12/24/2008

My Favorite Christmas


It was the Christmas Eve of 1961. Mama had left my father due to constant verbal and physical abuse just three months prior to this day. We had left Woolmarket, MS (which I have an on and off going series about on this blog) and were living day to day. Mama told us two weeks prior to Christmas Eve not to expect much from "Santa Claus" this year. I knew there was no Santa. So, that told me we were worse off financially than my mother had let on. She said the most we could expect would be some candy and maybe some cookies. But, there would be no toys this year. Mama said this with tears streaming down her face. I knew this was tearing her apart inside. I was already miserable because of our situation. But, to see my mother literally apologizing to us...well, it was almost more than a 10 year old boy could take.

We watched on the TV news that Santa Claus had left the North Pole (as they do every year here) and was delivering toys to all the good boys and girls. My sister asked my mother if we weren't getting toys because we had been bad that year. My mother just put her hands to her face to try and cover her pain stricken face. I was suddenly angry. I was angry with my father. I was angry with myself. I was angry with life itself. Why did we have to be so poor? It wasn't fair. My mother worked and scrimped to put together a meager life for us. But, this final injustice...no toys for Christmas. Some cookies and peppermint candy sticks. Years later, I thought how selfish I was being. There were some kids around the world who wouldn't even be getting that for Christmas. But, I was ten years old and I could only think of the here and now. Through my tears, I still felt indignant that we had to suffer because of a father who was an alcoholic. The person I felt for the most was my mother. I knew what this was doing to her.

As we were preparing to go to bed, our next door neighbor knocked on our door. She said that there was someone wanting to speak to our mother on the telephone. We, of course, could not afford a telephone back then. So, our neighbor would graciously allow us to receive and make calls on her phone when the need would arise. Anyway, the neighbor said she would watch over us until my mother finished talking to whoever was on the phone. I suspected it was my father. If he wanted to talk to me, I wasn't going to do it. I had no use for him then and little use for him as the years went by. So, with our hearts breaking, my brother, sister and I all went to our respective beds on Christmas Eve of 1961. It would be hell on earth waking up and not seeing any presents. We had cut down a little pine tree about two feet tall and put some old Christmas ornaments on it. That was our Christmas tree. It would serve as a reminder to us on Christmas morning there would be no presents that year.

I remember my mother calling to us to get out of bed...there was something she wanted to show us. All of us groggy (it was about 5AM) and still quite morose, stumbled into the living room. And there...there before our eyes was an amazing sight that to this day still gives me goosebumps. The first thing I noticed, oddly enough, was the little pine tree was gone. In it's place was a magnificent Christmas tree of at least 7 feet in height decorated to put the one at the shopping center to shame.. And, below that Christmas tree...were presents of every description. There were dolls, tea sets, plastic army men, a girl's bicycle, BB guns, board games, cowboy outfits, baseballs, bats, footballs, girls clothes, boys clothes, toy trains, transistor radios...there were so many different gifts until I could not possibly remember them all. They were piled almost as high as the Christmas tree itself. And in the kitchen...pies, cakes, turkey and dressing, dozens of cookies, bread rolls...there was so much food there was no way we could possibly eat it all! To this day, I am not sure if I have ever seen so much food in such a small area as that kitchen. It was piled up on top of one another. We stood there in shock...for about 3 seconds and then we tore into the gifts. You never saw so much squealing and joy as from the three of us that morning. That day, I never saw my mother as happy as she was then. Sure, we had many more Christmases from that day onward. But, the look of joy on her face...it was a sight I would never forget.

After the shock had worn off (somewhat), I asked my mother...HOW? How did this happen? She told me that to just enjoy the moment and be thankful...thankful that there are still people in the world who still care. I later found out there was an organization in our town (since disbanded) called the "Good Samaritan Club." They would go about the city helping those in need as much as humanly possible. Usually, these people were of considerable wealth and means. The one condition was that the "good samaritan" had to remain anonymous. That was one condition they would not waver from under any circumstance. I remember telling my mother we'll never know the man or woman's name that turned around our Christmas that year. It just didn't seem right they didn't get the recognition they deserved. Mama looked at me and gave me a familiar refrain that I had heard from her many times before..."God knows their name." And, when you think about it, that's all that really counts.

Merry Christmas everyone.

3 comments:

I just loved your blog post... it brought a tear to my eye.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas!

Whimsey, thanks for your kind words. That post brought back memories for sure. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!!!

What an interesting Christmas post! Thanks for sharing this story. Sometimes, we appreciate things more after not having them. I'm glad you got presents after all and you learned there are good people in the world.

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