Have you ever been digging through a drawer filled with lots of nonrelated stuff...cords to TVs you no longer own, decks of playing cards, mysterious keys that open who knows what...and found something that touched your heart and flooded your mind with warm memories? It’s funny how something like this [baggie of yarn] can bring a tear to my eyes.
From time to time, I write down stories about my boys. This story, written years ago, explains the Ziplock snack baggie, the yarn, and the misty eyes.
The Rules of the Hay
A True Story
When I was a girl, one of my all time favorite things to do during the holidays was to set up the nativity in the living room. I carefully and lovingly unwrapped the tissue from each little character that my mother bought at the dime store for 19 cents each. In my little girl mind, those made-in-Taiwan plaster figures were works of art. With 3 boys in our home, Alan and I would from time to time discover that little plastic green army guys had found their way into our nativity scene. They were “posted” around the stable behind Wise Men and shepherds - at the ready to attack any “bad guys” who might try to mess with Baby Jesus. BOYS!
As a mother, I dutifully wanted to create special memories for my boys centered on our own little nativity. So, I began what I hoped would become a time-honored Lackey Christmas Tradition. Instead of putting Baby Jesus in the manger when we placed all of the figures in the stable, the manger was to be left empty until Christmas Morning. To involve the children in learning the importance of sharing Christ’s love, they were to try to perform acts of loving-kindness for friends or family members during the holiday season. Each time they were caught in the act of being loving or good, they could place a piece of yellow yarn “hay” on the manger to prepare a soft bed for Jesus. Optimistically, I meticulously cut approximately 50-2” strands of yarn knowing that if we used all 50 I could definitely cut more!
I showed the boys the Baggie of hay that would be stored in the drawer below the nativity scene. I explained the whole “acts of loving-kindness” plan. The boys listened intently, and I thought that for a shining moment I could actually see angelic countenances on their ketchupy little faces. Then, they began to ask questions about “Rules of the Hay.” “What about sharing toys?!” “Yes! That would be great!” “What about taking turns?!” “Amazing! I think you’ve got it!” “What if we don’t hit each other?” “That would, indeed, make God...and me VERY HAPPY!”
Over the next few days, the boys seemed to earnestly perform these random acts of lovingkindness. I would hear things like... “Jonathan, would you like to play with the GI Joe I got for my birthday?” “Hey, Bryce! Why don’t you sit in the front seat this time!” and “Reed, I’ll play with you, buddy!” Upon hearing these precious words, I would respond quickly with an invitation to place a piece of hay on Jesus’ manger.
Before long, the newness of the “hay game” wore off. I had dissolved into a whining mother begging her children to be nice to each other “FOR THE LOVE OF BABY JESUS!” I actually heard myself saying things like “PUH-LEASE take turns! You don’t want Jesus to lie on that cold, hard manger do you?!” and “When you were a baby, you slept in a cozy baby bed all snuggled in the bedding handmade by your sweet Mimi!” and “Look you! It’s ugly talk like that that will give Baby Jesus lots of sleepless nights on that splintery little feed trough!” In the event that I did catch a moment of nonviolent activity, my offer of a piece of hay would be met with comments like, “Hey, Mom, would you go put it on Jesus’ bed for me on your way back to the kitchen?”
Needless to say, the little pieces of yarn became bargaining tools as the advent calendar counted down. I found myself cutting deals with preschoolers to get the legos picked up so that I could vacuum. “Boys who pick up all of the legos and don’t leave any of those little pirate heads on the floor will get THREE pieces of hay for Baby Jesus!” Those little yellow offerings became “Let’s Make A Deal” negotiation tools right under the nose of Mary, Joseph, the 2 shepherds and the 3 Wisemen who were all probably wondering why on earth Baby Jesus was suffocating in a Ziplock Baggie in a drawer below.
Finding this little Baggie of hay in the sofa table drawer brought back tender memories of my sweet baby boys. These young men standing before you no longer get into tussles over GI Joe’s ammunition belt or grab a toy from a brother and run like lightening. However, from time to time, I do still hear one of the boys call out “Shotgun!!” And, I still have to get on to them for wrestling too close to the Christmas tree.
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