Everyone has a favorite Christmas story. This one is mine.
It happened at a time when we were young enough to believe in magic and not so old that we trusted our senses to the exclusion of everything else. We had heard there was a psychic a few miles away named Eva Berry and, as it turned out, she was a cousin to my mother-in-law. If you knew my mother-in-law you would realize what a stroke of luck that was. She loved everything mystical and very soon we were all in a mood to go see Cousin Eva and “have a seance.”
Seven of us arrived that afternoon. Eva lived in a plain house. When we got inside we met Eva, a very pleasant lady in her 70s who, as luck would have it, had a male friend around her own age living with her whom she suggested we call “Uncle Harry.” He was not a member of the immediate family.
The so-called séance began on a lackluster note. Nothing much of any interest happened, as I recall, until she asked if any of us had a wish for anything special.
Finally, our friend Margaret spoke up. She related how she and her husband Dennis had been trying for years to have a baby with no success. The doctors they were seeing had given up on them and the two of them were getting desperate.
“Oh,” said Eva, “one thing we can do is get Uncle Harry to stimulate your ovaries.”
As I recall, Dennis was not particularly enamored of that idea, until Eva explained that the ovaries were represented by the part of the foot under the arch. Once stimulated, she said, it would make the ovaries more fertile.
Dennis reluctantly agreed and Uncle Harry went to work.
A few minutes later, in the middle of a conversation about the state of politics I heard Dennis shout, “Okay, that’s enough.” We all looked to see that Harry’s fingers had started to migrate to other areas and Dennis was calling an end to the experiment.
I remember smiling at the old guy and admiring his pluck.
Eva was undisturbed. She gave us a prediction: Margaret would give birth in time for Christmas. “That would be wonderful,” said Margaret, but without conviction. None of us thought any more about it. Cousin Eva and Uncle Harry seemed like two nice people who were just trying to help some young folks. We said our goodbyes and we never saw either of them, Eva or Harry, again.
A few months later my wife and I went to dinner with Dennis and Margaret. As we sat down, Margaret said she had an announcement.
“Get ready for a shocker,” she said. “We didn’t want to tell anyone until we were absolutely certain but it’s been confirmed. I’m pregnant.”
We didn’t know what to say.
“It’s true,” she said. “The only thing Eva was wrong about was the timing. I’m due in January, not December.”
But Margaret didn’t deliver in January. The baby was born prematurely, two weeks before Christmas. I remember visiting Margaret in the hospital and seeing the light in her eyes when she said, “This is absolutely the best Christmas present we’ve ever had.”
She called the baby Allison. I called her “the Christmas baby.”
That was 38-some years ago. Today, Allison lives in Virginia with her husband and her own children. Eva and Harry have passed on. Every now and then some of us who were there get together and talk about the experience. No one knows to this day what to make of it.
In all the years that have passed Dennis and Margaret never used contraception again and Margaret has never been able to get pregnant again.