It was just a few weeks before my seventh Christmas. My three year old brother and I were coloring paper Christmas ornaments we had cut from a coloring book. My mother was out on an errand. My dad was working on something under the house that had broken.
One minute we were innocent children excited with the thoughts of Christmas, the next, chaos broke out. My father ran into the room shouting for us to go outside. We balked at the idea of leaving our unfinished projects and going out into the frigid air. It was a short standoff after which we were both tossed unceremoniously out into the night and ordered to run to the neighbor’s house to call for help. The house was on fire!
The rest of the night has remained a vivid memory all of these years. I stood listening as the neighbors kept voicing concern in elaborate detail, saying how the house was a total loss and burning to the ground. I still remember how terrifying it was staring out the window, watching helplessly as the flames flickered high in night sky, knowing our Christmas tree was in there and feeling just a tinge guilty that I had not gotten out when first told.
Fortunately the house did not burn to the ground. The only real damage was in my bedroom. It was bad enough my room was destroyed, but what I did not know at the time was that the top of my closet was the hiding place of the much awaited Christmas presents. Presents, which were burned beyond recognition. My parents, having little money to begin with and now faced with major home repairs, did not have the money to get new ones. As it was my dad was working two jobs and barely making ends meet so this was an added stress that left them feeling even more helpless. No parent wants to let their kids down, especially at Christmas time.
Mom and Dad sat us down and explained to us that we would not be getting presents this year. I was not worried. I knew Santa would bring us presents. They tried to tell me that Santa was struggling this year and could not visit but I wasn’t worried. Santa always visited so I didn’t think he would stop now.
We moved into my grandparent’s home while Dad worked his two jobs and then went to the house to work on it. It was not a happy time. We were a family of six cramped into a house that was really only big enough to comfortably fit my grandparents. Not being a close nit family to begin with the tensions were high and we were all ready to return to our home or at least what was left of it.
We returned before the work was completed, but it was livable and again the only real damage was to my bedroom. I slept in another room while dad continued the repairs to my room. I did not know at the time how helpless my parents felt with Christmas fast approaching and knowing there was nothing they could do about the lack of presents under the tree.
Christmas day arrived and sure enough Santa had not left any presents under the tree. I was confused as I had really thought he would make it, especially since he knew we really needed some presents. I had seen him, sat on his lap and made sure he knew he really needed to come. While we did not have any presents we were greeted by a white Christmas, with lots of snow white fluffy snow. Saddened by the lack of presents my parents encouraged us to go out and enjoy the freshly fallen snow.
Upon opening the front door we were greeted by a small array of toys sitting on the front porch with a note that simply said Merry Christmas, from Santa Claus. I do not remember what everyone else got but I enjoyed my gift for years. My present was a wonderful little table with four chairs. It was painted the color of denim and had the alphabet printed around the edges. It was a simple gift, only a single present on a cold Christmas morning, but it was mine, Santa had not forgotten me.
My mom and dad were brought to tears that Christmas morning so very long ago. Presents were found where there was supposed to be none. They never had the opportunity to thank that anonymous Santa for the joy he brought to four very grateful children but he is remembered to this very day by one grateful girl who truly believes in Santa Claus.
Merry Christmas to all!!