One of our first Christmases as parents was spent in Florida with my in-laws. We were to enjoy a Florida tradition on Sanibel Island: A simple, quiet Christmas Eve service on the beach. However, as young parents, to guarantee “simple and quiet” required a LOT of preparation. I’m big into preparation. In fact, I’m often guilty of missing the entire message of an event because I’m either preparing to attend or preparing to leave.
You can’t take a baby anywhere without a LOT of stuff: Crackers, cookies, Cheerios, raisins, Gold Fish crackers, apple sauce, bananas, bottles, teething rings, pacifier, face wipes, diapers, baby wipes, powder, plastic pants (both child-size and adult size), bibs, three clean sets of clothes (for both child and adult), special puppy toy, special kitty toy, special blanket, pajamas, play pen, stroller, crib, car seat — and this is just to step outside to check the mail.
The weather was perfect that evening. The sun was setting through the Palm trees. Seagulls flew overhead and porpoises calmly jumped in the nearby gulf. A small congregation quietly sat in the sand near the lighthouse while pastor and choir reverently waited on a makeshift stage to announce the birth of Christ. In this tranquil scene entered a beautiful young mother carrying a golden-haired baby girl. Alongside them was a father dragging a U-Haul packed with baby junk through sand dunes — occasionally ramming palm trees and knocking over small grandparents wearing Christmas sweaters.
We arrived at the service early in order to unpack, unload and arrange everything on our beach blanket. “Cheerios — check. Diapers — Check. Juice — [Silence.] Juice — [Still silence.]” We forgot the most important thing on the list!!! This was unthinkable!!! Our baby girl (Fair Maiden #1) couldn’t go ten minutes without juice. We knew we were too far from the house to go back so we would have to keep her distracted for nearly 40 minutes (40 minutes can seem like eternity to young parents). So we quietly, yet frantically, informed the grandparents, congregation, choir members and pastor “WHATEVER YOU SAY, DON’T MENTION J – U – I – C – E.”
My wife and I were on edge during the Christmas hymns. Fair Maiden quietly ate her Cheerios. I was looking for a pacifier during the pastor’s message. Fair Maiden quietly ate her Gold Fish crackers. The choir sang a special song. I was looking for diapers. Fair Maiden quietly spit up her Cheerios and Gold Fish crackers. The service was coming to a close and the congregation was asked to participate in a responsive reading of the Christmas Story from the Bible. In ten minutes all would be fine as long as nobody mentioned J – U – I – C – E.
Pastor: “There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem saying . . . ”
Congregation: “Where is He that is born, the King of the Jews?”
Fair Maiden: “Juice?”
Calvin G. Roso © December 2013