Lips for Christmas


The smell of bacon caused me to stir. My brother-in-law, Neil, once again proved himself worthy as the executive chef for the traditional Christmas morning breakfast. A sense of duty drove me from the warmth of my cozy cot. Others soon followed in turn. Feeding the growing clan became more challenging as we added littler appetites to our number one by one. Young families require more logistic support, so I stumbled to the kitchen with the promise of coffee just ahead.

To awaken one child on Christmas morning is to awaken all. And before long the kitchen filled with excited and impatient elf-like creatures eager to hear the tearing of paper and squeals of delight. A valiant attempt by parents to make this a slow and deliberate process failed miserably. Size and maturity were no match for speed and agility. These elves operated low to the ground with amazing precision. The stronger came to the aid of the weaker. Readers were helping those not yet able. The noise was deafening and the piles of wrapping paper grew as the pace quickened. Eventually surrender was the only option.

The wreckage was unbelievable. The debris field spread from the small living room to the hallway. By the time order was restored and the opened gifts were being organized we realized our oldest daughter Emma, a toddler at that time, was missing. Piles of wrapping paper were searched with no success. Calls throughout the house were met with silence.

A Christmas list for a two-year old is highly focused. Maybe it’s the lack of experience, but even the simplest things seem satisfying. Some even take a greater interest in the box than the toy. For Emma, this Christmas was about “lips” (a.k.a. Chapstick). It was just a stocking stuffer hidden among candy and hair ribbons. Yet it was what she asked for all season long. As is the tradition for many families, the stockings are opened first, and Emma hit pay dirt early in the frenzy. 

An all-out search found her at the farthest point from the living room inside the house. She was sitting among a pile of coats and boots in the mudroom adjacent to the garage. I’m not sure how much of the tube had been used, but her lips and cheeks resembled the sheen of a figure in a wax museum. At that moment I doubted she would ever suffer from chapped lips for the rest of her life. It was a quiet and warm space where she could enjoy the only thing she really wanted that Christmas – her lips. 

Perhaps the simplest things do bring us the most joy.

Merry Christmas.

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21 responses to “Lips for Christmas”

  1. D.A Masters says:

    Merry Christmas Mark!

    • Jeffy Schuring says:

      Mark you are so right – sometimes the simple things in life bring us the most joy. Sometimes the 50 cent items intrigue kids more than the expensive ones and as adults, the love and presence of family means the most. Thanks for sharing – Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. Sharon Haning says:

    Our children always loved their stockings, and still do even though they are now young adults. They never know what small surprise will be hiding in them.

    It may be something they never even thought about or it could possibly be something they mentioned liking and forgot. From the traditional gift to something new and unique, it always reminds them of the small blessings in life to be cherished.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  3. Retired faculty member says:

    Dear Mark,
    Indeed, a child’s assessment of the “perfect” or most desired gift may often not be apparent to adults at all. My memory from a Christmas when I was about 6 years of age is of having received a pair of winter boots for Christmas. The most important feature, and that which made the boots desirable to me was the fact that the right boot “must have” a small knife pocket where one could store a small knife. The first pair of boots I unwrapped had no knife pocket, so my parents had to return them for a nearly identical pair which had the knife pocket. I had no knife at the time, but without the knife pocket the boots had little attraction to me. It was not until the following Christmas that I received a knife to complete my winter weather needs, but it was worth waiting for.

  4. Ashley Albaugh says:

    Being so far away during the lead up to Christmas has made me truly appreciate all the little things that go with the Christmas spirit. I realized only since being on a study abroad program how much I take for granted back home. This year for Christmas I’m looking forward to nothing more than my family and friends and my mom’s home cooked meals. Thank you for sharing it has been so interesting for me to read your blogs while I’ve been gone since I haven’t been on campus to experience life with a new president.

  5. Rose Feldman says:

    Thank you Mark. Everybody here at Starbucks is wishing they were on my computer because, it seems, my screen is very funny. Indeed, it is. Thank you for the warm laughs.

