LOVE Story: Shabby Peace

It was just a shabby little basement apartment, far too damp for a newborn baby, but it was all they could afford. It was a cold, damp, rainy, west-coast November afternoon when Carol’s Aunt and Uncle brought little baby Liam home from the hospital. The argument which they were having when they got out of the car seemed like it had been underway for quite some time. Carol was waiting in the driveway to meet her new baby cousin, with her four-year-old cousin Michael and her parents. They had spent the morning getting the shabby little apartment ready for the new baby’s arrival and trying to convince six-year-old Michael that a new baby brother was a wonderful thing. Carol had no idea what her Aunt and Uncle were arguing about. She heard her mother mutter something about saving their battle for another time; after all they were about introduce Michael to his new baby brother Liam.

Carol was just thirteen when Liam made his appearance in the world. In those days, thirteen was considered a prime age for babysitting. So, so every day after school, Carol would head over to Aunt Val’s and Uncle Dave’s to help out. It was Carol’s job to take Liam for a walk each afternoon so that her Aunt Val could get supper on the table. Carol would pack Liam up in his pram, regardless of the weather and head for the park. Michael would tag along behind them.

In the weeks which followed Liam’s arrival, Michael changed quite a bit. He became unusually whiney. He didn’t seem to enjoy much in his little life. He whined about everything. He whined about going to the park and he whined about having to leave the park. He whined whenever he was told to be quiet because his baby brother was sleeping, and he whined when he was asked to help with anything which had anything to do with his baby brother. Carol’s Mom said that all this was very normal; children don’t much like it when a new baby takes the attention of their parents. Carol disagreed with her mother about the cause of Michael’s behaviour, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She was convinced that Michael’s whining had more to do with his parents’ whining. Ever since they had brought Liam home from the hospital, Val and Dave had taken up whining themselves. They whined about dirty diapers, about being tired all the time, about the messy apartment, about the crying baby, about how small and shabby the apartment was and about how much whining Michael was doing. When they weren’t whining, Val and Dave were actually fighting. They fought about everything. They fought about whether or not the baby should sleep in their bedroom. They fought about whether or not Michael should be sent to his room as punishment for waking up his baby brother. They fought about dinner being late; about whether or not Uncle Dave should have to change dirty diapers because he was too tired from working all day. And they were always arguing about money. So, as Christmas approached, they argued about how they were going to pay for Christmas. The more they argued, the whiner Michael became.

One afternoon, Carol arrived to find Aunt Val screaming at Michael because he’d been playing with the contents of Liam’s diaper bag and had managed to shake talcum powder all over everything in the room. When Val saw Carol, she pointed to the pram and said that she had better take the kids out and that she shouldn’t bring them back until she’d had some peace.

Judging by the state of the living room, Carol figured that a trip to the park wouldn’t quite cut it – so she took her little cousins home with her. Carol’s Mom told Carol and little Michael not to worry. She explained that Val and Dave were just having trouble coping and that all that they needed was a little peace. Carol’s Dad headed over to the shabby apartment and picked up enough supplies, so that the kids could stay with them for the weekend.

The next morning Val came by and explained to Michael that he was going to stay with his and Aunt and Uncle for a few days so that she and his Dad could get a little peace. She told Michael that she had opened his piggy bank and brought his Christmas money so that he could get his Christmas shopping done. Carol was charged with the responsibility of helping Michael buy Christmas presents for his Mom and Dad and new baby brother with a grand total of eight dollars. Carol wasn’t too happy with this task because she had her own shopping to do and her own limited budget to overcome. She thought she had about twenty dollars to cover her own family and her little cousins.

