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I was thinking of Christmas today and all we give to our children each year. It’ not only Christmas trees, letters from Santa Clause, trips to see Christmas Lights, and phone calls from Santa, but also the spirit of the season. I was reminded of a story that I grew up with and that I later saw the effect of.
The story starts almost 80 years ago. My grandmother was a child growing up in rural Georgia. It was the heart of the Depression and everyone was poor but few were poorer than the families in the rural South. Despite that, every year my great grandparent would manage to scrape together a few (literally a few) dollars to make sure Santa came for the kids. Every Christmas Eve the kids would put out their little shoe boxes. Christmas morning the boxes would have an orange, some brazil nuts, some candy, and a present or two. It was not much but still a lot for those days.
One of those dark years of the Depression a cousin came to visit for Christmas. Her family was even poorer than grandmother’s and the poor child was going to have nothing for Christmas that year. My great grandmother pulled my young grandmother aside and showed her the two gifts she would be getting that year. Then she told her to pick one to give to her cousin. 80 years later she still remembers how hard it was to pick one. After all she only got two. After a lot of hard thought, she gave her cousin her little doll.
Now this story could end there and still be sweet and seasonal but it doesn’t. Growing up I must have heard it every year till one year when I saw the next chapter. I had gone home to my mother’s on Christmas Eve for the holiday only to find my younger sister had shown up with a young girl (early teens). Her parents were drug addicts so her house was not really a Santa’s Wonderland. In fact, there would be no Christmas for her and my sister wasn’t go to let that happen.
It was Christmas Eve so all the stores were closed so we had to use a little imagination. My brother and I gave her some money in a spare Christmas card we found. We searched the bathrooms and found the unopened girl hair products and face creams. He had a few items that we could re-gift and rewrapped them. We happened to have a spare stocking so we re-divided the candy to fill hers too (yes, I am 38 and still get stockings!!!). All and all, it was a pretty good haul for a girl expecting nothing at all.