Category Archives: Child in a Manger
Well, it’s two days after Christmas in our own, Allison-free world, and it’s two days after Christmas in Child in a Manger.
Allison’s mind is still blown that Brock spoke up for Tracie, and she admits to herself that she’s in love with him, but she’s not sure “how she would act on her feelings.”
Whatever she does, I have a feeling it won’t involve apologizing for her nasty accusations. Because in relationships, only men need to change.
But it’s okay, because Brock made an appointment with her—he wants to become a foster parent!
Brock apologizes for his behavior at the meeting with Tracie:
“I don’t want to be judge and jury for other people’s live anymore, based on my own mother’s poor decision.”
Okay, Brock was a bit harsh with Tracie (remember, the girl stupid enough to leave a newborn in an outdoor piece of scenery on a “frigid” night), though I still maintain that asking her is she gave up the baby to get back her boyfriend was a valid question that needed an answer. So I really don’t see how he was being “judge and jury.”
Though at least he hasn’t had some weird epiphany that his mother really loved him sooooo much, after all. So that’s something.
And he also apologized to Tracie for his behavior, in addition to now apologizing to Allison for his behavior towards Tracie.
Which I honestly don’t think he needed to do in a moral sense, but in a practical sense, it makes sense in light of what he wants to do.
Which is, of course, to adopt baby Joy…with Allison.
We’ve discussed this in the past, but I can only imagine how sought-after a healthy, white, month-old infant is in the world right now.
So it makes rather less sense for Brock to become a foster parent than it does for Allison and Brock and Tracie to arrange a private adoption. I’m no expert, but…isn’t that the less risky move?
Brock asks Allison to be with him…the Christian way!
“Would you take a chance on us? There’s something good growing between us, and I feel God’s leading to build upon it.”
Well, those are the magic words for Allison.
This had been His plan all along.
Sure it was, Allison. You just weren’t listening properly.
As for Brock…
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.
-Susan B. Anthony
He also says that God wants the three of them (Joy included) to be a family together.
“Are you asking me to marry you?”
Damn, Miss Low Self-Esteem perked right up!
I mean, he is kinda asking her, but damn, girl!
“Allison, I love you. Please be my wife and help me become a better man.”
Her eyes shone with tears again, but she smiled as they spilled over. “Yes, I’ll marry you but only because I love you. I don’t want to fix you.”
“I mean, I did want to fix you, but now you’re fixed…for the time being.”
And Brock is prepped—with an appointment with the judge to make it legal, and everything!
“I can’t wait to be your husband.”
I’ll bet. That’s one way to get around the RTC prohibition against pre-marital sex—marry the girl within four days of meeting her!
She was chuckling now. “But you were serious about becoming a foster parent? You’ll be required to complete twenty hours of training, get agency approval and have a home study completed. I’ll have to quit my job because of the conflict of interest.”
She has to quit her job because her husband wants to be a foster parent with her?
So her boss can’t approve the application? Allison runs family services in Indiana all by herself?
And this after Allison has ruminated on the fact that God wants her to help children. And she only just got her Master’s a year or two ago!
Oh, well…I guess God wants her to be a stay-at-home mom more!
(Not that there is anything wrong with being a stay-at-home mom…I’m just surprised at this turn of events, is all.)
So, they head off to the courthouse to tie the knot. This is one of those situations that seems far-fetched, but can actually happen: getting married in Indiana on the same day as getting the license, I mean.
By the end of this single day she would have become a fiancée, a wife, a former family case manager and a potential regular foster parent.
She’s so happy about this whole quitting of her job—and they don’t even have a baby yet!
A bunch of people make to the courthouse with them, including the cast of the nativity scene and Tracie and her parents. Tracie’s going to sign away the baby, and…
“…I’d like you two to adopt, but I don’t know what will happen when I sign the papers.”
Meh, it’ll probably be fine. Whatevs.
Everyone’s pretty blasé about this whole process, but I can only assume it’ll be fine, since Brock and Allison get to hold Joy for five whole minutes before handing her back to her real foster mother. Oh, and they do have a plan, lest anyone worry—they’re going to change the baby’s name from Christina Marie to Christina Joy…and only call her Joy.
‘Cause that’s the important part!
Joy to the world and stuff.
Well, significantly less painful than past Wintermas works, I’d say!
Coming soon—poll for the next book!
Tracie’s parents make it to town, and take the kid into their custody before the court hearing.
