The old mahogany clock ushered in the hour with twelve baritone dongs as the haunting melody of Handel’s “Messiah” caressed the air with the hope and peace of Christmastime. Cocooned in the warmth of a paisley throw, Jana sat opening, reading, and responding to each of the Christmas cards that had been stacking ten and twenty high atop her library desk for weeks. Yet, Jana’s heart was not filled with the joy of the season; rather it was overflowing with loss of her mother.
Jana wished she could be begging her mother for forgiveness for any ills that Jana may have caused her, but instead she was writing out Christmas cards with little passion. This season’s stock phrase was – "Thank you for your Christmas card and your condolences on the loss of my mother..."
While reaching for the next card among the now dwindling stacks, another card tucked in sideways amongst the milieu caught her eye. The ebony colored ink with its choppy block printing made a striking contrast to the snowy white of the envelope…and was somehow familiar. There was no return address on either the front or back of the envelope. With a little apprehension, Jana picked up her small silver opener and worked the gum paste off her anonymous card. As she pulled the card from its white surround, a familiar scene of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in a shimmery set of swaddling cloths emerged. And, as she gazed at the typical Christmas scene, Jana felt as if there was something peculiar about this card. She had seen it before. But where was it from? The pale crinkling brown edge of the card gave Jana a slight clue. She hastily opened it, causing two small scraps of pale pink paper to fall upon her cracked-leather blotter. As the papers fell, Jana realized that it was not just any card, but a card that she had given to her mother years ago. With a well of unshed tears pooling at the corners of her eyes, Jana read the words she had once written:
Mam, I’m sorry I broke your pie plate.
I hope you can forgive me.
We will still have a wonderful Christmas.
Jana couldn’t believe she was holding this card. She remembered the incident quite fondly. She had been attempting to make her mother a Pumpkin Pie in celebration of her December birthday when she dropped the pie plate and all its contents. She had given this card to her mother that evening instead of the pie she had made. But why was the card being returned to her now?
Jana set the card aside and picked up the two scraps of paper. The first bore her name in her mother’s familiar scrawl. The other paper was addressed to her as well, and was done with the same awkward handwriting Jana had noticed on the front of the envelope. It was her Uncle Seamus’ handwriting! She hadn’t recognized it at first since he so seldom wrote cards or letters, it read:
I know this will be hard for you, but my sister had this card sitting at her writing desk prepared to send off to you. I hope it will ease your heart a little...
Jana picked up the other note and slowly unfolded it.
I came across this card in a pile of old Christmas cards I was going through…just for the fun of it, you know. I saw this one from my girl and I thought you might get a kick out of having it back. I hope it brings fond memories to your heart as it did mine. And, just in case I forgot to tell you then, Jana, you are forgiven. I will always forgive you anything. I love you.
The card was dated November 28, the same day her mother had died. Jana brought the note to her face, inhaled the sweet cinnamon-clove scent of her mother, and felt a sense of peace. Christmas was a time of joy, even in the midst of great sorrow. Jana realized that during this magical time, one forgotten Christmas card might just hold a slice of forgiveness, and not just from the words written within. Sometimes the picture of the sweet babe on the front of the card may be all the reminder needed…
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