One day Bartholomew was grumpy . . . His ears were cold.

“Wrap your scarf around your ears to keep them warm, ” said George.

But Bartholomew was still grumpy. His legs felt too stumpy.

“I’ll carry you,” said George.

At home, Bartholomew’s porridge was too lumpy,

his tummy too plumpy, and he was too small.

“I’ll feed you,” said George.

At bath time, Bartholomew hid. He did not like anything at all.

“What a day,” said George. “You’ve been so grumpy, your legs have

felt stumpy, your porridge was too lumpy, your tummy too plumpy but,

Ba . . . I love you just the way you are.”

Bartholomew felt better.

He kissed George and he brushed his teeth all by himself.

“Time for bed, Ba,” said George. “We both need a little rest.”

“Nah,” said Bartholomew.

*   *   *   *   *

My husband and I worked at a personal care home for about two years when we first got married.  When the time came for us to leave one elderly woman told me how much she would miss us.  She said how much she liked and admired my gentle, soft-spoken husband and then she said, “But you, you could be a little grumpy at times.”

I let the sting of her well-meaning comment settle a little, then looked her straight in the eye and said, “You’re right, I can be a little grumpy sometimes.” 

I guess maybe something like that could go on my tombstone, “Here lies a beloved wife and mother who could be a little grumpy sometimes.”  It’s true after all, there are days when I simply feel far from myself, out of sorts with the world and everything in it.  Days when there’s an itch in my soul that I can’t scratch, the feeling of something chaffing away at me so that the day itself leaves me fit to be tied no matter how good or bad or in-between it is.  Just ask my kids or my husband, they could tell you about it for sure.

I’m aware enough now at the ripe old age of thirty-five, to know when it’s happening, to feel it coming or be able to step back in the middle of everything and see myself with an objective eye.  I know enough to recognize that it usually comes over me because of some rigid unspoken rule I’ve placed on the day or the moment.  There’s nothing wrong with hopes and standards, but when the whole day is conspiring against you (as today happens to be, if you hadn’t already guessed) it’s best to somehow let yourself and those you love off the hook in some way or another. 

The only way I know to escape this is to surrender to the small grains of love and grace that surround me, to take my eyes off of my goals or dissatisfactions long enough to see something more and to open myself to the love that is True no matter what, whether I’m able to get out of the mood or mess I’m in or not.

You’ll forgive me, won’t you, if there are days, weeks, months when I play the “love card” with my grumpy old self, when I play it over and over like a favorite worn out record for my kids and my spouse?  Don’t we all have days when we and the world we live in are just too “lumpy, plumpy and stumpy” to bear?     

I’ll admit that there’s something about playing the love card that seems a little weak, like maybe I’m getting too soft on myself, letting my standards slide a bit too far.  Love, really?  Like gratitude, it seems so ineffective, so unproductive, to people who’re sold on the likes of power and control and self-improvement. 

Maybe, though, love is the best card we have to play, the only card that can bring us out, set us free from our wretched state of sin and sorrow and, perhaps even grumpiness.  I’m convinced it was one of Jesus’ favorite tricks, which of course made plenty of those around him madder than all heck and drew others to him like all grace draws a sin-heavy soul. 

I have to wonder, too, if this isn’t what Christmas and the cross that follows are all about, God playing a big ‘ol grand love card on our behalf, freeing us to be better than we know ourselves to be.  “I love you, just the way you are,” says the manger and the star, the sky full of angels and light.  “I love you,” says God, “I love you.”

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

– Christina Rosetti         


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