An old Schaap story--Grandma's holiday prayers a thousand miles from home.
When she awoke, she heard the kids stirring at the tree, opening presents, arguing, in fact. She brushed back her hair, pulled on her housecoat and slippers, and opened the door. It wasn’t quite fully morning, but the kids had all the wrappings off of dozens of presents. Too many. It wasn’t pleasant.
She walked into the spacious living room, the blinds over all those windows to the east still closed.
“What’s the deal?” she said.
Tosha said Edmund had taken her Beanie Baby and hid it somewhere and she was mad and she was going to get back at him somehow because it just wasn’t fair and he was a jerk too and he always was. It was Christmas morning. Edmund looked at his sister as if she were a dishrag.
She had enough. “Maybe we ought to go to church,” she told them, out of nowhere at all. “You and me–maybe the three of us should go to church together this morning.”
“Why?” Tosha said.
“Because it’s Christmas,” she told her. “Because it’s Christmas and we’re going to celebrate the birth of our Savior.”
“I’m not going,” Edmund said. “I got these great toys.”
“You’ve got a great Savior,” she told her grandson.
His eyes, blank as clay, hurt her more than a fist because she knew she was speaking a language he didn’t begin to understand. Their own grandson looked at her as if Jesus were a nobody. That Jack didn’t see it himself was a blessing.
Edmund shoved his glasses up on his nose. “Some other time, all right?” he said. “Look at this, Grandma–Nimbus Racer.” He held up a electronic game.
She wanted to pray, right there in front of them, but right then, even though the condo was top floor, she was sure there was nothing but thick cement between her and the Lord. The children didn’t know a thing. They hadn’t found anything, all right–they hadn’t even looked.
“I think we ought to go,” she said.
“It’s Christmas,” Edmund chirped. “Why do we got to go to church?”
Her insides felt like that screen saver, turning inside and out again and again, and she realized just then that if she were to open her mouth, there would be no words, only tears–tears that would confuse them. So she walked to the kitchen, fiddled with the coffee maker, got it going, then went to the west windows.
It was Christmas morning, she reminded herself, and she couldn’t help herself but she wished just then that she were with Jack and the Lord. There was too much for her to do here, too much hard work and too much sadness, and she couldn’t do it alone.
She took hold of the strings of the blinds and opened them with a few rapid jerks. Sunlight, Christmas morning sunlight, spilled in like a waterfall, dousing the lights on the tree. Deliberately, she looked away from Christmas in the condo and over the street beneath them, the past the trees, then across the glaze of water west; and when she raised her eyes to the mountains, in a flash, in a moment, the whole fancy condo seemed to disappear–the Christmas tree behind her, the kitchen, the brewing coffee, everything behind her seemed to vanish, the children’s voices dimmed, her own sharp fears muted in the sheer majesty of what she’d suddenly, almost magically, become witness to; because even though the neighborhood beneath the condo was in shadows, the sun, coming up far behind them, stretched its brilliant glory through the crystal morning air all the way across the Sound to hold those monstrous snow-capped Olympics in its own astonishing splendor. There they stood–those glorifying mountains–as if forever. There they stood like might and power. There they stood, a landscape divinely painted across the darkened world, beaming holiness and majesty in the crystalline dawn of a perfect Christmas morning.
“Oh, my God,” she said, because what she saw was far more than mountain beauty. He was here, all right, she told herself. He’s here sure enough.
“What, Grandma?” Tosha said, coming up behind her. “What do you see?”
She wrapped her arm around her granddaughter.
“Who’s out there?” Tosha said, on tiptoes.
What could she say? “Jesus,” her grandma told her. “He’s always there.”
“Where?” Tosha asked.
She picked up her granddaughter. “Look at those mountains,” she said. “Just look at them.”
Tosha leaned her face closer to the window. “Is he a ghost?” she said.
“No,” she told her, “he’s alive.”
“I don’t see him,” she said. “I see the mountains and I see the Sound, and there’s a boat out there, but where is Jesus?” She looked at her grandmother almost painfully. “Grandma, I want to see Jesus.”
She already had her granddaughter in her arms, so the hug she gave her wasn’t difficult or awkward. “Amen,” she said, biting her lip, because a prayer she’d never finished were coming to a close maybe, even if it were just for a moment.
“Let’s just you and me go, Tosha, honey,” Jan said. “This time, this morning, just let’s you and me go. I want you to see him too.”