Christmas 2015: What shall we give the children?

What shall we give the children?

winter 1957

The Shasta Street Gang, including the Webster kids, the Coll boys, cousin Janice Beauregard, and others. Manchester NH circa 1956.

“In the long twilight of the year, the faces of the children grow luminous. Rosy with cold, arabesqued  with snowflakes, leaning into the wind, or drowsing before the fire, their eyes large, they look and listen, as if they glimpsed the peripheries of miracle or heard a soundless music in the air. From the innocent kingdom of implicit belief to that uncomfortable arena where the implacable mind battles the intractable heart, the faces of children at Christmas are lighted with visions of things to come.


         What shall we give the children?

Late 1950s christmas 2

Kathleen and Janice Webster in their “best” dresses decorating the tree. Probably taken by their loving mom, Christmas 1959.

It seems certain that they will travel  roads we never thought of; navigate strange seas, cross un-imagined boundaries, and glimpse horizons beyond our power to visualize. What can we give them to take along? For the wild shores of Beyond, no toy or bauble will do. It must be something more; constructed of stouter fabric discovered among the cluttered aisles and tinseled bargain counters of experience, winnowed from what little we have learned. It must be devised out of responsibility and profound caring – a home-made present of selfless love. Everything changes but the landscapes of the heart.

        What shall we give the children?

–Attention, for one day it will be too late.

–A sense of value. The inalienable place of the   individual in the scheme of things, with all that accrues to the individual; self-reliance, courage, conviction, self-respect, and respect for others.

–A sense of humor. Laughter leavens life.

–The meaning of discipline. If we falter at discipline,   life will do it for us.

webster kids in red 2

The Webster kids at Christmas. John and Peter, Janice in back, Kathleen in front. Probably taken in 1960.

–The will to work. Satisfying work is the lasting joy.

–The talent for sharing; for it is not so much what we give as what we share.

–The love of justice. Justice is the bulwark against violence and oppression and the repository of human dignity.

–The passion for truth, founded on precept and example. Truth is the beginning of every good thing.

–The power of faith, engendered in mutual trust. Life without faith is a dismal dead-end street.

–The beacon of hope, which lights all darkness.

–The knowledge of being loved beyond demand or reciprocity, praise or blame; for those so loved are never really  lost.


Three generations. Back, L to R: Addie (Ryan) Manning, Peter Webster, Mary (Manning) Webster, Berwin Webster. Front: twins Janice and Kathleen Webster (dressed alike).

        What shall we give the children?

The open sky, the brown earth, the leafy tree, the golden sand, the blue water, the stars in their courses, and awareness of these. Birdsong, butterflies, storms and rainbows. Sunlight, moonlight, firelight. A large hand reaching down for a small hand; impromptu praise, an unexpected kiss, a straight answer. The glisten of enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. O long days to be merry and nights without fear. The memory of a good home.”

Attributed to Margaret Cousins, appearing in the December 1964 McCall’s


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One Response to Christmas 2015: What shall we give the children?

  1. Loved your story and before I could ask, I learned you are a twin. Such clever uses of words that had me stopping to read more slowly.

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