LIFE'S LESSONS: CHRISTMAS
This is my little gift to everyone.
by Tracy J.
December 23, 1779
Little Archie was sitting on the floor in the nursery, playing with his toy ships, when his brothers and sisters came in.
Archie smiled up at them, "P'ay wif me?"
"I'm not playing with you." Stephen said, "I'm not a babe."
Archie's face fell on hearing the hurtful words.
"I will play with you, Archie." Maria sat down on the floor with him.
Archie smiled at her, "Hewe 'ou boat."
"Thank you." Maria smiled at her little brother.
"Mother has had a red dress made for you," Constance said, "and a green one for me."
Maria sighed, "I like green more then red."
"Oh, the red would be so lovely on you." Constance smiled as she lifted her sister's long, dark brown hair.
"Red would look good on you as well." Maria said.
"But I do not believe the dark green would look good with your dark hair." Constance sat down to draw, "If it were a lighter green, perhaps."
Putting his elbows on his knees, Archie rested his chin in his little hands.
"Is that all girls can think about?" Stephen asked.
"Well, some of us," Constance stated, "do not wish to attend the party dressed as if we have just crawled out of a cave."
Henry and Maria laughed, while Archie raised his head and looked up at his eldest sister, " 'tten' what?"
"The Christmas party." Constance told him.
Archie stood, "What dat?"
"We are going to go into the ballroom," Constance smiled at him, "and there is going to be music, and dancing, and food, and lots of people. That is what a party is."
"W'o it fow?" Archie cocked his head.
"The party?" Constance raised his brow.
"It's for Christmas." Stephen said irritably.
"What dat?" Archie walked over to his sister.
Constance reached down and picked her baby brother up, "Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus birthday."
"It God biwfday?" Archie blinked.
"Yes, it is." Constance smiled, "I want to draw you a picture of the first Christmas. Would you like that?"
Archie nodded with a smile.
Constance gave him a kiss on the cheek, "You go and play with Maria, and I will draw the picture."
"T'ank 'ou, Cont'ant." Archie wrapped his little arms around his sister's neck and kissed her cheek.
"My pleasure, Archie." Constance stood him on the floor, "Run along now."
Archie hurried back to his other sister, who began to play with him and his ships.
When she finished the drawing, Constance called to her little brother, "Come and see, Archie."
The toddler hurried to her, and she picked him up, "This is Mary, this is Joseph, and this is babe Jesus."
"He a babe 'ike me!" Archie smiled.
"Yes, he was." Constance gave her brother a little squeeze.
"Why d'ey wif aminals?" Archie asked.
"They are called animals." Stephen said, annoyance plainly in his voice.
"Dat what I say." Archie frowned at him.
"The king of that time," Constance explained, "wanted to know how many people lived in his kingdom. So he ordered that everyone go and register - that means write down who they are, where they live, and how many people are in their family. So Joseph took his wife to Bethlehem, which was where they where supposed to register. But when they got there, it was very crowded because everyone else had come there as well. They could not get a room at the inn. But the inn keeper said they could stay in his barn."
"Wif da aminals." Archie added.
"Yes." Constance smiled down at him, "And while they were there, Mary gave birth to babe Jesus."
Little Archie cocked his head, looking at her puzzled, "What she gibe?"
"Birth." Constance told him.
"What dat mean?" Archie asked.
Constance looked at Maria, who bit her lips to keep from laughing, and Constance blinked nervously. "I think that is a question you need to ask Mother or Father. They could explain it better."
"All wight." Archie nodded. Then looked up at her again, "I keep da dwawing?"
"It is yours, Archie." Constance kissed his temple and put the picture in his little hand. She then put him down on the floor, and he put the picture down the front of his little waistcoat.
For the rest of the afternoon, Archie and Maria played with his ships, and he kept the picture tucked away.
As was their custom before dinner, the children joined their parents in the drawing room. Stephen and Henry would sit with their father, and the girls with their mother, but little Archie would feel left out. Stephen and Henry would discuss the news of the day with Papa, but Archie really didn't care about such things. And the girls.......well, he was not a girl and didn't care for the things his Mama and sisters were talking about.
As usual, Richard watched his little toddler, looking so lost, and would finally fetch him over. "Come, Archie. I should now like to hear about your day."
Little Archie's face always broke into the most brilliant smile and he would hurry to his father, who would pick him up and set him on his lap. Archie would tell his papa everything he had done that day.
