It was about two weeks before Christmas when my children’s grandmas let me know that boxes would be arriving at our house from them and that we could just wrap up the boxes on the spot, no need to open them up and re-wrap the gifts.
So one morning we had a total of 3 boxes arrive so I just knew they were from the grandmas and I wrapped them up and put them under the tree with my daughter’s name on them and went back to…I don’t know…playing animals with my baby or reading “Simple Simon Met a Pieman” for the 47th time that morning.
We decided to have our little family Christmas with the four of us the Saturday before Christmas as we were flying out on Christmas Day and didn’t think it would be that nice to have the kids open up all their new gifts and then leave them instantly for the airport. So Darren and I stayed up that Friday night stuffing oranges in the stockings and setting up the little wooden play kitchen and the baby doll and cradle we got for our son. We arranged our daughter’s spa kit (we bought her a nice robe and some oils) and collapsed into bed excited for what the morning would bring.
In our house each person gets 3 gifts and that’s it: something you want, something you need and a surprise. I think I learned that from the book Money Secrets of the Amish (which was not written well, but had some practical and fun tips for being mindful about money). I say this because gift time goes fast in our house so our 11-year-old, especially, is very aware of the quickly dwindling pile of presents in front of her. But this year she had many more than expected.
In the morning we passed out all the presents and our daughter’s pile seemed especially gigantic. She opened the very first box, peered inside then looked at me and said, “Uh, Mom? Someone got me a dead plant.” Darren and I cocked our heads and peered into the box and it was true it had a dead plant in it. But it was not meant for her!
It was a gift meant for me from Ruth and I had quickly wrapped it without noting the huge printed instructions on the outside that started with, “OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”
So Gigi was mildly disappointed but carried on with the opening but this discovery had me worried. Had I killed this plant? Was my rush to just get presents under the tree a symptom of something I’d ignored?
Here sat this Amaryllis wrapped and under the tree for a good week, if not longer, without water or sunlight or attention.
We were concerned about it because we were heading off for a week and felt certain it would not survive (if it was even alive to begin with). We poked around the dirt and Darren gave me the shrug that said, “I think we’ve lost it.” But I was determined to at least give this dry, woody stump some water just to see what might happen.
I watered it and actually let the roots soak in a dish of water for three days. I also left the fluorescent lights in the bathroom on overnight so it could get stimulated since we were in an overcast gloom during this time in Minnesota. Then all I could do was say a little prayer that it would make it by the time we got back but I had my doubts because when we left it looked exactly the same: a plant cadaver.
Well, when we returned to the plant, finally home after six days had passed where this plant had absolutely no water, no light and a very cooled down house, there it was: the faintest, light green tongue licking up from the folds of that gnarled brown bulb. We all leaned over it, even our baby, expecting it to…I don’t know: rush up to our faces and give us a kiss!
It lived! And you’d think this is an Easter reflection, but it isn’t. This seemingly dead plant that I’d once considered just tossing in the trash was now completely flourishing and gorgeous, standing like a preteen—a bit self-conscious but fresh and lovely in the corner of the bathroom sink.
It was and is, this beautiful reminder of advent—the worry over too much neglect, too much darkness…the waiting like the wise men…the watching like the shepherds…the nurturing like Mary…the intensity of the surprise of that slip of green which is Jesus, which is the promise that there is goodness to come, that there is hope, that there are sturdy leaves and gorgeous blooms to come…if only we can wait and pray and nurture and know.
I love the flower. I love the birth of Emmanuel. I wanted to share this story because for the first time ever for me, I have this physical reminder of the birth of Jesus—this flower growing up and I am grateful to have it since in the past the Christmas story comes and goes too quickly for me and I don’t want to so easily forget this miracle of Jesus’ birth and I hope you don’t either.