When I was a kid, Christmas' were generally modest in comparison to many of my friends. Mom is a seamstress and made extra money by sewing for other people. She loves to sew. We always knew we would get a new Christmas dress to wear to church as well as a new flannel nightgown, made by mom. We always got an orange, a small bag of nuts, and a small bag of hard ribbon candy in our stockings. Those things could be counted on every year. Then each of my four sisters and I would get one or two other gifts besides these. One year I got a new "boom box" (it was the 80's). It was about 20 inches wide by 15 inches tall by 3 or 4 inches thick and played one cassette tape and the radio. I loved that thing.
Then we would load up, or walk through the pasture, and head over to Grandma's house. There we would find whatever cousins were in town along with another stocking of our own filled with more hard ribbon candy and nuts. Grandma and Granddad always had a small tree that would be set up on a 4'x4' table/platform. The platform would sit about a foot up off the floor and would be covered by fabric. Around that foot tall edge Grandma would hang a stocking for each of her kids, their spouse, and one for each of the grandkids. She would always hand make us a gift as well. One year she crocheted a small round rug for each of her grandkids to keep on the side of our beds so we would have something soft and warm to kneel on when we said our prayers. Another year she took round oatmeal containers and covered them with fabric and a drawstring at the top. I used mine to keep my yarn and other sewing things in.
But there is one Christmas that especially stands out to me. It is one I will never forget.
I was ten. It had been a hard year for our family. Earlier in the year my dad was seriously hurt when a tree fell on him, breaking his back. He couldn't work. Mom went to work to pay the bills, but her paycheck just barely did that. Extra was not in our vocabulary that year. There just wasn't enough money and we knew it. We didn't expect Christmas to be very big. We didn't even know if we would have a Christmas that year. I knew my parents were worried about it. They had five girls and no way to provide a Christmas. We were told not to expect very much that year so we would be prepared. I remember feeling sad about that, but I understood and was okay with it.
Christmas was fast approaching. We were enjoying the month. We attended our ward party and got to see Santa and get a treat. We had parties at school and decorated the house for Christmas. It felt like all of our other Christmas' and I was happy. It wasn't unusual for there not to be presents under the tree before Christmas. Mom never liked to put them out because my sister was the queen of peaking. So the fact there were not presents under the tree a few days before Christmas didn't raise any alarms for us.
Then, one night close to Christmas, a knock came at our door. There on the doorstep was a very large box. It was FULL of presents. I don't remember if there was anything else in the box, but I remember the box and the wrapped gifts inside. We were so excited! The box came in and the gifts were promptly placed under the tree. I couldn't believe someone would do something like that! Whoever it was had to be rich. I just knew it.
Soon the day arrived. Christmas morning was upon us. My sister came and woke me up. It was 4:00 am.
"Come quick! The living room is FULL of presents!", she said, shaking me awake.
I got up as quickly as I could. It wasn't long before the other girls were up as well. We rushed into the living room and sure enough, the room was overflowing with Christmas. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't understand it. We had never had anything like this before. And we weren't supposed to be getting Christmas this year! There were so many gifts we couldn't even see the carpet on the floor. The whole room was filled.
I remember the first things I saw. A two-story Barbie dollhouse and five glass Snoopie money banks. I am still not sure who the banks came from, but the dollhouse was lovingly made by my Grandpa. It was made out of 1/4" plywood and was made like a puzzle. We could take it apart so it would store flat. It had four rooms - two downstairs and two upstairs.
We ripped through that room like a tornado. I had never been so happy in my whole life.
After we had devoured the gifts in the room and discovered who's gifts were who's, we went to wake mom and dad up and tell them of our fortune. I will never forget the disappointment on their faces when we told them we had found everything and pronounced that we had opened all of our gifts without them. It still makes me cry to think about that part. As a parent, your only joy in Christmas is the joy on your children's faces. We had unknowingly and naively robbed them of that on a year that would never be duplicated again. We expected pebbles and had been given the moon, and our parents missed the whole thing. Sometimes I dream about this moment in time and wish I could go back and relive it and wake them up first. Starting the very next year, we were not allowed to come out of our rooms until 6:00 am and Dad gave us to okay to come in, usually after a fire was going in the wood stove and the room was warmed up. We understood why.
I still don't know where all of those gifts came from that year. I do know there were many generous people who loved our family and went out of their way to provide for us that year. I will never know who they are, but they will always have a place in my heart as the ones who saved Christmas for us.
This year my daughter is experiencing that same joy with her young women's class at church. They are giving a Christmas to a family in a similar situation as my family was in so long ago. She volunteered to help serve for the elderly at our senior center a few days ago with a friend. Santa was there. She was so excited when she saw me after she came from there. She asked Santa if he would visit this family tonight (Christmas Eve) to deliver their gifts. He said yes. My daughter was beaming and so excited to know how happy these kids will be when Santa knocks on their door tonight with gifts for them. As a mother, I am grateful for the joy she feels as she experiences the joy of giving. This is truly what Christmas is about. It isn't about what we get, although, for children, it is. But children deserve to be children. As for the rest of us... Christmas is about the giving. It's about remembering the greatest gift of all. The gift our Savior Jesus Christ gave. He gave His life so that we might live again. For that, I am truly grateful. For everyone out there who gives to brighten someone else's life, I am grateful. For those who have touched my life and given so much to me, thank you.
"...when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2: 17
I hope that this Christmas will be one of service and giving. For that is truly where the joy of Christmas lies. Merry Christmas to all of my blog friends. I wish each of you and your families peace and happiness this year. May He (Jesus Christ) be the reason for this season. Merry Christmas!