Once Upon a Christmas Eve
by Cheryl Del Monte
Proverbs 22:6 – The Woman’s Study Bible – NIV
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Along about 1985, when my kids were 20, 18, and 16, we began a holiday tradition. Each of us wrote a story and read it to our family and friends gathered together on Christmas Eve. Every year the stories got longer and the group gathered to share their writing grew larger. Friends brought stories about their childhoods or presented fictional accounts that surprised and entertained us.
Insight into my kids’ inner lives became an unexpected bonus of the tradition. I believe stories reflect ramblings and longings left unvoiced until those secrets sneak into the light through the imagination of creative writing. That first year of the new tradition my youngest daughter wrote a brief story she titled “The White Kitten” about a newly divorced woman living alone whose Christmas holiday brought her the warmth and comfort of a rescued kitten and a Christmas morning with an even greater miracle. This story spoke clearly about her feelings of sadness at my recent divorce from her dad, but also of the knowledge that someday those feelings would be healed and replaced with joy.
My son’s story, “The Luck Review Board,” relates the story of a man in a car accident on a snowy Christmas Eve. He struggles to extract himself from his wrecked vehicle in a ditch only to face the determined lights of a car he realizes will strike and kill him. At the moment of impact he found himself not dead on the road, but in front of a panel of people offering him a difficult choice. This story kept us all on the edge of our seats! My son’s main character found himself answering for the lack of attention to a marriage and family that seemed doomed to failure.
On a lighter note, my eldest daughter and her boyfriend made a fill-in-the-blanks story (Mad-Libs) about an extended family arriving home for the holidays. Each one in the crowd turned out to be a character in the story. Everyone filled out a questionnaire with answers that included such things as colors, times, names of states and cars. Filling in the blanks in the reading of their story using the answers from the questionnaires produced a hilarious reading that kept the rapt attention of all those present. The plot of the story showed thoughtful insight into the lives and preferences of everyone present.
Of the three kids, my eldest daughter has written a series of children’s books, “The Herb Fairies,” in connection with her online herbal business, Learning Herbs. And my son and youngest daughter each have employed writing skills in the careers they have chosen. My son manages projects and employs technical writing for his job in environmental geology. As an LPN in a research position for a health provider, my youngest daughter counts on her writing skills for scientific documentation.
Writing is a gift for a lifetime. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I wouldn’t trade the words of my children’s Christmas stories for a Rembrandt!
Dear God, your gifts at Christmas outshine any we could purchase in a store or make in our workshops. Thank you for the gift of your son and for the gifts of creative talents that sustain us throughout our lives. May we always remember to give you the praise. Amen.