Tuesday, December 9, 2008
When Christmas Came Again - A Christmas Story
Friends, I'm still under the weather, but I promised another Christmas story, so here goes...
Frank Hinnant had no use for Christmas, and few of his friends knew why. It had nothing to do with expense. Frank was a wealthy businessman. It had nothing to do with frugality. Frank was generous and gave his employees a large bonus at Christmas.
But whenever his wife Adele suggested Christmas decorations, a tree or exchanging gifts, Frank would mutter brusquely, "Christmas is for children." That was why he'd locked Christmas out of his heart - children.
One brisk December morning last year Frank decided to walk to work. He did that occasionally, and this day as he passed Leeson's department store he noticed a cluster of people outside, looking at the Christmas window displays.
One was a manger scene. Frank looked at the creche: Mary, Joseph and the shepherd in colorful costumes, the donkey, cow and sheep - all were life-size. And there was the Child.
Frank turned away. Then a sign across the street caught his attention. HOLY INNOCENTS HOME - huge golden letters framed the arched doorway of an old brownstone surrounded by a forbidding iron fence. Frank had only half noticed the building before. He stood there staring at the orphanage, remembering something he had learned many years ago. Miss Raymond, his Sunday school teacher, had told them about how King Herod had feared this new Baby Jesus so much that he was determined to destroy Him. So he ordered his men to kill all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding district. Tradition suggests there may have been as many as 20. This Holy Innocent Home had obviously been named after those tiny martyrs.
Frank's mind pictured the grief of their parents. And for the millionth time he remembered the desolation of the day his son David had died. David had been 18 months old. In the 22 years since, Frank had been unable to mention his son's name.
Frank's feet moved across the street toward the sign - slowly at first, then faster.
"You know the bastille of an orphanage across from Leeson's," Frank told Adele that night at dinner. "Really a dungeon, dear, cramped and dismal..." Bit by bit the story emerged.
"It made me realize how little I really know about kids. When I went in, they stood around looking at me as if I were a movie star. I'll never forget this one little boy. He came up and he stood there and stroked the sleeve of my coat."
There was a long pause. Adele looked at him so intently that Frank became embarrassed. But he continued, "You know what I've always said about Christmas, that Christmas is for children?"
"Yes, you've always said that."
"Well, it's about time people started doing something for them. Today I gave that place some money. They're going to build a wing with it. And - and they're going to name the wing for David."
It was the first time in 22 years that Adele had heard Frank mention their only son's name. It made her do something she never did when Frank was around. She wept.
And as Frank held his wife in his arms, he saw again something he had envisioned for the first time that afternoon. He saw a room full of children, 20 of them playing in the a bright new wing at Holy Innocents. Then suddenly as he watched a new boy entered - and now there were 21.
~ Dina Donohue