Love, The Star…  A Story For Christmas Sunday,  2018 * 

Doug Norris  

It wasn’t as though there was a lack of decorations.  That wasn’t the reason for the diligent search.  There were enough shiny things in the box to submerge a dozen trees.

There were little shards of things that had been made out of salt-dough and painted by the kids, a bold plastic bauble from the ‘70’s with a cartoon Rudolph on one side and the words Logan’s Print Shop – We Put In A Good Word  on the other and it got hung on the tree because the Logans were coming by for eggnog and it was quite certain that they would look for it and then act all surprised and pleased when they saw it there… 

Never mind that Rudolph was loading beer into Santa’s sleigh and the elves were.. .    well, let’s just say that this was no Methodist Christmas ornament.   But there it was still, in the box…  A tangled pile of the ghosts of Christmas past.

No, it was not for lack of decorations, but there was one that had to be found.  So he was digging through things.  Stan was not given to excessive emotions or attachments about much in general, but it had suddenly taken on great importance that this be found, this decoration, and so he was on his knees looking through boxes and up the ladder in the tall cupboard and prowling through the dresser drawers in the guest room most of the day.  But it wasn’t to be found…

He could picture it…  Even the box.  In fact, perhaps it was because he could picture it that it had such power, for with it came all kinds of other pictures…  The missing piece was the last of the glass stars – fragile old things, glass so thin you wonder how they could make them, and shaped like no star you had ever seen, long points top and bottom so you knew it was the holy star…  The paint wore off and in spots you could see through them, and in time they began to disappear, one at a time.  Broken, stepped on…  There had been eight in the set, and the cardboard box had a see through lid – Stan could even picture the price tag in the corner – The Village Pharmacy – 49 cents.   

He remembered the day, too.  It was back when there was more snow – imagination always makes the snow higher and whiter, the wind less biting and the sky warmer…  No doubt there was slush, too, and salt stains on their cuffs, but it seemed so magical then…  

Their first Christmas together, and a tree that was more of a bush, really, propped in the corner of their apartment, a walk to the Village Pharmacy in a gentle snow to find just the right 

 ornaments – because they were a family now, and families have ornaments.  And you add some each year, and you have to start somewhere, so they bought these eight glass stars and hung them and hugged and listened to O Holy Night and read the story in Luke’s gospel and it felt right and now the stars are all gone but one and it seems the most important thing of all to find that last one and hang it, high and proud.

She was gone now.  Lillian.  He just called her Mother.  She died and it was such a surprise to him, having never thought of the possibility of waking up or eating or listening to Bing Crosby  sing carols and her not there with him – such a surprise that it was some time before surprise became pain, and then just a numbness, like part of him, some limb, had fallen asleep and he could still make his way around, just there was a tingling and an expectancy, like an unfinished sentence.

She was gone long enough now that it didn’t stab at him any more when he said it, but she was a tender place in him – such is the love that never fails…  The love that never fails – that’s what the Reverend said at the funeral – things said there that they never would never have said – not out loud – while she lived – the love that never fails.

He still had some pieces of that day – a dried rose, a fragment of a card someone had sent, pinned to the board in the hall.  He knew the words : “more precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses…”  And most days he was fine, but today he needed to touch that last glass star.

 

It was Thomas who finally found it.  An unlikely success.  Thomas the eldest son.  It needs to be said that his being there was more likely a sign of some remnant of filial duty than any desire to be with Stan.  Not that dutiful son-ship had figured large in Thomas’s life – but sometimes it is exactly the shred, the whisper, the very thing that has only a fingernail grasp on life that turns out to be the very thing that is redeeming…

There was no anger between them.  That might actually have helped.  Just a gap of feeling neither could bridge, two big old ships marooned in a calm.  So they spoke of sports, politics, work, but never of the heart, and never, never, of their grief.

Ironically, it only took Thomas minutes to find the missing star, when he arrived, late Christmas Eve.  Stan was in a full-fledged stew about it by then, and it just seemed easier to join in the search than to question it.

The old box was wedged into the bottom of a plastic bucket filled almost to overflowing with  strings of Christmas lights, some of them going back to the days of the old cloth covered wires.  They had kicked around for years, these lights – it became a ritual – each year Stan would empty out the bucket and try to untangle these skeins of wire and bulbs and figure out which ones worked and which ones didn’t and the boys, when they were young, would watch with great interest and sometimes they would learn new words – words they weren’t going to learn in Kindergarten or Sunday school…    

So Thomas found the last glass star in the basket of lights.  They had it.  For a moment.  He knew, as soon as he did it, that he shouldn’t have.  That it was a flippant, careless thing to do.  He threw it to Stan, who was sitting across the room, and as soon as it left his hand, he knew.  

Like a word barely out of the mouth before you want to haul it back, reel it in before it hurts someone, say you didn’t mean it – he tossed the star over, and knew right away it would never make it.  Too far out for him to bring back, not far enough for Stan to ever catch…

And for a moment it hung there – poised between them – and in that moment something stunning happened.  Though they would never speak of it as such, would even deny that they believed in such childish things, there was a miracle..

The last glass star hung there that split second, in its worn frailty, hung there as if it had work yet to do…  And at that moment a light came in through the night window, and struck the star as it hung – it shone right through that ancient, tattered symbol of a worn and wearied holiday – and for that moment, for one of those eternal seconds, it lit the room, lit the eyes of these two men who looked at each other.

Down it had come, some light from some sun burning somewhere thousands of light years away, some light that had been patiently making its way to earth for millennia – while Romans built roads, on it came – while Jesus wept over Lazarus and danced with sinners and while empires rose and fell, on it came…  

And in its light these two saw each other, maybe for the first time ever really saw each other, through the eyes of the soul – saw in each other all the ones they had ever loved, the tears they had shed…  Saw that there was a life in them – no, that they were in a life that went beyond them, a life with no end…  That they were all still together after all.

And in that moment it all made sense – all they had ever thought, wondered about  – all the songs they had ever sung, all the sermons they had ever sat through…

‘More precious was the light in your eyes…’        Down through the years came this light which is life…  ‘O Ancient Love !    Processing through the ages !’

It filled them and then it was gone.  And the last glass star fell, its work done.  Fell, broke into a hundred glittering shards, holy with light…

And they knew, now, something they might never speak.  These two lonely, half broken men – God was born.  They were born.  It was the way of things.  Now they knew.  It would be enough…  More than enough.  

Merry Christmas, they said, as they swept…  Merry Christmas

* Story first published 1998, United Church Observer