Picture a small whitewashed clapboard farmhouse framed by a wraparound porch, nestled atop a humble acreage, dusted with snow, under a starlit sky.
It is so still you can hear the cattle lowing in the barn. So cold your breath lingers on the air.
Outside, a solitary man, gingerly climbs to the roof. In his hands two wooden dowels attached to a pair of weathered leather boots.
Inside a child, an anxious little boy, stands transfixed at the top of the stairs, just outside his bedroom door. Only his sister's embrace prevents him from stealing down the steps.
The tap, tap, tap of boots on the rooftop echoes in the upstairs hallway, and the child, eyes wide, now on tiptoes, gazes overhead.
His delight is palpable.
Afraid to move, yet eager to see, he holds his breath.
Shhh, they say.
Close your eyes.
Time for bed.
Shhh, he will not come while you're awake.
To bed then. Snuggled down under a lump of bedclothes, a final kiss good night and a pinpoint of light sneaks under the door as it closes.
Eyes squeezed tight. No hope for sleep. He offers a simple wish.
Please don't forget me. I've been good. I do believe.
In this season may your heart be like that of this child.
Filled with wonder.
The light from the oil lamp on the porch lingers on the shoulders of the farmer as he stomps the snow from his boots and pushes open the front door. He is a farmer. A simple man. A family man. His love light casts a shadow that will embrace his son for all the years to come.
Merry Christmas to all the mothers and fathers,
then and now,
and to all the children struggling to fall asleep.
Go to bed.