When Michael and Carol headed into town to do their Christmas shopping, Carol figured they could get everything they needed in the drug store. But Michael wasn’t happy with the selection of goods in the drug store. He kept whining on about something he’d seen a few weeks ago down at Magee’s Furniture Store. Carol insisted that Michael didn’t have enough money to shop at the furniture store. Eight dollars would go farther at the drug store. And so, on Carol’s insistence, Michael had to buy an Old Spice soap on a rope for his Dad, some really cheap Yardley perfume for his mother and a small rattle for his baby brother. Michael was disgusted with his purchases and wouldn’t stop whining about the furniture store. Carol decided that she could do a better job of shopping if she came back to the drug store without Michael, so they headed home.

Carol’s Mom and Dad had some shopping of their own to do, so they left Carol to baby-sit Michael and Liam. Somehow, Carol doesn’t know when he did it, but she suspects he waited until she was changing Liam’s diaper, Michael disappeared. By the time her parents got home, Carol was convinced that Michael must have run away. Her Dad suspected that Michael probably just went home to the shabby little apartment and so he set off to see if he could find Michael. But Carol decided to check out a different idea. She got on her bike and headed straight for Magee’s furniture store.

When Carol got to the furniture store, Mr. Magee asked her if she was looking for anything in particular. She told him she was looking for a small boy about so high who would be wearing a red jacket. Mr. Magee smiled and told Carol that there was a young man who’d been admiring the ornaments at the back of the store for about an hour. Carol headed to the back of the store and found Michael admiring a collection of snow globes. Michael had his eye on one snow-globe in particular. It contained a small nativity scene, complete with Mary and Joseph, and shepherds and an ever so tiny baby Jesus. Perched atop the stable was an angel. Michael carefully showed Carol what happened after the globe was turned upside down and as the snow fell on the small nativity, Michael explained that Mr. Magee had told him that the Angel was a special messenger from God who had brought good news to all the world. He pointed to the words inscribed on the base of the globe and said that Mr. Magee had told him that they spelled “peace.”

Carol told Michael that they said a little more than that. The words actually spelled out, “Peace on Earth.” Michael just smiled up at Carol, and he insisted that the snow-globe was the perfect present for his Mom and Dad. Carol explained that the price tag was nine dollars and besides he’d already bought some lovely gifts for Christmas.

Michael didn’t react the way Carol expected he would. She figured he’d start up with the whining again, but instead he just looked up at her with sad eyes and insisted that peace was just exactly what his Mom and Dad really wanted for Christmas. Carol brushed away the tears from his eyes and suggested that it was time they were going. Michael turned the globe upside down one more time and as the snow fell on the holy family they set off for home. On the way home, Michael wouldn’t stop talking about the snow globe. He went on and on about what happened when you turn the world upside down. Carol held on tight to his hand and explained to him that they simply didn’t have time to worry about the snow globe. They had to get ready because Christmas was coming.

Later when Michael and Liam were safely back at home with their well-rested Mom and Dad, Carol returned to the furniture store on her own. The next day, Carol arranged to make an invaluable trade with her little cousin Michael. When Christmas arrived, Carol’s Father didn’t seem to mind that she gave him an Old Spice soap on a rope even though he’d given up using Old Spice for a long time. Her Mom, who never wore perfume, actually seemed delighted with the tiny bottle of cheap perfume that Carol gave her. Baby Liam was too little to notice the rattle which Carol carefully pinned to his bib.

But Aunt Val and Uncle Dave seemed positively overjoyed with the snow glob which little Michael proudly presented to them. Michael carefully explained that the inscription on the bottom said, Peace on Earth and that meant that it wasn’t just a present for his Mom and Dad but for everyone.

That little snow glob is sitting on Val and Dave’s mantle each and every Christmas Eve as they wait for their grown sons to arrive to celebrate. The message is still the same, Peace on Earth, and the truth is that Peace on Earth still begins with peace at home. Whether that home is in a lowly stable in Bethlehem, or a shabby little basement apartment, or indeed in your home.  Peace on Earth begins when we take the time to see, the LOVE which IS DIVINE, born for us over and over, and over again.

May you know the peace which surpasses all our understanding in your home so that there may be Peace on Earth.

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