How did a family get so far off track? [Allison] wondered. When had it become more important what others at church thought about their parenting of Tracie than their actual job of raising their daughter?
Oh, I don’t know, Allison. Maybe when they realized that there were people in their church who judged people for being charitable at Christmastime?
Just a guess.
And hey, Allison, at least Tracie’s parents didn’t go out and get high and let their little children start a fire. At least they didn’t abandon a kindergartener at daycare and never look back.
Could any mistake a child made be bad enough for a parents to stop loving her? That wasn’t fair, and she knew it. Tracie’s parents did love her, or they wouldn’t have come all the way to central Indiana to be with her.
Yeah, the measure of a parent’s love for a child is how willing they are to make a short road trip.
Allison has very weird ideas about what constitute parental love…which basically boil down to her theory that all parents love their children more than life. If they stay with a kid, they love him. If they abandon a kid, like Madeline and Tracie, it’s because they loved them so very much. And if they drive a kid away, then take a road trip to see her, they must have loved her the whole time.
This seems an odd and potentially dangerous attitude to have about parents. Basically, there is nothing they can do that would make Allison think they were unloving. Not abandonment, short-term or long-term, nothing.
She couldn’t see God ever choosing a future for her with a man who had no compassion in his heart, couldn’t even muster a little for a hurting sixteen-year-old girl.
Okay, I know this is hyperbolic of me, but what did Allison want Brock to do with this girl who confessed to a crime? Give her hugs and candy?
On a separate note, I would like to give thanks this Wintermas season for the freedom to choose my own future, and not have to rely on some god to choose one for me.
So now that the bit players are off, it’s time for Brock to try to get Allison back.
He gives the expected and natural excuse that he was just doing his job, and I’m almost totally on his side here.
Then again, I am an evil Wintermas atheist, like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge or something. With not a ton of compassion for a dumb kid who left her newborn “as a set prop.”
“Being tough on the girl was just part of questioning. We had to get to the truth.”
“So that’s what you were going for? Truth?”
Incredulous, he stared back at her. “Of course it was. Just what are you saying?”
Okay, guys, here we go. In the grand tradition of Wintermas romance women judging the men they claim to love, Allison decides to take a sensitive personal revelation and use it against the person who trusted her.
“Did you really think by attacking that troubled girl you could change history and bring your mother back?”
Why would Brock want his mother back? He has never said or thought anything remotely close to that. I mean, I could see Brock taking his anger at his mother out on Tracie…but that’s not what Allison said.
Oh, and she’s not finished:
“You accuse Madeline of being heartless, but maybe you should look at yourself. You’re worked so hard to lock everyone who loves you out that you can’t even see hurt in others.”
Allison knows nothing about any of that. It doesn’t appear that Brock had anything but a good relationship with his parents. And his last girlfriend cheated on him.
Not to mention that Allison is overlooking how sensitive Brock has been to her, and to baby Joy.
“Will you ever stop being that abandoned little boy?”
Your hurt is irrelevant, Brock! To hell with your pain!
You can tell she really respects and cares about him.
With that final jab (Allison accuses Brock of being heartless?), she heads off, and Brock is left to reflect on how right the woman is. Of course.
With his spiteful actions, he’d just proven he wasn’t worthy of her.
Oh sure, Brock, because she is so perfect, with her smarmy internal monologue about people who dare to give to the needy during the holidays. And her sympathy for a manipulative, partying woman who should never have had a child…over the man that child grew up to be.
Anyway, there’s only one solution to this problem—time for Brock to pray!
I can’t believe we are at the point where we can do a side-by-side comparison…it’s a Wintermas miracle!
You may remember that Jesse Slater’s prayer was pretty heart-wrenching:
“Lord, I know you’re up there watching. I’ve always believed You were real, but I don’t know you very well. Not like Lindsey and Clarence do. I have no right to ask favors, but maybe You’ll do this one thing for Jade. Help me find her, Lord. Show me where she is.”
“Was it me, Lord? Have I done something so bad that everyone I love gets taken away? Mama and Erin are gone. Don’t take Jade. I’ll do anything. Anything.”
Here is Brock’s:
Lord, we haven’t talked in a while, so this might be too much to ask, but I need Your help.
That’s…all we get of the actual prayer. Though we are informed that Brock “laid the whole situation in God’s hands.”
It’s pretty sad to think that good ole Jordan Scoville is the closest we’ve ever gotten to an actual nonbeliever in these stories.
