Sunday, December 10, 2006
They didn't know Who you was . . .
I don't have very many childhood memories, and my recollections of Christmas time are sketchy at best. Several years ago, while out shopping with friends during the holidays, we passed by a shop that was playing Christmas music. The plaintive melody I heard as I walked by the festive store stopped me in my tracks.
"Sweet little Jesus boy,
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child,
They didn't know who you was . . .
The world treat You mean, Lord;
treat me mean, too.
But that's how things is down here,
we didn't know t'was You."
"What's wrong," my friend asked.
"My mom used to sing that song," I replied, wiping away the unexpected tears. "I haven't heard it since I was a little girl . . ."
My companion marched into the store and came out with the CD. As I listened to it at home later that night, I tried to dig deeper into the memory. My mom, an accomplished concert pianist, loved spirituals. I remembered her sitting at the piano (bedecked with the shabbiest of Christmas trimmings), and singing that song for me. As she lost herself in the soulful music, it seemed like she was singing about her very own child, that sweet little jesus boy. I felt so bad for him, and for his mother, too, to think that people just thought he was a regular baby. It made my little heart ache.
I talked with my brother today about Christmas memories, and he had a very different one. The year he turned 14, mom got drunk and tried to "run away" on Christmas eve (I was living with my aunt in Texas at the time, and only heard about this event years later).
Mom took off in our old station wagon and made it as far as the entrance to the freeway, where the old car ran out of gas. Unable to coax the car any futher, she got out and started staggering through the snow. The family had no idea what had happened to her until the phone rang after midnight. Would someone please come and pick her up from the county jail?
My brother said they got her home and she passed out in her bed, but the next morning--Christmas morning--the phone rang again. Apparently, an unsuspecting motorist rammed into her abandoned car during the night and had not survived.
The holiday season was pretty much over for my family that year . . .
My heart ached for my brother as I listened to him recount the Christmas from hell. A kid shouldn't have to experience such things . . . ever.
But, as the song says, that's how things is down here.