And today was no exception. "Mawia p'ay ships wif me! I beat hew ships ebe'y time!"
"Well, are you not the impressive little admiral!" Richard grinned.
Archie frowned, clearly befuddled by the strange new word.
Seeing his son's confusion, Richard went on to explain, "An admiral is a man who commands all the ships in His Majesty's Navy."
"Oh." Archie suddenly remembered the picture, " 'ook what Con'tant dwaw fow me!"
"It is beautiful, son." Richard smiled, "The first Christmas."
Archie nodded, looking at the picture with such joy that it warmed Richard's heart; his little son always found such excitement and joy in the smallest things. Archie thought of something and looked up at him, "I go a pawty, Papa?"
"Of course, Archie." Richard said, "You are a member of this family."
Archie smiled, then lay his little head on his father's chest, contentedly.
Richard held him, stroking the beautiful golden hair. He loved this child more then anything in this world, and could not imagine his life without Archie in it. The boy was a true gift from God.
Elizabeth glanced over at them and smiled lovingly.
"Archie," Richard said softly, "you should show you mother the drawing."
Archie sat up quickly and nodded, " 'es, Papa." He stood up on Richard's leg, wrapped his little arms around his father's neck and kissed his cheek, then squeezed him. "I lobe 'ou, Papa."
"I love you, my little laddie." Richard kissed Archie's plump cherub cheek, then put him down on the floor.
The toddler scampered over to his mother and showed her the picture. She held him on her lap until dinner was ready, then carried him into the dining room.
Richard's mother, Catherine, glared as the children took their places, but one look from Richard, silenced anything she was going to say.
After the blessing, they began to eat, with little Archie inspecting everything before eating it. Elizabeth loved to watch Archie eat, enjoying the faces he would make at the appearance, aroma, or taste of the foods presented. He was such a precious boy!
After dinner, Richard tucked his children into bed while Elizabeth took Archie for his bath. Once he was bathed, she went to each room to kiss the children good night whilst Richard dried and dressed Archie for bed.
Tonight was Elizabeth's night to rock her babe to sleep. She sat down in the chair and began rocking.
Little Archie looked up at her, "Mama, what biwf mean?"
"Birth?" She frowned and, when Archie nodded, she explained, "Birth is when you come into this world."
"Oh." Arhcie put his little thumb in his mouth and settled against his mother, listening to her heart beating, and feeling the vibration for her soft humming. Within minutes, he was asleep.
She stood, walked carefully over to his crib, and lay him gently down so as not to wake him. She then pulled the blanket up over him and kissed his soft cheek, "I love you, my precious little angel."
December 24, 1779
The manor was bustling with servants preparing for the evening's festivities. Dorothy took Archie out to the garden, and found it was finally snowing. The snow was lightly falling, but there was a great deal of it already on the ground.
Archie took in a sharp breath, his eyes growing wide, and asked, "What dat?"
Dorothy crouched down next to him, "This is snow."
"What 'now?" Archie looked at her.
"Snow is what rain drops turn int' when it becomes very cold." Dorothy watched the little face, looking at the snow. On impulse, she reached down and picked up a handful of snow and made a snowball. "Watch this, Archie." She stood and threw the snowball at a statue in the garden. When the snow ball hit it and burst, Archie giggled.
"Would ye like t' play in the snow fer a while, lamb?" Dorothy asked.
Archie's chubby little face lit with excitement, "P'ease?!"
"Come." She took his little hand and led him into the garden, where they spent most of the morning playing.
When the children did not come in for their dinner, Richard walked outside to fetch them, and saw Archie and Dorothy dueling with icicles. His first reaction was to quietly laugh, then he felt pride at how fiercely his little son was fighting with the pretend sword. Archie broke Dorothy's icicle, then shouted, " 'ou 'eild?"
"Aye, Sir Archie." Dorothy said, "Ye're a far better knight, then I."
Archie's little face turned serious, " 'ou good too."
Richard put his hand over his mouth to keep his laugh from being heard.
"Well, thank ye, sir." Dorothy bowed her head, bringing what was left of her icicle up to her face, "But ye are the champion, brave Sir Archie."
Richard composed himself and called out, "Children! It is time for dinner!"
Dorothy took Archie's hand and led him to his father.
"Well done, Sir Archie!" Richard smiled, "Perhaps, you could be the king's champion someday?"
"I be bwa'e, Papa." Archie stated.
Richard reached down and picked up his little son, "You are my brave little laddie."