The next day, Allison gets a call from her boss that she doesn’t need to go to court…because they won’t be filing charges of abandonment against Tracie!
Like her forebears, Allison is in no way ready to trust or believe in the man she claims to love:
She doubted Brock’s reaction to the prosecutor’s decision would be as solidly in Tracie’s court as Clara’s had been. She wondered whether he would take the girl’s release as a personal affront…
But the joke is on Allison…who learns that Brock is the one who spoke to the prosecutor on Tracie’s behalf!
Unlike Brock, who sleeps soundly the night after the kiss (pfft, men, amirite?), Allison doesn’t sleep a wink and drinks a “thermos of coffee” before heading into work.
Do people really make thermos’s of coffee when they’re home alone? Why not just make a potful and drink it by the cup? Is this a thing? I’m a tea drinker, I guess I wouldn’t know.
Allison has spent most of the night coming to terms with God’s plan for her…or not.
She hadn’t been content before, not really. Resigned was a better word for it, a word that brought no glory to God if he really did want her to lead a single life.
Well, if this God guy is directing things, being omniscient and omnipotent and all, then he did indeed want her to lead a single life…right up until the moment when he didn’t want her to lead a single life. And if Brock is indeed the guy God chose for her, God didn’t even give them an opportunity to meet until a few weeks ago.
What if God had a different plan for her life other than the one she had formed in her own disappointment and convinced herself to accept? What if He’d never intended for her to be alone and had planned to answer her questions in His time? What if she hadn’t been listening?
What if there was no God, and Allison was simply grafting her own expectations onto the events in her life and assuming it was all from God? What if there was no reliable way to discern when God was talking, and when she was simply hearing her own internal monologue?
Unsurprisingly, when Good Christian Allison has a change in her plans, she doesn’t conclude that it’s because God was wrong, or God didn’t give a damn about her dating life, or God wasn’t around to care about her dating life one way or the other. Instead, she attributes it to her not properly listening to what God was saying all along.
She thought back to that night at the live nativity. Not once had Brock considered that Joy’s mother would return for her the way Allison had hoped she would. That he’d been right didn’t make the fact any less telling. Brock probably wasn’t the man for her.
Yes, because if there’s one thing you don’t want in a life partner, it’s the ability to see reality. Much better for the couple to share a childish naïveté. That way, you can always be disappointed together!
Allison’s boss, Clara, takes a refreshingly flippant attitude towards Christmas:
“All the toys are broken, the CD’s are scratched and none of the clothes fit, but it was all mistletoe and holly for us.”
Ha! Love this bitch.
Allison gave her boss a sad smile, wishing Clara, too, could know the true meaning of Christmas.
Sorry we’re all not as great as you are, Allison. Stomping on a man’s heart on Christmas Day and all.
Allison’s poor, pitiful, unsaved boss heads off to work, and Allison reflects on a recent case…
…on five-year-old twin boys whose parents would be in court later in the week. The boys would forever bear the scars of the accidental fire they’d caused while their parents were out partying, but Allison resigned herself to the reality that those boys would be going back home. She could only hope that the court-required drug counseling and parenting classes had taught the parents something about caring for their kids.
Yeah, Allison’s rose-colored glasses are so helpful to her!
Based on that case, I can’t imagine why Allison is so hopeful that Joy’s mother will come back. Didn’t she just prove to herself that blood is no guarantee of good parenting?
Oh, hey, Joy’s mother is back!
She’s a sixteen-year-old from Ohio named Tracie Long.
Allison calls Tracie’s parents, who give permission for Allison to sit in on the interview with Brock.
Ooo, bet Brock (I keep typing “Brick” today!) won’t be happy with this development!
Obviously, he didn’t have an ounce of compassion to spare for the petite teenager who cowered the minute she saw him.
He was being so impossibly insensitive that Allison wondered why he didn’t just snap the handcuffs on Tracie right then.
Okay, she’s alone and scared and obviously has no support, so I do actually feel bad for this girl. Still, though, this girl left a newborn in an outdoor piece of scenery in the middle of winter, so I don’t feel incredibly bad or anything.
Neither does Brock. When Tracie asks about the baby’s health and eating habits, he cuts in:
“You lost the right to ask questions when you dumped your baby in a feeding trough.”
Is it bad of me that I kinda cheered for Brock (just a little, in my head) at that line?
Tracie reveals that the baby’s name is Christina Marie Long, which Allison, of course, doesn’t like.
