A Christmas story to last all year round [Column] – Reading eagle
This story takes place around Christmas, but it tells a truth that is true all year round.
I have already said this in different versions. Some of you were kind, thank you, to ask me to reprint it from a column I wrote years ago. It would require finding it. And I have a hard time finding my own shoes.
So I’m going to tell it from memory, which is always an adventure, because every good story has its own spirit. You never know at the beginning where it will lead or how it might end.
This begins with a picnic on July 4th. I was tall, 8 years old. My brothers were little, 4 and 3 years old. We didn’t know what to expect.
My stepfather, in my eyes, was strong and solid like the trunk of a hickory tree. He earned just enough to protect and feed us by standing eight hours a day on his big, flat feet operating a loom in a textile factory.
That summer, during the company picnic – when he lost his footing in the tug of war and slipped like a big rig put in place – he also lost his job.
I learned this from my mother, who said, watching him fall, âLord, help us! If he can’t walk, he can’t work! And if he can’t work, we can’t eat!
He was on crutches and out of work for six months. Somehow we still managed to eat.
In December, my mom announced that Santa Claus might be a little late.
“How late? ” I asked.
âMaybe spring,â she said.
They had ordered a few gifts on credit from a catalog, she explained, but the shipment might not arrive on time.
“It will always be Christmas,” she said, “even without Santa Claus.”
I tried to imagine it, Christmas minus Santa Claus. I couldn’t see it.
The next day, good and caring people from our church came to our door with a ham, a box of cookies, and a small Douglas fir topped with paper birds.
My stepfather hid in the kitchen. My mother thanked them for their kindness, but forgot to offer them coffee.
After they left, she handed me a cookie. âLife,â she said, âis a bank. Sometimes you put. Other times you withdraw. Either way, it’s the same bank.
Then she added, âYou have to remember how difficult it is to receive,â she said, âbecause someday you will give. “
Every day of the last week before Christmas, my stepdad stuffed his crutches into his Ford 49 and went to the depot to wait for the train. I would wait on the porch steps praying.
And every day he came back shaking his head, looking gloomy.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, he limped into the living room with a box under one arm.
“Merry Christmas,” he muttered, dropping the box on the floor near the small Douglas fir. It was all about tangerines.
We ate them all. They were good. But that night, for the first time, they tasted like Christmas. And for me, they always will.
I have seen a lot of Christmases since then and have received far more than my fair share of gifts. I also made a small donation and learned that my mother was right. Giving is easy. The catch is difficult.
In this season of giving and in the year to come, I hope we all experience the joy of giving to family, friends and strangers in need. But I also hope that we are ready to accept a little help, just to be humble.
When you find yourself in need, remember: sometimes we give. Other times we take. And one day you will make the donation.
You don’t need to send me a Christmas card or New Year’s greetings (PO Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924) unless, of course, you really want to.
May your stockings be filled, not just at Christmas, but every morning. And in the toe, may you still find a tangerine.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some”. She can be reached at PO Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or www.sharonrandall.com.