This will be my 71st Christmas. In that time I have been given a lot of Christmas presents.
- Some I loved
- Some I pretended to like but really did not
- Some were expensive
- Some were not so expensive
- Some were store-bought
- Some were homemade
- Some shown that the giver had really put a lot of time and love into the gift
- Some looked like the giver had just grabbed something off the shelf at the last-minute
But every year as I reflect on Christmas past there is one gift that stands out to me. It was the best Christmas gift I ever received.
It is also the first Christmas I remember. I was five years old and I believed in Santa Claus. There were two gifts I was hoping he would bring me: a doll and a toy stove with some dishes.
Although I never felt our family was poor, looking back I realize we certainly were not affluent. We lived in a three-room house – Mom and Dad, two sisters a brother and me. I was the baby. Mom and Dad shared the one bedroom and my sisters and I had beds in the kitchen. Fortunately the kitchen was very large so the stove, refrigerator and table was at one end and our beds at the other. My brother slept on a roll-away bed that we opened at night and put in the pantry just off the kitchen.
Looking back I think how hard it must have been to try to buy the presents we four children were hoping for. How they must have agonized over not having enough money to buy all they would have liked to buy for us.
Christmas Eve my dad took me with him to my grandmother’s house where he added coal to her heating stove and set the fire for the night. When we returned home I discovered Santa Claus had come. So excited, I opened my one present and found the doll I had requested. Looking around I realized there was not a second present for me. There would be no toy stove and dishes. My doll was so pretty and I slept happily that night holding her close.
The next day my parents explained to me that Santa Claus had so many kids to buy for and he did not have enough money to get everything on everyone’s list. However, my dad said he and my mother had a surprise for me. They had a toy stove for me with some dishes.
Dad brought out the stove. He had taken a cardboard box, turned it upside down and drew burners on the top. He then cut out small openings in the front and had put in some little wooden knobs that were painted red, yellow and blue for me to use to turn on the burners. He also had an oven door painted on the side and cut so that I could open and put in a pan. Mom had rummaged though her pots and pans and found some older ones that I was able to use.
I was one happy little girl! I had my very own stove and dishes.
Today I realize most little girls would be upset with such a gift. But to me it was a treasure. As I have grown old, the memory of that gift has increased in value.
As a parent trying to make ends meet I realize how much love had gone into their decision to make that gift for me, how much they must have hated that they could not give me a real toy stove and dishes.
Of all the gifts I have received over the years, none mean as much to me as that gift coming from my parents’ heart.