Allison rolled the name around on her tongue, but it just didn’t sound right.
I’m sure it doesn’t. I’m sure Joy Chandler sounds better. 😉
Tracie’s parents were totes embarrassed by their unwed teen mom daughter, and the baby’s father (not granted the dignity of a name) “doesn’t want anything to do” with them. Big surprise.
“Did you think if you deserted the child, he would take you back?” [asked Brock]
Allison and Tracie are both “shocked” by this question, but really, I can’t blame Brock for asking. I would wonder the same thing.
Tracie did, indeed, end up at the shitty motel, having run away from home to “build a life for herself and baby Christina,” which is undoubtedly the best plan EVER.
But then she realized “how little she had to offer her child,” and saw an ad for the live nativity scene, and decided that was the ABSOLUTELY PERFECT place to dump the kid.
“I knew she would be found. I knew she would be safe.”
She would have been safe if you had just given her up for adoption in the first place, silly kid.
A point which is not lost on Brock:
“You must think she deserves a life in foster care because that’s what you’ve given her.”
Allison (slightly) softens the blow to Tracie of her dumb decision…and the possible criminal charges that might result.
“Deputy Chandler is trying to say that no matter whether you were trying to do the right thing for your child or not, you still broke the law.”
“…you’ll want to consider the option of signing a voluntary termination of parental rights so that your baby can be adopted.”
No kidding, huh? But Tracie seems open to that.
“God had special plans for that first child found in a manger. I’d hoped the Father might have plans for my baby, too.”
Um, okay, honey. Just want to remind you, however, that the baby in that story wasn’t found in a manger. He was put there by his parents, who were there with him. He wasn’t found by someone who dumped him there in the cold and ran off.
When Tracie’s parents arrive, they have a conference with Allison, and Brock is left to his own devices. And, of course, he thinks about his own abandoning mother:
…for the first time, child abandonment seemed to have its share of grays. Tracie—he wanted to think of her as “the suspect,” but he just couldn’t—had left her child, not because she didn’t love her, but because she did. The realization tempted him to wonder about another mother and another set of circumstances.
Okay. Still, though, Tracie came back to check on her baby within three days. Madeline hasn’t been back in twenty-five years. So, yeah, I guess I’m still on the Didn’t Love Him (At Least, Not Enough) side of things.
But Brock does have a pretty healthy breakthrough, concluding that whether Madeline loved him or not, he ended up with “his real family,” “in a home built with more than bricks and mortar but constructed of love for family and for God.”
Obviously, I don’t consider that the last is necessary, but at least Brock seems to be moving on. So we’ll see if Allison’s naïveté and martyr complex lead her to browbeat Brock into admitting that Madeline was secretly the bestest mommy on the planet.
At Allison’s house, our young couple (Well, Brock is young. Allison is thirty-five, and thus ancient.) goes all Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Christmas dinner, having canned ravioli and carrot sticks and toast.
Admittedly, it’s pretty cute.
They flirt a bit (and by “a bit,” I mean “about one-twentieth the amount that a couple should be flirting under these circumstances”), and then, of course, they get to talking about God and how he plans things.
Allison’s Martyr Complex Alert!
“Do you ever think that sometimes we’re put in situations for a purpose, even when we don’t understand what it is?” [Allison asked]
Brock swallowed and tried not to wonder if she’d been reading his mind. “You mean does God put us there?” He waited for her nod before he added, “I don’t know.”
“Don’t you think He intended our lives to cross with Joy’s?” She didn’t mention two other lives that had crossed, but it was understood.
“Does that also mean God planned for the baby’s mother to leave her in a stable?” He watched as her relaxed posture tightened, and he shook his head. “Even I don’t believe that. Not really.”
Her smile returned…
Boy, for a minute there, Brock almost disagreed with Allison on a point of theology! Like those horrid unbelievers who harass the poor woman on a daily basis.
(Is it just me, or do these repeated attempts at martyrdom make Allison’s faith seem really weak? She just can’t stand to hear one syllable of a possibility that God might be less than she would like to think he is.)
I get that this is the whole free will thing, but if God’s omniscient and omnipotent, how did he not plan for Joy to be abandoned? I mean, if he is omniscient and omnipotent, he knew it was going to happen, and he could do something about that, but didn’t bother.
(Omniscience is a paradox anyway, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment.)
But yeah, yeah, God meant it for good. Just like with Joseph.
