(This is the serial publication of Hello, My Name is Phillip, as Phillip remembers what happened on Christmas Eve when he was five. This book is available on Amazon as paperback and in kindle format here.)
The Christmas Eve service was bright that year. There were candles everywhere in the church: on every windowsill, in the front on the altar, and held by all the people participating. This was the first year the lady let me hold a candle. She said, “You can do this, my little man.” And it was another first time—that year I played a special song for the service. It was “O Holy Night.” Maggie and I had worked it out. It made the whole church feel blue to me—the best color. The painting in my head was filled with angels and light and color and Jesus in his white robe. He was smiling at me. I wanted to keep playing.
I played the last note, and nothing happened at first. It felt like everyone in the room was in shock. They were holding candles and circling the sanctuary. I had played the song after we had sung “Silent Night.” Everyone had sung the first verse in German then the other verses in English. I held my candle, and the music made my heart glad. Then I had handed my candle to Maggie. She had come with Henry, and then walked to the piano in the dark with all those candles shining brightly and played. In the silence afterward, I looked around. It looked like little diamonds were shining on every face. The people were crying. And then someone’s choked voice said, “Glory to God.”
No one else spoke. No one breathed for a moment. It was so still. Then came the voice of a child over the room, reading the first passage from the book of John. I knew this, because Miss Jeanne had shared it in Sunday School the previous Sunday talking about how Jesus and God were one, and yet two persons. And how the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, had come from God to us, yet was also God. Miss Jeanne then read the beginning of Genesis chapter one.
“Do you see how these two chapters begin with the same words of In the beginning?” she had asked us. “The Apostle John echoes the words of Genesis. He connects the two passages so that we will as well. In Genesis, God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and the Spirit, hovers over the waters. God creates everything in Genesis One, through the spoken Word. In Genesis it appears the Word is simply that God spoke, but here in John, we see the Word is a “He,” a person, who was speaking through God. Through Him all things were created, and nothing was created apart from Him. Do you see how clear it is? Jesus, the Word of God, created everything. And Jesus came to us that all of us could have life in us by believing in Him. John wrote all that right here.” That was a cool class. Miss Jeanne prayed with us as we said yes, again, to Jesus.
The child finished reading: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we beheld His glory, glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth. And we all stood in the darkness lit by the candlelight. There was a special feel to the room that night. It was like my closet when I said my colors. It was like music played on the piano. It was blue.
Candles blown out, lights up, I was surrounded. People hugged me. Some slapped me on the shoulder. Others spoke to me and spoke to the lady over my head. They were so astounded.
“It’s a gift!”
“He’s an angel!”
“I never imagined this could happen!”
“To think, Our Special Phillip.”
I began to feel closed in and frightened. Skye pulled my sleeve and pulled me over against the wall. And the people talked to the lady, and Maggie came to stand with me. She put a hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s all right, Phillip. It’s all right, Laddie. You have brought them Jesus tonight in a whole new way.”
The man with the car was especially silent as we drove home. When we got there, we had no sooner entered the house than the lady said, “Oh, I forgot my purse at the church, it has everything in it. Here, let me take your keys, and I’ll run back and get it.”
She was gone. The man let out a sigh and looked at me and then he began to yell. It happened so fast. The room turned black. “You show off! You little prideful show off! What were you thinking playing tonight like that? You’re no good, kid. No good. You don’t speak so everyone will think you have a special need, but actually you are just trying to grab all the attention.”
I shrank from him. He came at me and grabbed my shoulder. “I hate you, Phillip! I hate you! You have taken all the credit. You take all the attention. You are always first. You get all—”
It was like he ran out of words, so he hit me. Hit my head, my shoulder, my back. Skye came and grabbed the man’s pant leg to pull him off, but the man kicked, and Skye flew across the room and yelped. I was on the floor, heart beating wildly. Breathing ragged.
“Do you do everything perfect from that little world of yours? Everything? No one compares to you, Phillip.”
Again, my name was being spit by him. He grabbed the picture I had colored on the fridge and ripped it into pieces. Then he marched through the room to the living room and I heard, I could not believe I was hearing this, the keyboard being smashed onto the floor. Again, and again. Skye limped over and tugged on my sleeve and we ran upstairs. The man came after us. Before we made it to the closet, he had grabbed me again by the hair. Skye started to bark and bark. We were there, me screaming, the man yelling at me, Skye barking, when the lady got home. Seeing the devastation, hearing the noise she ran upstairs and rounded on the man and shouted: “Get away from him! How dare you? Get away! Get out! GET OUT!”
The man turned on her. “You! You always prefer him to me. You raise him up and put me down. You do everything for him. He’s your little prince. He gets all the praise, all the applause. For God’s sake! You prefer him to me. He is going to be famous. I hate his games. He could talk, I betcha. He’s just using this little ruse to manipulate us.”
“Listen to yourself,” she yelled. “Listen. Look what you have done!”
But he wouldn’t. He launched into more words. I ran to the closet in my room. My head hurt. My shoulder and back and leg ached where he had hit and kicked me. Skye was still limping and whining. We went into the closet and shut and locked the door. I collapsed on the floor and couldn’t stop crying.
The keyboard? My picture? The hitting? The yelling? Skye moved in closer to me still whining and put a paw on me. MC Bear sat alone.
The lady made the man leave that night, again. She called Maggie and Henry who came right over. Maggie sat and talked with the lady and prayed with her and Henry sat outside the closet door whispering through it to me and Skye. I couldn’t come out. The black inside had not gone away. I heard Henry saying, “Now, thisss was bad. It was. I knows it. Little fffellow, I’m sad you had ttto experience it. I’d lllike you to come out so I can checkkk that you are okay. I know you’re ssscared. But it’s important we checkkk if you’re okay. Could you cccome out?”
He coaxed and coaxed until I wanted to be closer to him. I unlocked the door and came out and he wrapped his tree limb arms around me and held me. He felt up and down my arms and legs and said, “Looksss likes the worst of ittt is your head. You mmmightss have a concussion. Can’t be cccertain.” And then he touched Skye who yelped. “Ah. Skye has a bbbroken leg, I believe Phillip.” Skye whined.
I looked. A broken leg? Would he be alright? What was going to happen? I started to cry. And then the whole night. The beauty and the horror. The darkness and the light. The music and the yelling. It rushed down like a waterfall and I started to cry, and cry and cry and Henry held me. There were no words.
Henry carried me downstairs and Skye limped down. Maggie and the lady took Skye to the emergency vet and returned him with a splint on his front leg. Henry just held me on the couch the whole time they were gone. He held an ice pack on my head and prayed and prayed over me. His big arms around me felt safe, kind of like the closet. I fell asleep in his arms, I guess, for the next thing I remember was waking up next to the lady and Skye in her bed. It was Christmas Day. The man with the car was gone, which for today was the best present.
“Good morning honey,” the lady said. She kissed my head. “How’s that head feel?” It ached. She felt it. “Ah good. There’s a bump. That’s usually a good sign. I told daddy he couldn’t come live here until he got help, so hopefully it will be just you and me for a while. I don’t have words for last night. It was so very wrong. I never knew that was going to happen. I’m so sad you had to go through that. And all the losses! I don’t know what to say about all those. Maggie and Henry invited us to come over for Christmas Day breakfast later. Does that sound like a good idea?”
“Okay. I am going to get up and get my shower. When you are ready, let’s head over there. It will be good to get out of the house.”