Archie smiled at that and hugged his father's neck as they went inside.
In the dining room, Archie would not eat. He was too busy excitedly telling his mother about the snow and all he and Dorothy had done that afternoon.
After twenty minutes of this, Catherine snapped, "Be quiet, Archie!"
Archie jerked and he took in a sharp breath, his eyes widening. Then his bottom lip came out and began to quiver as tears came to the beautiful blue eyes. He lowered his head and started sobbing as quietly as he could.
"Catherine!" Elizabeth glared at her, "That was very rude. Archie was speaking to me."
"He is a child." Catherine said in a dismissive tone, "They are meant to be silent."
"Catherine," Elizabeth stood, "I will not tolerate you treating my children as if they were servants."
"Children in our society are supposed to know their place." Catherine told her, "They should not be eating with adults in the first place. Furthermore, they are expected to be silent in the presence of adults."
Richard quickly stood, "Mother, I explained to you that we are raising our children to be well-mannered, conversant members of society . But they can not learn how to act in such a way unless they have a good example to draw from."
"But Archie does not know when to be quiet." Catherine said, "He never stops talking."
"He is a babe." Elizabeth said, "And he is excited about the snow."
"He is always excited!" Catherine retorted, "The child needs to learn how to be quiet."
So should unwanted relatives! Elizabeth thought to herself. Then she picked up her toddler and kissed his cheek, "It is all right, my angel. You can tell me all about your day in your room. Catherine, if you do not like the way we live our lives, perhaps you should leave." With that, Elizabeth left the dining room.
"I would like a word in private with you, Richard." Catherine stood, and walked out of the dining room.
Richard followed her into the nearest drawing room.
"She cannot force me to leave." Catherine said defiantly.
"Mother, you are not Lady Kennedy." Richard told her, "That title is Elizabeth's. I believe you owe her and Archie an apology."
"I am not apologizing to a child!" Catherine put her hands on her hips, "You know how things are meant to be in Society."
"I know how things were when I was a child." Richard said, "And like Elizabeth, I do not want my children to feel as if they are not wanted. If you choose to not respect our wishes, then perhaps it would be best if you move into the townhouse."
Catherine let out a huff and left the drawing room.
Richard rubbed his temples, not understanding why his mother was being so difficult. As he walked into the dining room, Henry, Constance, Stephen, and Maria looked up at him.
Richard sat back down, "Eat your dinner, children."
That evening, Elizabeth made certain that all her children were dressed in the best clothes. Henry and Maria were wearing cherry red, while Constance and Stephen were dressed in emerald green. The girls had part of their hair in a thick plait which they then wrapped over their heads. The plait served to hold the remainder of their long, thick hair back.
Archie was dressed in a light blue suit that complimented his big blue eyes.
Richard and Elizabeth greeted their guests at the door with their children standing in line beside them. The guests nodded their acknowledgement to the children as they passed, each of them bending down to pat little Archie's head and lightly pinch his plump cheeks.
After the first five pinches, Archie had had enough. He quickly moved behind his mother, holding on to her skirt, and peering out at all the people.
After the last of the guests arrived, the festivities began.
As his brothers and sisters began to play and talk to other children, little Archie started feeling left out again. Everyone was older than him.
Then the music started.
Archie hurried towards it, keenly watching the musicians playing their varied instruments. The young man playing the harpsichord noticed Archie moving to stand as close as he could and watch the young man play. He stayed beside the instrument while everyone danced and conversed.
Suddenly, someone picked him up. "Mama!" Archie looked at her, wide eyed, "He make dat sound budapul!"
"Yes, he does, dear." Elizabeth said, "But I have something for you."
Archie cocked his little head, " 'ou do?"
Everyone gathered in the large sitting area. Richard handed a gift to Elizabeth, who smiled and said this gift is for you, Archie."
Archie frowned, shaking his little head, "It not my biwfday."
"I know, precious." Elizabeth said, "It is God's birthday."
Archie slid off her lap and grabbed her hand, "We go a chuwch an' gibe it to Him!"
"No, Archie." Elizabeth held his small hand, "This gift is for you."
Archie frowned in confusion, "Mama, why I get a pwesent fow God's biwfday?"
"May I, Mother?" Maria asked, and receiving a nod from her mother, knelt down next to her baby brother, "God loves you so much, Archie. That He wants you to have a gift on His birthday."
Archie cocked his little head, "Why?"
