You Must Become As A Little Child
Nancy, the mother, relates: "We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi there.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high-chair tray. His eyes were wide with excitement, and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast, and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty, and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.
His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik.
My husband and I exchanged looks, as if to say, 'What do we do?' Erik continued to laugh and answer, 'Hi, hi there.'
Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.
"Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya know patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.'
Nobody thought the old man was cute.
He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed.
We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire
for the admiring skid-row bum, who, in turn, reciprocated with his cute
"Lord, just let me out of here
before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I
turned my back trying to side-step him and avoid any air he might be
breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a
"Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik, in an act of total trust, love, and submission, laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labor - gently, so gently cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck.
"The old man rocked and cradled
Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He
said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.' Somehow, I
managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his
chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the
man said,"God bless you, ma'am. You've given me my Christmas gift."
I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the
car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why
I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.'
Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I
had cut back on nonessential obligations -- extensive card writing, endless baking,
decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to
appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.