I was glad that my children didn’t seem to notice the surroundings that seemed so dismal to me.
Gordon and Kelly were blissfully unaware of our lack of luxuries that cold December in 1983. They were busy with kindergarten and first-grade affairs, and full of pre-Christmas energy and excitement. The little black and white television with its coat-hanger antenna blared endless commercials for toys and trinkets for the upcoming holiday.
It seemed each advertisement was punctuated by cries of, “Oh Mama, I want that for Christmas! Mom, do you think Santa will bring me one of those?”
My answers were always weak and non-committal and I even told them that Santa only fills their stockings, and Mom was the one who gave them wrapped presents. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in old Saint Nick.
Still, nothing I said dampened their enthusiasm and anticipation. But I was the one who looked sadly around our old apartment and saw paint chipping from walls, threadbare carpet, the orange-crate coffee table. I tried not to show my increasing anxiety about my lack of Christmas money and busied myself with preparations anyway. Because our ornament collection was scanty at best, the children and I made construction paper chains as garland for our little tree, and I carefully cut out a cardboard star and covered it in foil for its crowning touch.
Gordon and Kelly thought our little Christmas tree was beautiful. As grateful as I was for their obliviousness to our situation, I still worried. They may not notice how strapped we were now, but what were they going to think on Christmas morning when they awoke to just a few small packages under the tree?
Christmas day begins early with a five and six year old.
“Mom! Mom! Santa Claus came! Will you get up now?”
There was no more hiding, and no sudden windfall had come my way. I pasted a smile on my face, got my cup of coffee and settled on the couch with a rock of anxiety firmly lodged in my stomach. Two little faces looked up at me, eager with excitement.
“Which one should we open first?”
I carefully pointed out two small gifts. I knew all the presents under that tree were practical items except for one toy each I managed to buy.
“Why don’t you open those,” I said, and watched as paper was quickly torn off, only to reveal a package of underwear inside.
“Thank you Mom,” I heard their chorus, and I could only manage a weak smile.
I felt close to tears by the time I pointed to Gordon’s third gift, knowing it was just a package of undershirts. “I’m afraid that’s not a very exciting present,” I whispered apologetically as my six-year-old started pulling off ribbon.
Gordon finished tearing off the paper, held the cellophane package of t-shirts up high, and with heartfelt emotion he replied, “Oh, but Mom, I really needed these. Thank you Mom!”
Suddenly our shabby and threadbare living room seemed filled with light. It wasn’t the glow from our little aluminium star on the tree, or even the tears that came to my eyes, but my heart expanding with gratitude and love.
Somehow, in the midst of all my worries I hadn’t realized that my children were becoming such good people, not in spite of a lack of material things, but maybe because of it.
My little boy couldn’t have been too excited by one more package of undergarments, but somehow at his young age, Gordon had learned a kindness rare for his years.
Through the years I’ve forgotten many holidays along the way, but I’ll never forget that Christmas morning in 1983. My young son gave me a gift of graciousness — and a priceless memory that I’ll treasure always.
Anne Goodrich [email protected]
Thanks to Inspiration Of The Day [email protected]