas, the manger was full, and piled high with both good deeds, and intentions.

What I didn't know what was going on through these Merry Christmas seasons, was how hard it was for my Mom and Dad. My father, being a NYC firefighter, and my mother, a stay at home Mom, really struggled. A few years ago, my Dad told me that every Christmas, the City of New York gave all the firemen there uniform allowance. My Dad said it was quite a bit of money. Maybe close to $800.00. With that money, the firemen were supposed to purchase things for both their dress uniforms, and their equipment. Well, you can guess that the timing could not be better for this money to come in. My Mom and Dad would buy Christmas presents, with that money. They would buy our tree with that money. They would give us a Christmas feast with that money.

To think about my father going without important equipment for his job so we could have Hot Wheels, and Hess trucks. Dollhouses, and bikes. I guess these are just the things we do for people we love. We will go without, so our loved ones will have more.

 It is love.

 It is selfless.

 It is an unspoken good deed.

This year, I know of many people in my life who have quietly placed hay in our manger. You have made it a soft place. Your good deed has been so quiet yet it has spoken volumes.

Thank you.

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