A story of Christmas and personal growth

by Mary Ann on December 16, 2011

Little Hands of Christmas

christmas family dinner pictures

Christmas at the Johnsons

Written by Mary Ann Johnson many years ago, to honor the legacy my parents gave me. It just took a while to recognize it.  A true short story

“Whose is this one mom?” Seth held up a porcelain joker dressed in purple and red satin. “Oh, its one of mine, but you can have it.” He seemed pleased that I would let it go so easily; it along with 25 or 30 other beautiful ornaments gathered over the years.

As I watched him gleefully pack them up to take to his new home, my mind drifted back many years, to another home and another Christmas memory. The ornaments were scratched and old and many made by children’s small hands. I thought they were so ugly and wondered why our tree couldn’t look like my friend’s trees with beautiful balls and ribbons.

vintage christmas images

Looking back it looks great - Ah teenage eyes!

The lights were in a box, a huge tangled mess. I could hear the tension between my mom and dad over those lights; she thinking, “It’s not a big deal”, and him promoting more organization and care in packing them away.

I vowed that my tree would never be like this. I would have beautiful ornaments. No little children would put them up, all clumped in one spot. The things they made would go on low branches or in the back or better yet on the refrigerator and then be packed away in a box. My tree would be beautiful!

getting ready for christmas pictures

Glorious Christmas Chaos!

The presents under the tree were ugly. You could tell that kids had wrapped them using masking tape and very little skill. My friends had beautifully wrapped packages from large department stores under their trees. Ours were well worn, with the gifts inside poking through the corners where little hands had rearranged them too much. Never mind that I myself had moved them about over and over, it wasn’t going to happen when I had a family. They would be artfully placed under the tree and then left alone!

kids make christmas cookies picture

Making Christmas Cookies

I kept those vows to myself. I began to gather Christmas, beautiful ornaments purchased for half price the day after Christmas. The lights were always perfectly wrapped at the end of each season. Nothing was bent, broken or mutilated! As the years passed the decorations increased and were more beautifully arranged until we had a ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ house (well, as much as that is possible with seven children). It was truly beautiful and admired by many.

Little hands were pushed away and little faces scolded for touching the packages and rattling them close to little ears. Sometimes, those same little hands were allowed to put ornaments on the tree but they were later rearranged so they looked better. All the packages had pretty ribbons and straight edges where little hands had been helped too much to do the job; and more years passed.

joy of christmas pictures

Sharing the joy

Little by little I found my heart softening as I began to love my children’s hands more and the things of Christmas less. But now they were bigger hands and into them I put the job of decorating. Perhaps things weren’t done just as I would have done them but it just didn’t seem to matter. All was a little less artfully arranged and the packages weren’t as fancy. I just wanted to please my children and not the world.

As the last ornaments were packed up and Seth and his little family left, I was brought back to the present. It had cost me nothing to give those trappings away to him. My heart was not attached to those things of Christmas as it had once been, but only to the child going out the door.

I realized that I had been gathering a new kind of Christmas, the kind from many years earlier where busy little hands had been allowed to touch Christmas and shake it and squeeze out every exciting moment of it.

christmas fun pictures

Lights on, music on, finally allowed downstairs

I understood what I had missed before, that Christmas has always been about little hands; the little hands of the Christ-child reaching towards his mothers sweet face that first Christmas night. His little hands were lovingly guided and allowed to learn until they were grown and reached out to the whole world in love as he gave his life on the cross.

As I thought about where I had been and where I had come to I saw that I was able to offer Christ a special gift; a heart full of love for little hands and a knowledge of the need to nurture them; a heart freer of the worldly trappings of Christmas.

This year my tree has a long paper chain on it made by a child’s hands. All the many elegant and fragile ornaments collected over 40 years have been used by my youngest daughter and my tree; well it has non-breakable and well worn items on it. The “little’s” will be coming over and I want to spend my time hugging and not saying no.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Patti December 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Beautiful… thank you for all that you do!

★Merry★* 。 • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ ˛ •
•。★Christmas★ 。* 。
° 。 ° ˛˚˛ * _Π_____*。*˚
˚ ˛ •˛•˚ */______/~\。˚ ˚ ˛
˚ ˛ •˛• ˚ | 田田 |門| ˚ ♥ From our home school to yours! ♥
~~~Patti’s Homeschool Mentoring


Kimberly December 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I found myself early in my parenting obsessed with the tree. Yes, I would “fix” it when the children went to bed. They always noticed. Relaxing about those things took time and I still think I am working on it.. Yay personal growth!
(Thanks for sharing photos from Christmases past- lovely!)


Marie Henry December 18, 2011 at 3:23 am

Well mom the memories I have of christmas is us decorating the tree as kids so none of the stuff you mentioned about not letting us help is a part of the things I remember. In fact last year I decorated my tree in a theme. Blue and silver with nice new ornaments. I hated it. The way I love the tree the best is how we did it growing up. Colored lights with all different kinds of ornaments on it. I love sitting on the couch with the lights off just looking at it. Christmas has always been a fond memory for me. Thank you for all you did for us as kids to make it a sweet holiday!!


admin December 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

They were wonderful Marie and like all mom’s I learned as I went along. I got better and better and that was the reason for the story. It is all about learning and getting better. This is why having a family is such a good thing to do. It is a laboratory for growth and change. I was an exceptionally blessed person to have my laboratory open and going for so many years because I have had soooo much to learn. : ) I love you!


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