The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Columns

December 28, 2012

The promise of happiness for the new year ahead

It’s a time of year when many of us pause on the road we are traveling to reflect.

We notice the pathways, the twists and turns, the side roads and where they have taken us.

We started out the year with our eyes on the goals we set. They usually involve becoming a nicer, slimmer, more solvent person. Our expectations of achieving these goals — for the moment at least — make us happy and proud.

You could even say that a certain fantasy surrounds the holiday season.

A season of faith, a season filled with mystery and redemption and resurrection, a season of joy.

We celebrate because we believe in God. Our fundamental belief is the tie that binds us in ritual — in the water that washes over children at baptism, in the oil that anoints young people in confirmation, in the candlelight of wedding ceremonies.

And yet, who can explain this faith?

It is not quite logical to think of a child being born in a stable surrounded by animals, shepherds and three wise men who followed a star to find this straw-filled manger.

It was a journey that would change the world.

That is what I was thinking as I entered a local diner one evening last week. I sat down to enjoy a hamburger and cup of coffee.

Suddenly, I was aware of a young couple with a child at the table next to mine.

“Come on,” the mother said to the baby in her arms. “It’s time to greet your daddy.”

The teen-age mom uncovered the smiling boy’s face. His baggy fleece pajamas were the color of his big blue eyes.

Wide-eyed and waving one of his little fists, the child looked to be about 1  year old.

His father, who appeared to be only about a year older than the mom, stretched his arms out and the baby babbled happily as the mother handed him over.

The parents discussed the day’s events as they dined.

Something about the gifts they had received; something about making some small but vital repairs to a house they’d just rented.

They talked about getting fruit juice for Noah. The infant seemed to know they were talking about him, so he cracked a smile.

Then mom said members of the church had been generous. She had received a new coat for herself and blankets and pajamas for the child.

The young man said he knew where he could obtain a used battery, a gift from a friend. He said he had checked some of the classified ads in the newspaper, hoping to find work so he wouldn’t have to go out-of-state and leave the mother and child behind.

“I know you have, honey,” she consoled as she reached for the child.

“If we can just make it a little while longer,” she whispered. “I could get a job and help out with the expenses.”

The woman cuddled her little Noah, offering a bottle of milk, which the child latched onto with babyish enthusiasm.

The parents watched their son consume his dinner.

The father’s voice was soft when he observed: “He’s the hungriest little thing I’ve ever seen.” Then he stroked his son’s downy head. “Look, he’s enjoying himself.”

The mother beamed with happiness.

There was a silence. I looked over the sports pages of the newspaper, pretending to be oblivious to the conversation nearby.

Then little Noah emitted a loud burp with very little coaxing. The mom wiped the traces of milk from his mouth, propped the sleepy baby on her shoulder and sighed with satisfaction when tiny rosebud lips pressed into her neck. Her son snuggled close, seeking the mother’s warmth.

“I hope we get moved in by the first of the year?” she mused.

The father said he’d try to get the power hooked up and the TV working so they could watch the New Year come in at their new home.

She smiled, pulling the fleecy pajamas up around Noah’s cheeks. The boy slept secure in his mother’s arms.

Outside the snow began falling faster and faster. Who knows how long the winter will last, I thought. Maybe the couple will be on their feet by spring, surely by summer. I was pulling for them to make it to their home in the hills, their first New Year together, though I didn’t really know them.

As they left the restaurant, I thought of the Baby Jesus and the parents on the road in Bethlehem. Maybe it was just an epiphany, a rare moment of understanding.

I witnessed the wordless promise the young parents made to each other as they disappeared into the falling snow.

Somewhere they would ring in 2013. I wished them happiness and joy.   

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: jabb@suddenlink.net

 

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