They compare notes on their romantic pasts: Brock laughs off his ex-girlfriend, Robin, who cheated on him. (At least he admits to himself that the cheating is a big part of the reason he is a crappy cop who doesn’t listen to women. Okay, he doesn’t put it quite like that, but you get the point.)
But Allison gets all sad-puppy-eyed and explains that she believes God called her to a life of being single forever.
They stand by the window, staring out at the snow, and I guess Brock finds sadness attractive, because he kisses her.
Okay, it’s a bit romantic. A bit.
But, of course, given the chance to kiss him instead of talking him to death…
…Allison breaks the magical moment and loads the dishwasher. Brock is understandably hurt, and beats cheeks outta there as quickly as he can.
(By the way, lest anyone think that I’m a hedonistic atheist who thinks that a scene can’t be romantically sexy unless clothes are ripped off, one of the sexiest scenes I can think of involves two fully clothed characters…)
Damn, It’s a Wonderful Post, I guess…
Brock is perhaps not the best cop ever…
He’d fought a valiant fight at first, speaking of regulations and lawsuits and everything else he could pull from his debate arsenal. But then she’d turned her miserable expression on him, telling him she couldn’t go back to that cold, empty house. He hadn’t stood a chance.
I’m kinda torn on this one, to be honest, mostly because of my lack of experience in social work. I’m sure it’s not common for case workers to follow cops to (possible) former dwellings of criminals. And it kinda feels like a conflict of interest, but who knows? And I got nothing from the text here.
For sure, Allison is no Richard Castle…
They hang out in the shitty motel room, and see that nothing was left behind, not even trash. So apparently Joy’s birth mother is a criminal mastermind who expected the CSI team to show up and sweep the room.
Perhaps, like Hope Chance, Joy will end up inheriting genius-level intelligence from her criminal mom!
But this is all just an opportunity for Brock to get introspective, then open up to Allison.
Remember that I love you. The mother’s words on that note troubled him just as they had when they’d first found it. If that mother had wanted better for her child, could it mean that just possibly, his own mother had left for his benefit.
Yes, Brock. I’m sure it does. Because all women everywhere are exactly the same and have the same thoughts and feelings and motivations, all the time.
No, he would never believe that. Madeline didn’t have an unselfish bone in her body. He’d been a burden she’d unloaded without ever looking back.
And really, Brock is probably right. He tells Allison about Madeline. And he calls her Madeline, by the way, because Madeline wanted him to, not because he’s trying to disrespect her. See, Madeline was one of those freaks who demands her kid not call her “Mommy,” because that might make people think she’s old enough to be a mom, and thus might interfere with her partying.
And she dumped him at the day care one day…and never came to pick him up.
Hot damn. Yanno, I know the book wants us to think Brock should forgive his horrible, abandoning mother and love her memory and all that, but…well, let’s just say I’ve never put much stock in this whole “forgive everybody for everything, all the time” Biblical crap. If you want to forgive someone, good on ya and all, but Brock’s mother warped him and then dumped him. Frak her and the donkey she rode in on. She doesn’t deserve his forgiveness. Brock just needs to deal with it, maybe get some therapy or something, and move on.
Oh hey, time for Allison’s martyr complex! Once per chapter!
“[My adoptive parents] taught me about God’s love and lived their entire lives being living examples of it.” [said Brock]
Allison opened her mouth, and then she snapped it shut. He could guess what she was about to ask.
“But aren’t you some kind of filthy, questioning unbeliever???”
“Oh, sorry for my comments the other night. The ones about God. As you can tell, the whole abandonment issue hits close to home.”
Geez, Allison, you’d better. This is what, the seventeenth (or does it only feel like it?) time you’ve brought this up? It was no big deal, so get over it!
Or is your God not a big enough being to take one offhand comment from some guy who’s had his heart pureed?
They head back to the outdoor nativity scene to examine…stuff, I guess, again, and Allison lists all the reasons why a mother might abandon a month-old baby in an outdoor piece of scenery in the middle of an Indiana winter. Too many kids, drugs, abuse, being too young, etc.
“It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her child.”
Allison must be the most naïve social worker in the history of the world. Hey, girlfriend, sometimes parents don’t love their kids! Have you honestly not figured this out yet? Holy crap!
“And, Brock—” she paused until he met her gaze “—just because your mom left doesn’t mean she didn’t love you, either.”
“But not enough, right?”
“Maybe more than you know. Maybe she wanted to give you the chance for a better life.”
