LESLIE CRISS: Simple musical toy adds immeasurable worth to Christmas

By Leslie Criss | NEMS Daily Journal

“When we recall Christmas past,
we usually find that the simplest things –
not the great occasions – give off
the greatest glow of happiness.”
– Bob Hope

“Blessed is the season which engages
the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
– Hamilton Wright Mabie

Christmas 2010 was, in many ways, the very best. For the first time in my 50-plus years, we had what Bing and I’ve been dreaming of – a white Christmas. It was well worth the wait. Waking up to a beautiful snowfall is something I’ll not forget.
Last Christmas was also one of the saddest, thanks to a duo of diagnoses unfairly delivered to my mom. To say she did not enjoy the holiday seems inaccurate. She simply was not fully present, if that makes any sense.
This wonderful woman, every Christmas I can recall, slowly and meticulously unwrapped each of her gifts before proclaiming whatever was finally revealed as “the most beautiful” or “the best gift ever.”
Not so, last year.
I had to help her unwrap her gifts. And then I had to ask, “Do you like it, Mom?” Sometimes she responded, sometimes not.
My sister and I sadly wondered where our mother had gone.
The good news, of course, is that in the spring she experienced some sort of awakening, if you will. And for several months before her recent death, those of us who loved her became beneficiaries of Mom’s wit and wisdom, for which we will forever be grateful.
But, back to last Christmas, which certainly held its own glimpses of grace despite the melancholy.
Several years ago, I bought a few Hallmark cards just so I could get a “deal” on this great animated snowman. I’m a fool for all things snow-related.
The snowman, complete with top hat and colorful scarf, sits at an upright piano strung with Christmas lights and dusted with snow. Push the proper place and the snowman, just like Frosty, comes to life, swaying back and forth as he plays the piano and sings a trio of Christmas tunes, ending with “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”
The snowman was not too far away from Mom, and as I walked past it early on Christmas Eve, I activated the polar piano player. Suddenly, Mom perked up and a smile, small but significant, appeared.
I moved the snowman closer, so she could reach out and make it sing whenever she wanted.
For the rest of the Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day, Mom reveled in making that festive friend of Frosty’s perform. That $12 musical toy became the highlight of Mama’s Christmas.
And the smiles and sheer joy it brought her became the highlight for those of us who loved her.
A simple but priceless gift.
A memory to treasure.
leslie.criss@journalinc.com