Don’t miss the present at the end of the story.
The year was 1960 and I was only six-years-old. My family had left Fort Worth, Texas, destitute. Dad needed work and we moved to a small town in the Missouri Ozarks where my grandparents lived. Dad, Mom, Larry, and I settled into a little house in town. They called it a Cracker Jack box. It was so small that Larry and I, didn’t have a bedroom, but we didn’t mind. We slept on pallets in the living room. Dad drove a truck and delivered car batteries all over southern Missouri.
I noticed Mom didn’t cook Dad’s favorite for dinner anymore. Now, she mostly served yummy beans and cornbread or delicious chicken and dumplings. Sometimes, the electricity wouldn’t work and she cooked on the gas stove by candlelight until Dad paid the bill.
I saw snow for the first time right before Christmas. It transformed the countryside from a gloomy, gray-brown into a bright, hopeful white as it covered the ground and frosted the trees and rooftops. With gloves and galoshes, Larry and I frolicked in the white powder, rolling and forming a snowman complete with buttons, which Mom gave us, and an old hat of Grandpa’s.
My older brother, Buck, visited for the holidays. We hadn’t seen Buck since before he got married. When he drove his two-tone ‘56 Pontiac into the driveway on Christmas Eve, the merriment started. He ran around the car to open the door for Virginia, his new wife. She was beautiful, tall and slender with green eyes and light brown hair. He grinned from ear to ear as he hugged Mother.
“Hi, Mommy,” he laughed teasingly with Buck’s usual mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He stood straight and proud as he introduced Virginia.
That evening as Daddy played the guitar, Buck and Larry joined him with their harmonicas. We all sang songs and carols and laughed. It felt good. Even though our house was small, we didn’t care. Mom and Dad pulled the mattress off their bed. Buck and Virginia slept on the mattress, Dad and Mom on the box springs. Larry and I fell asleep on Christmas Eve in front of the Christmas tree. Shiny glass ornaments, silver tinsel, and brightly-colored lights made it the most beautiful tree ever.
I loved Christmas; even if we didn’t get many presents, it was still my favorite time of all. Mom made Christmas fun, but I think Dad enjoyed it more than any of the other adults. Larry and I had hung our stockings above the fireplace, but when we awoke, they had multiplied. Stockings hung there for all of us, regardless of age, filled with our favorite things: fruit, candy, and other little trinkets.
Laughter filled our tiny home as we gathered around our kitchen table for Christmas dinner. Smiles lit up the faces around me and I realized the God-given joy of Christmas and family.
(A story from my childhood as told in All That Matters, published by W&B Publishers)
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:11-14 KJV
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