Heh, yeah…I’m sure.
I don’t think Madeline is any Snow White or Emma here.
Maybe Cora, though…
The hearing happens and Joy is officially In The System.
And Brock kinda invites himself to Allison’s for dinner!
Yanno, to comfort her and all.
Nah, won’t happen. Stupid Christian guidelines, with their “minimum of sensuality and sexual desire.”
Allison drops off Joy with the new foster family.
She mopes around the empty house for a bit, then gets a message from the Sheriff’s office that there have been all kinds of toys and clothes and things left for The Child in the Manger.
That’s so sweet. But…
So many times Allison had resented her community’s outpouring of support for the less fortunate at Christmas because those efforts assumed that people weren’t hungry, lonely or suffering any other time of the year.
Really, Allison? Really?
This is a bit of a change from Allison’s usual martyr complex. Now it’s just a good old superiority complex.
I mean, everything else aside, how does Allison know that people aren’t giving to charities at non-Christmas times of the year? She’s a family case worker, not is charge of all charities in town…or everywhere else.
And how much is she giving outpourings of support for every cause ever…all the time?
Regardless, who the hell is she to pass judgment on everyone in town? And “so many times.”
But it’s totally different when the support is for Allison’s soon-to-be, because who are we kidding, daughter.
Tonight, though, she sensed her friends’ compassion as they reached out to Joy, just as she and Brock had. She wished Joy could grow up in Destiny and have the opportunity to be enveloped in such warmth.
Yep, it’s warmth when it’s extended to the baby you love. It’s just—I don’t know what Allison thinks it is, an annual hypocritical assuaging of guilt?—when it’s for others “less fortunate.”
But the really important thing about this turn of events is that it gives Allison a chance to spruce herself up for Brock!
Not that I blame her. I would probably do the same thing, in her shoes.
Within minutes of hanging up [with David, with whom she turned down a last-minute invitation to Christmas dinner] she stood before the mirror, applying eyeliner and mascara that she usually skipped…
Okay, I get skipping eyeliner on working days, because that’s a pain in the ass. But Allison is a blonde. For natural blondes and redheads, skipping mascara makes you disappear.
Trust me, I know.
Brock, of course, is at the police station, still investigating. Does the poor fellow ever get to sleep?
He sees Allison come in, all fancified, and has thoughts that are refreshingly complicated.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her, but he couldn’t decide if it was because he preferred this glamorous version of her or if he couldn’t get over how she’d messed up a good thing.
And just like when the foster mother called to take Joy, spoiling the moment, this moment is spoiled when Brock finally gets a call—a lead in the case! The workers in some shitty hotel outside town found a baby car seat in a room.
Brock gets ready to go out and take a look, and Allison wants to keep hanging out with him, so…
The idea that struck her was like a gift from God—so simple, yet ingenious.
Uh-oh. I remember the last time one of our RTC characters hatched a scheme “so clear and complete that he believed it was from God Himself.”
I really hope Allison’s God doesn’t dessicate Destiny as a way to flush out (har!) Joy’s mother.
But no, the idea is just to convince Brock that they should “team up” to find the mother.
And by “team up,” I figure Allison just means she tags along for the ride.
Beats drying up a city’s water supply, at least.
Allison, of course, is happy to see Brock, even though she’s had an all-but-sleepless night with the month-old Joy and kinda feels like shit. And, of course, she still thinks she’s fat and sloppy and that he looks like a million bucks, so she feels totes inadequate.
He’s gotten her a gift—a pretty silver picture frame, which strikes both Allison and me as very “appropriate.”
“I swear. When it’s appropriate.”
-Simon Tam, Firefly, Jaynestown
Allison is “one of those,” as Brock says—a really slow and careful gift-opener.
Gifts were rare treats for her these days since her mother was gone, so she planned to enjoy this one.
Um, aren’t gifts rare treats for everyone? Makes it sound like Allison received a wrapped gift from her mother every morning at breakfast.
But never mind that, because it’s time for Allison to obsess about people mocking her faith again!
“I had [the fireplace] put in when Mom was really sick. She liked to stay warm near the fireplace.”
Brock cleared his throat. “I’m sorry about your mother.”
“Thanks. She’s at peace now.” Again, she waited for him to criticize her beliefs the way he had at the live nativity, but he didn’t.
