My fingernails still carry splashes of color.
The nail polish, once so meticulously applied by six-year-old Pearl, is now worn and chipped. I hope the memory stays as vivid as this awful color. Note to self: Before agreeing to a free manicure always have plenty of nail polish remover on hand.
When I finally do get around to scrubbing the polish off, it will be the last physical reminders of our dress-up tea party and our short time together.
Pearl requested, immediately upon arrival, that we have a tea party. Although she was only three at the time, apparently we had one the last time she came for a visit, which she remembers astonishingly well. So we spent a few hours painting nails, rolling hair and trying on gowns and dresses.
Yes gowns– little girl tea parties are a formal affair, in case you didn’t know.
Without realizing it I created a tradition. Apparently, in my granddaughter’s mind, going to my house is synonymous with going to a tea party. Traditions can crop up without realizing it when you’re dealing with children. The kid that can’t remember to brush his teeth every night will remember that hot chocolate you made three years ago. Moms may hate that, but that really works in grandparents’ favor.
This week I was reminded of a tradition that I started when my children were young, then, somewhere along the way I lost it. It was really just as much for me, as it was for the children.
Every year (at least for several years) I would hunt down the best Children’s Christmas book I could find. It had to have a great story, and even better artwork. Not your usual Santa stuff. I always found something that I enjoyed reading as much as the kids loved listening to. The idea was to collect these treasures over the years. Then, when my children are grown I would have a wonderful collection of Christmas stories to pull out each year and share with the grandchildren.
Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball. All but a few books are left. So this year, I’m starting over.
So, I thought I would share a few of my old favorites.
1. Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
By far one of my very favorite Christmas books to read aloud to young children is Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear.
It reads as though you are talking to the mouse:
“Hello little mouse. I see you’re ready for Christmas.”
“My goodness! What a lot of presents. Are they all for you?”
“But, little mouse, what about the big, hungry Bear in the cold, dark cave at the top of the hill?”
Don Wood’s illustrations are captivating. The expressions on the mouse’s face draw you into the story and as you read aloud, the dialog makes you part of the story.
The message of the book is to promote giving and being brave. Christmas is for everyone; it’s not all about you.
But if you are looking for something for children a little older, with a bit more spiritual meaning, I’ve got just the thing.
2. Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado
As with all of the Max Lucado books, the illustrations combined with the masterful story makes Jacob’s Gift a work of art.
This is the story of a gifted young carpenter working to finish a project for a contest. His teacher is a rabbi that cares about Jacob’s character and learning about God as much as his skills as a carpenter. After the rabbi teaches Jacob that giving to one of God’s children is like giving a gift to God himself, Jacob finds something better to do with his new feeding trough than winning a competition.
If you’re like me, and are drawn to history and human compassion, you’ll love this next one.
3. The Christmas Promise by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
This isn’t your typical, give-to-the-homeless-on-Christmas book. This story is set in the Depression era. A young girl and her daddy spend weeks riding freight trains.
This is about a man that has hit rock bottom and has to face his little girl. She isn’t sure if hobos even have Christmas. It’s about a daddy that is determined to find work, keep a promise, and make sure his little girl has a “good place” at Christmas.
It’s a beautiful blend of historical fiction and Christmas.
This year, I’m picking up an old tradition, and making it new again. Painting nails and having little girl tea parties are wonderful. But creating memories of reading great stories together doesn’t require large amounts of remover and lasts for generations.
What about you? What would you recommend this Christmas?