"Because he loves you." Maria said, "And we love you. God gave us His son, Jesus, as a gift because He loves us. And Mother and Father give us gifts to show us how much they love us."
"Oh." Archie looked at the gift again, "I open it?"
Elizabeth smiled her radiant smile and picked up her son, "Yes, you may."
Archie opened the gift and his little face lit up. "Papa, it a castle!"
"I see that, son." Richard smiled at his little son's excitement, then handed a gift to Stephen.
Stephen smiled and opened it, then grinned at what he found, "Thank you, Father!"
Suddenly, the son of one of Richard's friends snatched the gift from Stephen's hands.
Richard immediately retrieved the gift from the boy, "You must not take what does not belong to you."
The child let out a scream and threw himself on the floor.
The boy's outburst frightened Archie, who cringed against his mother, watching the child with wide, terrified eyes, "Mama, what w'ong wif him?
"He is throwing a temper tantaum." Elizabeth said, annoyed.
"Stop that, Reggie." The boy's father said.
"I want it! I want it! I want it!" The child cried as he kicked and beat the floor with his fists.
"Give him the toy, M'Lord."
"No." Richard said as he pulled the bell-pull to summon his butler. "Watson!" he said as the man entered the room, "Take Master Reggie to the nursery. He is not to leave there until he can act properly."
"If you just give him what he wants...." His child's mother insisted.
"He will do this every time he wants something." Richard finished, "I do not allow my children to throw temper tantrums, and I will not allow any other child to do so in my home."
"Then we will take our leave, M'lord." The boy's father said.
"That is your decision." Richard told him, "But by letting him have everything he wants, you are creating a tyrant."
"He is just a child, Sir Richard!" The boy's mother snapped.
"For now." Richard agreed, "But he will be an adult someday. And most of the tyrants in history were men who always had to have their own way."
"Good evening, Sir Richard." The man turned and escorted his family from the room.
Stephen stood, looking at the gift. "May I have my gift now, Father?" he asked.
Richard smiled at his son and walked over to him. He kissed Stephen's forehead, "Happy Christmas, son."
Later that evening, Elizabeth gave Archie his bath. He played in the water for a bit, then looked up at his mother, "Mama, why dat boy act 'ike dat?"
"Because he wanted his own way." Elizabeth explained as she washed his little shoulders.
Archie frowned, "But dat not his gibt. It 'teben's."
"I know, precious." She bathed his back.
"He not being good." Archie shook his head. Then he giggled, "He 'ook silly, Mama!"
"He did look very silly kicking and beating the floor." Elizabeth smiled, "I do not believe he knows how silly he looks."
Archie giggled more, "He 'ook bewy silly!"
"My little angel would never do something as silly as that," Elizabeth grinned, "would he?"
Archie shook his little head, "Ebewyone laup at me."
"They probably would laugh." Elizabeth agreed, amazed at how smart this little toddler was, "He did look very funny doing that."
Archie's little face suddenly became serious, "I be good, Mama."
"You are always a good little boy, Archie." Elizabeth kissed his little forehead, then washed Archie belly, making giggle and squirm.
" 'ou tickle me, Mama!" Archie laughed.
When she had finished with his bath, she placed him in the towel Richard was holding open for the toddler. He wrapped the towel around his little son and carried him into his bedchamber to dry him off and change him.
"Papa," Archie looked up at him as his father was drying his hair, " 'ou gibe me a gibt 'cause 'ou lobe me?"
"Yes, we did, son." Richard gave him a nod.
"I lobe 'ou." Archie frowned, slightly, "I wan' a gibe 'ou a gibt."
"Have already received your gift the day you were born." Richard smiled.
Archie cocked his little head, his face so puzzled, "What I gibe 'ou? I on'y a babe."
Richard tried desperately tried not to laugh at that. This boy was so adorable! "I received the sweetest little boy in the world the day you were born." Richard told him. He could tell by the confusion on the toddler's face, he did not understand.
"The day you were born," Richard said, "you were my gift."
Archie's eyes lids fluttered, "I 'ou gibt?"
"You are the only gift I ever want in this world." Tears came to Richard's eyes as he said the words. He then moved the towel aside and blew on Archie's little belly.
Archie giggled loudly and, when Richard stood upright, begged, "P'ay wif me 'gain, Papa!"
"I love you my little laddie." Richard said as he leaned down to do it again, enjoying Archie's laughter, and silently thanking God for the greatest gift he had ever received--his little laddie.