For someone who is falling for a guy, Allison sure thinks very little of him. Has she met a lot of atheists who berate her when she mentions that her mother died recently? I mean, I know RTCs think nonbelievers are the most evil, nasty people on the planet, but my atheist mom didn’t raise this chick to start theological debates with people who have just suffered a loss. Manners, yanno?
“I’m sure she is,” he said finally.
So he did believe, after all, even if his belief system was a little jaded.
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, Allison. “I’m sure she is” is the sort of harmless response anyone might give in such a situation, whether that person exactly agreed with you or not. The kind of response you give when you do have good manners and don’t want to turn a sensitive topic into a debate point.
Not to mention that I think when someone dies, their brain simply stops, so they are gone and cease being conscious in any sense. And from then on, they don’t feel anything, including pain. So I could see that as being “at peace“…from a certain point of view.
Then, something deeply weird happens…
They spontaneously start singing.
Like a musical…except not at all.
They’re gaaaaazing into the fire, and Allison starts humming, and Brock starts singing. Joy to the World.
That’s just weird, I’m sorry. And I’m glad they’re alone, because I knew a few girls in college who fancied themselves singers, and would just randomly start singing a few lines all the time, and it was super annoying.
And you know what? One song, I can sort of get. That might be fun (I mean, not fun for me, but some people might find it fun.) But they keep going…
They finished the hymn together, then softly continued singing carols of Bethlehem’s blessing, of a child in a manger, of excelsis Deo. … [Allison had] imagined Christmas mornings like this before, not with sleigh rides and painted scenes…
…but with the warmth of family as they celebrated together God’s wonderful gift to a dark world.
I have no soul. I mean, I already knew that, but this confirms it.
They decide to open sleeping Joy’s gifts for her, and they also get to talking about age.
In a rather shocking and progressive move for a Christian romance, Allison is five years older than Brock, thirty-five to his thirty. And here I thought it was ballsy of Jerry Jenkins to make Noella almost a year-and-a-half older than Tom in Twas the Night Before.
Just so I’m clear, I think five years either way means nothing once you hit your twenties. But in the world of Christian romances, it’s kinda unusual.
She’d expected shock over her advanced age, but it didn’t seem to matter to him.
“Advanced age“? Allison is so weird.
Brock gets Joy some goofy toys, including a standing thing she won’t be able to use for months, and a toy police car, which, to be fair, is kinda sweet, in the sense that he’s letting the kid know that “someone did care about her and wanted to protect her.”
And then it’s all spoiled when Allison gets a call from a foster mother who wants to take the baby.
Not sure why, if Allison’s qualified, they don’t just leave the baby with her, but whatevs.
When we last left Brock and Allison, she had sussed out that he had an abandoning mother, just like baby Joy. Brock, as they say, neither confirms nor denies…
“The only mother we need to worry about right now is hers.” He poked a finger through the air toward Joy.
Allison flinched and was glad the baby was so preoccupied with her dinner and the bright color of her caregiver’s sweater that she hadn’t startled at Brock’s sudden movement.
Um, Allison, did you not take any child development classes in becoming a case worker? That month-old infant can’t see more than a foot in front of her face right now. She also has basically zero depth perception, so even if she could see his finger, I doubt she would perceive it as a threat to her.
But Allison is basically an overprotective Mama Bear (Gawd, how I hate that term!) and she is very reluctant to hand the baby over to Brock for a burp, even though Brock is nothing but incredibly gentle and tender with Joy.
But she finally manages it, and Brock is a natural daddy, of course, and finally reveals that his mother (he calls her by her first name, Madeline), abandoned him when he was five years old. And now he wants to get Joy’s mother behind bars for dumping her in a manger, which…doesn’t sound like the worst idea in the history of the world.
But Allison, like all good Christian romance heroines, is ready with a trite platitude in the face of real-world emotions and problems:
“No matter how bad our troubles are, God can make it right. Or at least He’ll help us to bear the load.”
Allison braced herself, expecting him to ridicule her again about her faith, but he only nodded as if he wanted to believe, too. For joy’s sake, if nothing else.
Um, okay. And damn, Allison, but you are really uptight about the idea that anyone would “ridicule” your faith. Reminds me of your paranoia about being questioned by atheists about jerk Christians. I mean, Brock said one thing about God, and it during a very stressful situation. Calm the frak down.
“Well, Christmas is in a few hours, so Merry Christmas.” [said Allison]
One side of his mouth pulled up in a sad half smile. “Happy holidays to you, too.”
Excuse me, Mr. Brock???
