baby smiling

photo: Creative Commons (Diana Beato)

I’m going to tell you a story this morning. My story is about a family whose last name was “Bicker.” They were named this way because of how they tended to behave together. Does anyone know what it means to bicker? [take responses…] Yes, they bickered, they argued, and they fought. They were terrible listeners and talked on top of each other, and they whined and complained all the time. When you were with them it was like: AAAAAAAH!!!! [put hands to head and scrunch up hair and make a crazy face and sound!]

One Thanksgiving, not too many years ago, they were all gathered around the dinner table and you can imagine the scene. You could hear things like: “Hey! Who ate up all the mashed potatoes?! I never got thirds!” and “Why are you always so late? By the time you get here, the turkey’s all cold!” and “ How come I always have to sit in this stupid broken chair?! Would someone just fix this chair once and for all?” And to top it all off, Old Mother Bicker, when she discovered that not only gravy, but cranberry sauce too, had been spilled on her favorite white linen table cloth, whined, “Oh no! I’ve run out of my Super-Duper Stain Stick so we won’t be able to have a white table cloth for Christmas! It’s ruined!!”

“Speaking of Christmas,” one of the grown children piped up, “our big family has been getting bigger recently with the addition of partners, spouses, and friends, and especially with our latest addition, Baby Amelia” … (You see, Baby Amelia had just been born earlier that year.) “…well, I thought that this year we could do a gift exchange where each person puts their name in a hat and then draws out someone else’s name, so that each of us gets one gift for one person.”

Well, as you can imagine, there was much arguing about the pros and cons and who’s and how’s and why’s and why not’s of this idea… until Old Mother Bicker announced, “Enough! We’re just doing it. Here’s a clean salad bowl. Just write your name on a piece of paper and throw it in. So they did. “Don’t forget anyone!” someone exclaimed.

Well, it was a pretty chaotic scene. You could hear things like: “Wait! Are we supposed to fold them up? I forgot to fold mine!” and “Hey! No fair taking one out yet, I haven’t even put mine in!” and “Too late, I already threw mine in the trash.” “Oops, I got two” and “Can we swap if we don’t like who we got?”… and in no time the process was over.

Until, of course, Christmas Day arrived. That day, one by one and group by group, members of the Bicker family arrived, each bearing gifts which they placed under the tree. And when it appeared that everyone was present, one of the grown sons shouted, “I can’t wait any longer!” and he dove for the gifts under the tree. He was immediately joined by several others, who greedily burrowed into the pile of presents, tossing aside the ones with other peoples’ names on them. As soon as each one found their gift, they ripped off the wrapping paper, and you could hear things like: “I got the same thing last year!” and “The style’s okay, but the color is definitely not me.” And “Of course you picked the cheap version.” And amidst the hubbub, suddenly Old Father Bicker exclaimed, “Hey! Who took my present?!”

“I don’t have it, Dad,” they all said. “Keep looking. Look way under the tree.”

“I did. It’s not there.”

“Well, maybe it got kicked under the couch,” they suggested. But it wasn’t there either.

“What a stupid idea this was,” grumbled Old Father Bicker. “Christmas is ruined!”

“Maybe Baby Amelia took it,” someone suggested in a sarcastic tone. “Maybe Baby Amelia took it,” their father mimicked, clearly annoyed. And he went over to Baby Amelia, picked her up, looked into her eyes, and asked, “Baby Amelia, is there something you have to give to me?” Baby Amelia returned his gaze, and as she looked at him, she gave him a smile. She gave him the kind of smile that only a baby can give. It was big and wide and bright and true, and it came straight from her heart. And of course it caused him to smile back. And to see the two of them smiling at each other, this grandfather and his granddaughter, others in the family began to smile too.

And then Baby Amelia began to giggle. A little baby giggle, which of course was contagious too. It spread to Old Father Bicker, and then in waves to every member of the Bicker family. And the giggling grew and grew and grew until everyone was laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and laughing.

And at last, when Old Father Bicker had caught his breath, he said, “Thank you, Baby Amelia, for giving me a smile. And thank you for giving this family the happiest Christmas moment I can ever remember.”

And that’s the story of the Bicker family.




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