26: A Christmas Without Music

It was a week before Christmas. I sang along with the carols on the CD player as I washed my mixing bowls and scrubbed down the counters. The scent of pine from our tree mingling with the cookies baking in the oven brought a smile to my face, and I reveled in the Christmas spirit.

“Give that back, it’s mine!”

“I had it first.”

“Did not, baby.”

I sighed as another bout of squabbling broke out between two of my five children. I thought Christmas was supposed to be about love and miracles.

I became increasingly frustrated as the fighting rose in pitch, drowning out the carols. I tossed my oven mitts on the floor and turned to storm out of the kitchen, determined to put an end to the fighting once and for all.

Beep. Beep. Beep. The timer sounded signaling the cookies were ready to be plucked from the oven. I threw up my hands, turned and yanked it open. The children’s voices had settled some, but my frustrations hadn’t. My mind was running over the lecture they would receive when a sharp pain coursed through my hand.

I yelped and yanked my hand back, staring at it dumbfoundedly. Idiot. I cursed myself as I spotted the mitts I had thrown on the floor. I dashed to the sink and cranked the water on cold. Stupid. Stupid.

“Mom are you okay?”


“What did you do?”

“Mommy, mommy ‘kay?”

I looked at the faces of my five young children clustered around the counter vying for the best spot to see what was going on. Irritation seeped into my voice. “I grabbed the blasted pan with my bare hand.”

Concern flooded my oldest daughter’s face. “Mom! Will you be okay?”

“I’ll be fine. It wouldn’t have happen—” I cut myself off. I wouldn’t bring the spirit of Christmas back into the home by tossing off petty accusations. “It was an accident.”

I shut off the water and gently towel-dried my hand. The burning sensation seared my fingertips and angry red blisters were beginning to appear. “Get me the burn cream and band-aids.”

I couldn’t help but sigh as my three oldest raced each other down the hall to the bathroom, and was amazed when no one fought or complained about being shoved out of the way. I applied the cream and band-aids and examined my three burnt fingers. My second youngest boy toddled around the corner.

“Kiss?” He smacked his lips together, and I lowered my throbbing fingers to him.

“It’ll be fine now that Jacob kissed it,” Emily, the third, announced.

I smiled at her and tried not to cringe as I scooped a crying James, the youngest, into my arms.

“Yeah, Mom,” Elizabeth said, “they’ll be ready to play the piano in the Christmas program, no sweat.”

I stared at her in horror. I had completely forgotten about the program. I looked blankly at my fingers. I thought of the complicated passages I had worked on and practiced and knew the possibility of obtaining a sub who would be ready to play in two days was impossible. Tears pricked my eyes as another horrible thought washed through my mind. It would be a Christmas without music. There would be no more evenings of us gathered around the piano singing carols at the top of our lungs. It was one of the rare moments when the kids never fought because their mouths were to busy doing something else. Somehow I knew this was going to be the worst Christmas ever, and the new outburst of squabbling in the next room confirmed it. What I really need is a Christmas miracle.

“Hello all you lucky people, I’m home!” my husband called as he opened the door.

A spontaneous smile found its way to my face as my husband made his entrance amidst cheers and flying tackles. I tried to plaster that smile in place, and hung back waiting when he turned to me.

“Don’t I get my hug?”

I nodded and stepped forward. He read my face immediately.

“What’s wrong?”

I mutely held up my fingers as tears began spilling down my cheeks. Between my garbled mumblings and the children’s excited additions he finally managed to discover what happened. “What do I do?”

He wrapped his arms around me and a squeaky whisper worked its way out of my throat. “Do you think you could give me a blessing? To most people three fingers wouldn’t be a big deal, but—” I broke off, fighting the wave of intense emotion sweeping through me. “But, I’m a pianist, and music means so much to me and our family, especially now. Besides, the ward Christmas program is the day after tomorrow.”

“Of course.” He walked to the phone and dialed Brother Johnson’s number. After a brief explanation he hung up. “He’ll be down in just a few minutes.”

I nodded my head and gathered the children together.

That evening was strangely quiet as we put the kids to bed without our traditional singing first. As I came out from the last hugs and kisses, my eyes landed on the piano. I remembered briefly the promise I was made in the blessing. “Though you’re fingers will hurt, you will feel no pain when you play the piano.” I glanced down at my band-aid clad hand. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t ignore the burning pulse in my fingers, and I shook my head. I’ll try it in the morning.

Saturday dawned with four excited children bouncing on our bed, and the fifth watching with wide expectant eyes from his nearby crib.

