Some of you may have read my brother's version of this story on our other blog a few years back, but it bears retelling. For our choir program this year, we were asked if any of us had any special Christmas stories that we could share in between songs. This story is immediately what I thought of, and I submitted John's version . Our choir director liked it, but said that I needed to rewrite it from my own point of view, since I would be the one telling the story. Here it is if anyone cares to read it:
As a child, our family was never what you would call wealthy. We had what we needed, enough food, clothes to wear, and a warm home, but not much in the way of extras. But even with our humble situation, we were a happy family.
There is one Christmas that sticks out in my mind above all the others. The year I turned seven had been a particularly hard one. To begin with, Mom had had yet another heartbreaking miscarriage. In September, Mom's father passed away. Dad had been laid off from his job in July, and by Christmas time, he still had not been called back, but was working two janitorial jobs instead. Money was tight to say the least.
It was just the kind of setting to either give up in despair or to hope for a miracle. As it turns out, our parents were determined to make a miracle happen. With a talent for artistic things, and a little creativity they set to work.
I remember Mom haunting the back alleys of furniture & appliance stores and pulling large boxes out of the dumpsters. I don't remember the excuse for this odd behavior, but whatever it was, it worked. There was a small unused room in the basement whose door became mysteriously locked for what seemed like the longest time. I'll bet Mom didn't sleep for a month.
Christmas morning dawned and we awoke to find our living room transformed. Giant cardboard boxes had been painstakingly cut and elaborately painted to make a city of castles complete with turrets and even a round tower. It. Was. Awesome. Magical. Hiding inside the castles were other small gifts for my brother and me. I found a homemade doll with a beautiful dress that matched my own new homemade dress. (Mom was also a talented seamstress.)
I can't imagine how much time my mother must have put into that Christmas. I wonder if they were nervous about what kind of reception a bunch of cardboard boxes for Christmas would receive. But that Christmas became The Christmas to beat all Christmases. Our cardboard boxes were the envy of the neighborhood and we played with those things till they literally fell apart.
Despite how wonderful those castles were, it isn't money or neat presents that makes up a great Christmas. Even with the best presents ever, it could not have been a good Christmas had there been an atmosphere of despair. It's the spirit of faith, of hope, and the love that makes all the difference. That Christmas was neat because our parents made awesome presents out of nothing. But what made it wonderful was that despite the hard circumstances our family was having at the time, there was not despair, there was love, and hope and faith that things would be okay. Like the Millennium Falcon, we didn't look like much, but we had it where it counted.