In our holiday series “Finding ...,” the Herald-Leader has invited readers and writers to share the story of a personal quest or journey they're taking this holiday season. This is the second in the occasional series.
Maybe it was the jewels in their headpieces or the varying colors of their beards. It might have been the trusty sound that came from secretly twisting the copper knob sticking out of the middle man's back, and the fact that my grandmother collected these contraptions.
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I can't tell you exactly the reason why my Three Wise Men music box figurine is as close to magic as it gets.
Each December, my mom would haul the cardboard boxes marked “Christmas” out of storage and begin decorating the house. As a child, I loved pulling each treasure from its home and adoring the ornament, statue or wreath I'd forgotten.
As much as each delighted me, there was still only one in particular that made bells ring in my ears and snowflakes fall in front of my eyes — those Three Wise Men.
They stand almost a foot high, are stuck together like Siamese triplets, each a different color, carrying their own gift for the blessed child. And, of course, they play We Three Kings.
I'm sure they were made in some 1970s ceramic crafts class, and you might even have one like it in your home. But these details are insignificant to me, because out of everything my mother owns, this was the one thing I wanted to inherit.
A few years ago, my mother parted with the music box and bestowed it into my ownership. I can't exactly remember why; maybe she was just tired of wrapping it up in newspaper every January. She probably just knew it would be well taken care of. And it is. Those Wise Men, along with a beat-up old teddy bear named Twinkles and my dog Igby, are my most important treasures.
And this year the Wise Men bring me an extra special warmth and sense of security.
As I write this (and the music box plays), I'm homeless, couch surfing with friends and at my boyfriend's mother's house. I travel among three cities for two jobs. I'm stressed out and overwhelmed. My belongings are spread around many garages, and each day is a struggle to keep going.
I am writing this on the day before Thanksgiving and I sit in the dark in a silent room. I knew my spirits needed lifting. Perhaps miraculously, my music box was in the basement of this house. So I crawl out of bed, find my lifelong treasure and feel better.
During our country's economic crisis, I'm thankful for many things. I have the greatest friends and family I could ask for and know without a doubt that they deeply love me. I'm employed and healthy. I can see hope in the future.
But at this minute, as I pause to make a few more turns of the middle Wise Man's secret key, I'm most thankful for one thing. The jewels don't sparkle like they used to, but thankfully, Christmas tradition and joy do.