This Christmas story begins with the vanity of my mother. She was born on July 4, 1909. When she was about thirty-five she met the mother of a classmate to my sister and discovered that this woman, too, was a Yankee Doodle Dandy. The woman, Margaret DeMacedo, asked my mother the simple question, “What year were you born?” and my mother, thinking that this woman was surely younger than she, trimmed a few years off her age and said, “1912.” And Margaret said, “Oh, I’m older, I was born in 1909.” Several days later my mother called Margaret and owned up to the lie. The two women not only shared a birthday but became fast friends.
Later in life, after Margaret’s husband and one daughter had died, Margaret used to come to my parents’ home for Christmas dinner with our family. I remember the dignified way in which she lived through her widowhood and the loss of her one child. One Christmas at dinner she told us that the sermon at the early Christmas Mass had given her some comfort. The priest told the congregation that, if indeed they had a sadness on Christmas Day, they ought not feel guilty about their failure to share in the joy of the Lord’s birthday. Like so many widows and widowers who attended the early Christmas Mass, Margaret would always miss her spouse and child at that celebration. That sermon convinced her that her faithfulness was true even if she could not feel the joy of Christmas.