As soon as we started back to school and the long, lazy summer days shortened and the weather cooled, my brothers and sisters and I knew that our favorite season was nearing - Christmas!
Being part of a large family often meant "sharing" when you really didn't want to, and realizing that the new outfit you were hoping for - the one you imagined yourself wearing when you saw it at Gramercy's Department Store was a dream to be tucked away for now.
My brothers and sisters and I never felt deprived, as we were taught from an early age that most folks had much less than we did. We lived on a farm in a small town in Missouri. Every day we watched Papa come in to dinner after a long, exhausting day knowing all his efforts and hard work was for us. Mama didn't have to remind us either of her dedication to all of us. We saw it every day in stitched pants, mended socks, and endless cooking and cleaning.
All six of us except for little Ben, were expected to participate in all of the various daily chores. Now with the holidays approaching, there seemed to be a special excitement in anticipation of all the activities we would be undertaking.
But one of the most exciting and special parts of Christmas was sharing a part of each of us every year.
This unique act was the result of a gift that Papa had given to Mama on their first Christmas together as husband and wife.
As there were little funds for extras, Papa wanted Mama to have a special gift to mark this, their first Christmas. As a young boy, Papa was trained in wood carving and had a keen eye for choosing just the right piece needed.
He lovingly and painstakingly carved an angel with intricate chiseled wings and treated it with linseed oil.
On that first Christmas together he wrapped the angel and handed it to Mama with these words so often repeated by him every Christmas: "My dearest, I present this angel to you as a "Wishing Angel" with my wish that you will always continue to have hope in a dream, and that in sharing our love, we pass this wish to our children so that they too may share their own hopes and dreams."
From that Christmas so many years ago to now, the angel was carefully and reverently passed to each of us. Each of us shared a part of ourselves. Now that we all have our own families, the angel travels to each household where the tradition continues.
With that simple act of sharing while passing Papa's angel, we learned to respect each other's hopes and dreams, no matter what they might be. In doing so, Papa's vision for us all has continued.
I think Papa would be proud.