They called her Cricket…she was small….her voice was so squeaky, it commanded attention immediately. Small for her age worked to her advantage. No one ignored an adorable little girl. Not even Mr. Fenton who was known as the Town Grouch. Cricket went for her walk to make sure that everything in the Town Center was in place for the Holidays. She could see the lights of the Menorah already. Hanukkah was not for 3 months. As she approached the Nativity Scene, she saw the Statues were all in proper order. Mother and Father on either side of a “WHAT??” A chunk of straw on the ground on top of a wooden board with a BABY naked partially but she was sure he froze when He was plopped on top of the straw!
Was this a special baby? She was not sure why he was special, but he showed up every year, maybe Santa brought him (who she could not possibly compete with.) She was horrified. She marched stomping her little red boots across the street, and the only big person she saw was Mr. Fenton. Kicking and scraping the snow off her boots going up the steps, she saw him standing in a raggedy old plaid shirt and a green hideous vest with his pockets hanging heavily with dollar bills.Arms crossed glaring at her. Cricket got up to the porch and noticed he had his hands on his hips now, and was looking down on her, which she did not like. So she pulled up the stool where he usually sits and smokes his smelly pipe and stood up on it. Hands on her hips. Chin out! Now, he was scowling, as usual. It was no secret that he was not fond of kids. Let’s be clear. Fenton HATED kids ! She looked up at him and said ”Good Day Mr. Fenton!” He responded in his usual grouchy way and bent down to get in her face. “Nuthin good about it ya little rodent. “Ya must want somethin or ya wouldn’t be so damn polite, ya little urchin ! She thought he was perfectly normal. That was a good sign. Cricket could take care of business.
“I am in distress over the Scene in the Town Square.” The reply, “Nuthin wrong with it, just the usual junk that damn Mayor, who swore he would change this dump if he got it office. Cricket said,” I don’t care about him,” I need your help. At that, he threw is head back roaring in loud laughter, and as he pulled his nasty pipe out of his mouth, brown drool ran from his lip down to his vest. He was truly disgusting. She was 7 years old and she was on a mission. Another one of her complaints included a variety of items that were not perfect. Her family told her she could stay out all day! Until the streetlights came on! Gave her a little shove and her Mom said “Don’t forget your mittens. Mittens never left her pocket. Everyone was so dense. They never noticed anything, not patterns, or mistakes, or furniture tipped over and trash pails filled with ants and soda cans. Her family pushes her aside when they want to do their own thing. They all bounced in the car, and Cricket yelled “Get out that pile of rattling rust, the tire is flat!” It was. They were not going anywhere, Just hanging out! Nothing made them happier than hanging out, in the garage, in the car. It always took them at least 45 minutes to make a decision about anything and everything. She told her brother that she was going into town. She was annoyed because no one offered to give her a ride. Her parents were all a flutter staring at the flat.So she left. She was going back to bother Fenton again.
Come with me and I will show you how disgraceful the Town Square looks. Mr. Fenton said he would go with her. He was thrilled that he could storm into the Mayor’s office and scream in his face. However, he did not know what he was going to scream about. He knew this kid though, and he was sure it would be worth looking at. She pointed at the infant statue on the straw. She cried, Fenton shook his head and said “awful.” Cricket said “all they care about is presents for each other. “Yes Missy we do. We sure do. Fenton mumbled “must have been the cold that’s makin my eyes water.
They walked back to the Fenton Store. He reached down to hold her hand. “Put you mittens on.” Laughing, she said. “You have to make that baby a crib nobody with a brain puts a King on straw with no clothes on.” Cricket had a favorite scarf. Mr. Fenton made the crib with spare wood. They walked it over to the Town Square, lifted the baby into the crib and kicked the straw to the sheep! Then she bent down, kissed the baby on the forehead and covered him with her scarf. She left her mittens in the crib. Mr. Fenton was watching intently. Cricket asked him what he was going to do. He reached into his pocket and slid a bunch of dollar bills into the small scarf, blew his nose, wiped his eyes, lit his nasty pipe and walked away. She was happy that he left. She had time to be alone with this little King. She wondered if he would like her if he ever came to life. She was thinking. How great it would be if he would share stories with her about his life. Yes, he would. Then she would share stories with him. Of course he would let her do all the talking. There was so much to discuss. This Holiday confused her. She would get answers from him. No one else could explain things to her like a King it is part of HIS job. She told the infant that she would come to see him every night until He told her to go away. She cuddled up to the infant in the straw and told him that gave him her mittens and Mr. Fenton gave him some money all tucked into the scarf she was wrapping around him. His tiny hands were hard. It began snowing. It was getting late and the lights had been laid in the dirt on the ground. She found the outlet as she crawled around on the ground. She said outloud, “How can people leave a King alone in the dark?”
She read a
book that said he was going to die some day when he grew up. It was a sad
story. He helped people and he had no money. Mr. Fenton must have known that.
Since everyone treated her like a child, no one took the time to tell her more
about the King. The book was in Mr. Fenton’s store and it said Bible. She
remembered that.She dozed
off laying next to the baby in the straw. Now it was getting really late, and
she had to get home.
On her way home, a rickety old rusted out car pulled up beside her and offered her a ride. The streetlight bulb was out, but she recognized the car so she jumped in.
They drove in silence.
When she got home her Father pulled into the garage and asked her where she had been. She looked at his serious face and said, “I was visiting a King.”
Her Dad asked her if she was feeling sick and felt her cheek. For the first time she wondered why her Father went to Church and she and her Mother went to Temple. This had to be explained.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Because that King loves all of us." You remember how you saw that he was just a baby? Well, he did grow up and some people go to Church to visit him. You go to Temple with your Mother because you go to visit his Father. People are all different. So they go to the places where they are happy. Rivkah, you must always respect all people because they all have different things they believe in. She nodded. He was so smart.
Cricket hugged her Dad. He told her that there was money in the infants blanket and asked her if she put it there.” I gave the baby my mittens and tucked them into the scarf.” He laughed and told her it was a good gift and kind of her to put them on him. Her Dad looked into her eyes and said “The King loves his gift.” You did a good deed. A Mitzvah is the best you could do for the King. You put mittens on a King.
Chricket Rivkah Cohen said, “Dad his Mother must have put them on him.” Her Dad replied “or maybe his Father did!”
He lifted her from the car and she put her head on his shoulder. For the first time, she hugged her Dad really tight. Something changed that night. The love she felt for him was a feeling she had held back for a long time. This love for her Father was with her until the day he died. He did know a great deal about love. Father's love their children and their babies.
He tucked her in bed. She fell asleep, and as she was dozing off she heard a voice say “thank you little one.” In the morning her mittens were on her nightstand.
By Karen Anne Kramer