SWAC Daughter was anxious to put the Christmas tree up early this year. As I was growing up, a tradition was for my parents to give us ornaments from places they had traveled each year, and we continued the tradition with our children ... so we have many "special" ornaments.
As I carefully unwrapped the tissue paper from around one, memories flooded back as I saw the hand-painted ceramic ornament ... a jack-in-the-box painted in 1975 by a 10-year-old boy named Stacy. I held the ornament in my hands and remembered back to the days when, as a young 20-year-old, I worked at Children's Hospital in Richmond (called Crippled Children's Hospital in those days)....
Stacy touched my heart more than any other child I worked with because of his devilish sincerity. I loved that child! He was from southwest Virginia, one of many children from a large, poor Appalachian family. As best I can remember, his siblings were playing cowboys and Indians and tied him to a tree, piled leaves at the base, and set the leaves on fire.
Stacy was horribly burned, so much so that both legs and one arm had to be amputated. He came to Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. The children lived in the dorms and received daily treatment as well as schooling so Stacy was with us for a long time as they worked with him to heal his stumps so he could receive prosthetic devices to help him lead a normal life.
For someone who had been through such a horrible experience, he had a devilish sense of humor. He was funny, playful, and almost always in a good mood. Perhaps it was the love he received from all of us as he went through physical therapy, recreational therapy (which was where he painted the Christmas ornament), and the one-on-one schooling he received.
I still remember the day he presented the decoration to me. I kneeled beside his wheelchair to be on his level as he flamboyantly presented it to me ... then I took it home to my Christmas tree and, after the holidays, packed it away ... and every year for the past 32 years it has been placed on my tree.
Stacy would now be a young man in his 40s. I don't know what happened to him ... I lost track after leaving Children's Hospital. I have often wondered where he is, how his life turned out, and if he was able to handle the emotional scar of such a life-changing incident so young in his life.
I placed his ornament on the tree today and again wished Stacy a Merry Christmas, wherever he is....