“Wake up Mom and Dad, it’s snowing!” Dorothy called.

I grinned as white snow-light filtered through our window. Snow in the Northwest just before Christmas was extremely rare. We piled into the kitchen and stood around the sliding glass door watching the flurries descend.

“How about some hot chocolate? I’ll get it ready while you practice. The music will make the mood complete.” My husband grinned at the cheering children as he put water on the stove and looked at me expectantly.

I made my way to the piano and pulled out the Christmas music for the program. I laid out the sheets of music and let my fingers hover a moment above the keys. The intense burning had increased, if anything, over night and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the pain I knew would come. My fingers became a yo-yo lowering slightly and then bouncing back up as I chickened out.

“The cocoa is ready,” Paul called from the kitchen.

I sighed in relief and bolted from the bench, joining my children as they swarmed around the table.

The day was full of snowmen and snowball fights and with all the excitement the kids weren’t fighting. The world looked white and pure, but nothing had changed in my fingers— they still throbbed, and I was still afraid to play in the Christmas program the next day.

Sunday morning I jolted awake as my fingers brushed against my pillow causing waves of pain to surge through me. Light was just beginning to creep around the edges of the curtains and I realized no one else was up. I tiptoed out to the main room and stood staring at the piano. The promise I had received pounded in time to the throbbing in my fingers. Well, do you have faith or don’t you? I scolded myself and forced my body onto the bench. The music hadn’t moved since the day before and I tentatively began stroking the keys, picking up speed as the pain eased from my fingers. I ran through each song, saving the hardest for last.

“You’re playing!” My husband stood at the entrance to the room with the baby in his arms.

My fingers came to an abrupt halt as I smiled back at his grinning face. “Yes. I—” I sucked in my breath as the burning pain returned once more. I cringed and chuckled slightly. “I think I had better keep playing.”

I promptly turned back to the piano midst my husband’s laughter. Once again, the minute I began to play the pain fled from my fingers. The difficult fast passages flew by like they were nothing. I knew Heavenly Father was keeping his promise. I smiled and thought of my desire for a Christmas miracle. Today I would play the music for the choir and musical numbers in the Christmas program during Sacrament meeting. The hearts of the congregation would be touched, and I wouldn’t let anyone down.

My playing was interrupted by a blinding light as Elizabeth opened the curtains. “Guys, come look! There is so much snow!”

We crowded around the window in amazement. The snow was over a foot deep and as we shoveled a way out we found a thick layer of ice beneath it. The children were in awe. They had never experienced snow this deep, let alone just before Christmas.

Paul and I exchanged meaningful looks. “You don’t suppose they would c—” The ringing phone cut me off and I watched as he answered it. After a short exchange he turned to me and confirmed my thoughts.

“Church is canceled. The roads are really bad.”

“But, the Christmas program,” I protested.

“They will have it next week.”

“But that can’t happen. I mean, my fingers— my fingers were healed because I needed to play in the Christmas program.” I hesitated. “If not for the Christmas program, then why?”

“Maybe Heavenly Father wanted to try your faith,” my husband suggested. I nodded my head and proceeded to mull over the many thoughts and questions surging through my mind. He interrupted my thoughts. “Let’s have a homemade Sunday school class since we can’t attend church.”

Later that afternoon, I looked at my family gathered around me and began my lesson. “Let’s start with reading in Mosiah about what King Benjamin taught about service.” My eye was drawn to Dorothy as her older sister read. I watched as she made faces at the baby and fiddled with the lint on the carpet. Pushing down the feelings of frustration I continued. “What does service have to do with Jesus Christ?”

Emily raised her hand eagerly, but while she answered I once again found my eyes drifting back to my second oldest as she rolled on the floor and poked her brother, making him squeal. Please, I thought desperately, I don’t want to get angry today? How can I reach her? I waited a moment, trying to push the rising heat back down into the pit of my stomach.

Music. Teach her with music.

I rose and went to the piano and opened the children’s songbook to “He sent His Son.” The spirit swelled as I listened to my family gathered around singing as loud as they could. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dorothy. Her eyes were bright with joy, her mouth, though opened wide in song, sported a beautiful smile. We finished that song and launched into “Away in a Manger”. While I listened to Dorothy’s voice rising above and carrying the others, tears came to my eyes as the Holy Ghost spoke to my heart.

Suddenly it all made sense. It wasn’t about Christmas programs and fancy piano passages, or even nightly singing around the piano. It was about bringing the spirit into our home when it was most needed. It was about the quiet Christmas miracle that crept in on a still and silent night.

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