  6. Kristin Tremper says:

    Thank you for this warm and humerous post. I find that sometimes it is the simple things that we don’t appreciate until later. Stockings are a favorite part of the tradition in my family. My grandmother always put Torrone candy in my stocking along with a huge orange and a rather perfect looking apple. As a kid these things got tossed aside rather quickly. But, now they are the things that bring delight to my heart. Merry Christmas to all!

  7. Bobbie Van Vark says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing. Have a great Christmas with your family!

  8. The chapstick obviously paid off, for that charming two-year-old has become a beautiful, well-groomed, confident young adult. And to think she owes it all to Chapstick! (grin)

    Merry Christmas to my dear nephew and family.


  9. Barb Pettitt says:

    For our oldest it was a box of Snoopy Band-aids. She was four, and this one stocking stuffer kept her occupied for quite a long time, as she plastered them all over herself and anyone willing to donate an arm or a leg or their face!

    Merry, merry Christmas to you and your family, Mark!


  10. Thanks for sharing, Mark. I’m really looking fwd to this Christmas to see what my son (now five) will like the best this year.
    Happy Holidays, President Putnam.
    –Todd M. Stein, CUI Class of 1992

  11. Current Central parent says:

    This reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever: a Slicker lipstick on a chain I could wear around my neck. It was from my aunt and she was the coolest ever! Stockings continue to be important at our house — my daughters do them for each other. It is the little things that count!

  12. Steve DeGroote says:

    Some of the happiest times our kids had were playing with the box their gifts came in- You take joy where you can find it, and run with it.

    Merry Christmas,
    Steve DeGroote ’88

  13. klrjohson says:

    This piece was so lovely–a reminder of my family tradition, associated with a book I got for my first Christmas called Santa Mouse. Every year, still, there is one last present wrapped in yellow paper stuck in the tree left by Santa’s assistant, Santa Mouse. It is always something silly or cute, and mostly unnecssary, and greatly appreciated; but it’s really still the best. Thanks for the reminder of the small details that make life shiny… and sometimes waxy!

  14. Jodi Higgins Pinyo says:

    Thank You for sharing that story. I have a 10 year old that is Autistic, speech deficit and developmentally delayed. It has just been in the last couple of years she really grasps Christmas. God has taught me a lot about finding joy in the little things and every day living. Also finding blessing in what I have been given.

    Kristin, my daughter loves her lips as well. In the mornings getting ready for school, she puts it on. Not just the lips, but around the mouth, then two lines at each corner of the mouth. This is where she has had chapped skin in the past. She looks at herself in the mirror and smiles. She is ready for her day.

    Your story made me think how much joy I have when I see her face light up as she checks herself out in the mirror.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  15. Karen Schabilion - Central Mom says:

    I laughed & cried reading your blog – I traveled to Pella last night to pick up precious cargo – my sophomore daughter. Upon arrival,we found her busy: cleaning,sorting & packing – We didn’t leave until 11pm & home well past midnight. It was wonderful to have that time with her; how quickly they grow up. Reading your story,I was reminded of the innocence of children & the wonder of this time of year. How delightful! Merry Christmas to you & yours – May you enjoy the season & the wonders of your family, home & new found friends.

  16. Education Prof says:

    And to think God even thinks this way…in giving us the greatest gift of all in the form of a tiny little babe…love the reminder Mark and Merry Christmas to all this season!

  17. Dispenser of Grace says:

    Thank you, Mark, for reminding us that joy is found in simple things.

    May God’s simple gift of the Bread of Life that was laid in a feed trough and found in a Bethlehem stable be the source of our greatest joy…

  18. The 'Executive Chef" says:

    Your beautiful description of our home on that Christmas morning brings back so many memories. Chaos, anxiety and our lovely aprons come to mind! Yes, joy is found in the ordinary and the unexpected.
    How amazing it is how God works!

  19. Auntie says:

    It is funny how these little moments stay with us for years. Even now the girls at work will make fun of me when my lipstick wears off. Melody you better go get your lips on. Wonder where that came from? no one knows but me, yet we all get a laugh out of it. So important to have some little things to enjoy in a workplace that is so intense and exhausting at times. The funny things our kids said or did keep us laughing thruout our lives. The best gift of all. Thanks for the laughs my sweet babies. Love Auntie

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