Them’s fightin’ words, son.
I’m actually really surprised Allison doesn’t take offense to this. They just both privately reflect that it won’t be a very merry Christmas for Joy. Not that she’ll know or care this year.
And the next morning, our lovable stalker is back, with a bag of gifts for Allison and the baby. It would actually be quite sweet (Brock knows that Allison’s mother is dead and that the rest of the family is busy and Allison is stuck by herself with the kid), or would be, if it wasn’t put quite like this:
As much as he hated to admit it, his heart had betrayed him as he watched her lovingly tend to that defenseless child, tempting him to wish. For what? Someone to care for him? He was a big boy; he couldn’t rely on anyone. Relying would mean trusting, and that was just impossible.
Someone to care for him? Okay, I know what she means, but…in light of Brock’s admission about his abandoning mother…
I mean, is it just me, or does that make it sound like all Brock wants is a substitute mommy figure?
Convincing himself that giving Allison and the baby gifts is “merely polite,” Brock knocks…
And so the thing we were all expecting comes to pass—Allison’s boss insists that Allison take baby Joy home with her, since no other foster family can be found.
We also learn that it is actually Christmas Eve, which kinda surprises me, since I suppose I think of live Nativity scenes as things that happen more before Christmas than December 23rd. Then again, not speaking from personal experience here. 😉
Brock is grumbling in his head about how much this Christmas Eve sucks, since he’s been pulling an extra shift to find the mother. He’s always feeling pretty inadequate because the local news has actually been covering this story, and Brock suspects that any moment now, they’re going to be writing about how much he sucks.
His coworker [Jane, the dispatcher] appeared annoyed at having to work while everyone else spent time with family, attending Christmas Eve services or roasting chestnuts, if people outside storybooks really did that. Too bad for her she had a family to go home to. On nights like this one, when law enforcement officers worked double shifts while the rest of the world celebrated, it paid to be alone in the world. Just the way he wanted to be.
Oh, shut up, Jane. I have zero patience with people who whine about working holidays. And it’s not only law enforcement, you two, while “the rest of the world” gets a vacation. Unless you think that hospitals and nursing homes and gas stations and fire stations and taxis just stop on the holidays. I, and almost everyone I know, has worked the holidays over the years, often many times. Plenty of times, too, people like it, because they get paid time-and-a-half or double overtime. And if you chose a career in medicine or law enforcement, for example, you probably should have expected this going in. Just sayin’.
And Brock kinda cutely chides himself for being a liar, since he’s been thinking about how much he’s liking Allison. And how much he likes her looks (which she hates) because she looks like the kind of girl who would be happy snuggled up for movies and popcorn. Nice. Seriously.
And he finds out that Allison is the one providing foster care for the baby. And off he rushes to her place, though not for any investigative purpose…
He could tell himself he was only checking up on the abandoned infant, but truth be told, he was far more curious about the baby’s temporary caregiver.
Aww. That’s kinda sweet, too.
He didn’t even have to look up her address again, since he’d already done that and had passed by her small ranch home three times since then, always on his way to somewhere else.
Okay, that is not so kinda sweet.
Brock, seriously, what the hell? How’s about doing a bit of investigative work instead of driving past a woman’s house three times in one friggin’ day??? Holy crap, sir.
Anyway, he heads to her house, and two full pages are spent in Brock thinking how attractive Allison looks, fresh from the shower in her jeans and sweater. And noticing how Joy digs into Allison’s chest when she’s hungry.
He holds the baby while Allison prepares a bottle, and again, is super-sweet, kissing the baby’s little head, “natural as anything he’d ever done.”
He even changes the kid’s diaper, and thus digs around the diaper bag again…but this time, he finds a note from the mother:
Remember that I love you.
Wow. Um, short but…short.
And so very personal!
Brock is as unimpressed as I am:
“Yeah, she loved her, all right. Enough to desert her.”
But Allison takes great exception to the idea that Brock should ever speak ill of an absentee mother who isn’t even around to hear the insult, because “How can you possibly know her heart?”
You’re right, Allison, we can’t know her heart. We can only know her actions, those being leaving a month-old baby in a rickety piece of used-once-a-year scenery, trusting that the child will awaken before the cast deserts said scenery, leaving her alone in the “frigid December air.”
Brock, bless his heart, doesn’t take such bullshit sitting down, and says he knows gorram well how mothers can abandon their kids. Allison, of course, immediately intuits that Brock is talking about his mom!