Sure Comfort and Joy

Becky's Winnie the Pooh, forty-seven Christmases old
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
A.A. Milne

November 1987 we stored our photo albums and daughters’ keepsakes in a friend’s basement. We packed what our two-bedroom rental could hold into a moving van and drove away from our Detroit home. It felt like I was abandoning a devoted friend.  
Yet, we could no longer leave our house on Algonac overnight without fear of another break-in. We had to face change and make responsible decisions.
Property in Addison Township called to us. With God’s help and our thrift, we would build a house we could afford—perhaps never need to move again.
The apartment cramped my Christmas spirit and traditions. No space to display my mother-in-law’s ceramic nativity. No storage for tins and Tupperware containers filled with several different kinds of Christmas cookies.
With more time on my hands, I placed frequent phone calls to my mother for consolation.
To our three girls, however, Shoal Creek Apartments seemed like a long vacation in Sterling Heights. Limited living space meant drastically reduced chores. Since our bedrooms were at the unit’s opposite ends, my husband and I seldom heard them laughing in the night.
Their three twin beds and Becky’s vanity table fit perfectly into the master bedroom for one continuous pajama party, hairdo, and fashion show. And our downsized lifestyle offered the fringe benefit of their private bathroom. I seldom laid eyes upon the place.
For Christmas Eve, we decided to see Empire of the Sun, the season’s hit movie. With the lead role a twelve-year-old boy, the girls followed his story with interest.
The Japanese invade Shanghai where Jamie lives with his English parents. In their stampede to escape, Jamie drops his toy plane and lets go his mother’s hand to find it. The boy’s separated from his mother and captured with an American sailor. They’re sent to a prison camp. The sailor looks out for Jamie who brings hope to his fellow prisoners.
The movie’s conclusion left me unsettled. The untold story was the mother’s anguish in losing her son.
I remember walking into the cold night air with my family. The parking lot lights shined upon my daughters. Seventeen, thirteen, and eleven-years-old. I wanted to take their hand and whisper I love you.
Dear Reader, our girls have long since left behind their hope chests occupied with medals, photos, and souvenirs. Their Cabbage Patch and Strawberry Shortcake dolls languish in our Addison Township attic.
In a lonely moment this morning I remembered our departed daughter’s Winnie the Pooh. I sidled up to Becky’s cedar chest and lifted the lid.
“Pooh!” I whispered to the poor, dusty animal.
“Yes, Iris?”
“Nothing,” I said and took him into my arms. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

When a mother doesn’t have her child’s hand to hold, Pooh’s paw is sure enough comfort. Sure joy for forty-seven Christmases.