Christmas morning came early for Rod, earlier than it should have anyway. Rod and his wife Evelyn had two children, Ben who is six and Daniel who is three, or as he would say, ‘twee’. Their house is in a subdivision of Madison was built just after World War II. ‘Cute bungalows, perfect for a new family’, was the advertisement when the houses were first built. But that was many years ago. Now that section of Madison is considered to be part of the poor side of town, not that their neighbors were bad people. It’s only that most of them are poor.
To their right is Mrs. Anderson, a 68 year old widower. She is the last of the original owners in the subdivision. She is also the only one that is not poor, at least not poor in money. But in other treasures like friends and family, she is down right destitute. Her only friend is her little dog, a yorkie named Sparky. She keeps to herself thinking that any attempt by her neighbors to make her acquaintance is just an attempt to get at her money. The house on Rod’s left is June and Hank Parker, another young family with children. Fred is five, and they have a newborn girl named Kimberly. Across the street from all three neighbors is Walter’s park; it’s nothing more than a green space, a few old trees, and an old swing set. But it is a nice place for the kids to play.
Ben was the first to wake up that Christmas morning. He took a look to see if it was light out yet. The Christmas Eve bedtime orders were that they could not get up until the sun was up. it must be light out, he thought, because he could make out Winnie the Pooh over on the dresser. Ben jumped out of his bed and went over to his brother’s bed. “Danny wake up it’s Christmas.” Ben gave Danny a shake. It was a few moments before Ben’s excitement registered with Danny, but when it did, Danny was out of his bed in a flash.
Both boys ran down the hallway and burst into their parent’s room. “It’s Christmas,” they yelled. Then they ran back down the hallway towards the living room where a Christmas tree had been set up a few weeks earlier.
“Are you awake?” Rod asked Evelyn.
“Uh, barely, what time is it?” she asked.
“6:45,” Rod said after he checked the clock on the nightstand.
“I didn’t know that it was light this early,” she said groggily as both began to stir out of the bed.
The boys had surrounded the tree, guarding the presents to make sure that none escaped. “Well boys why don’t we wait until tonight to open these,” Rod teased. The boys looked stricken. “Just teasing, Let me get some coffee on, and then once your mom is here we’ll see what’s in all those packages.”
This Christmas was going to be better for Rod’s family than the previous years. Rod had only been in his new job for about 10 months, but they had managed to get caught up on their bills so there was a little extra available for presents. Not that Christmas was extravagant. Each boy received a couple of presents of clothes and one present that was a toy. Ben got a set of building blocks and Danny got a bright red fire truck with a working ladder. “Woooooooo, woooooooo,” he mimicked as he pushed it around the floor. Evelyn had also wrapped a lot of smaller things too like candy bars and chewing gum to give the boys plenty of things to open. After the presents had been opened and the wrapping paper picked up, Rod gathered his family together. He read to them the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke.
Next door, in Mrs. Anderson’s house, the holiday was only noticed by the calendar. She had never had much family, and what family she did have was either too distant in relationship or too distant in geography to include her in their festivities. She didn’t mind though; she had a long habit of ignoring Christmas.
In the Parker’s house, the celebration of Christmas was not missed, but the gifts were few. Fred had been hoping for a football since thanksgiving, but all he got was a pair of pants. Fred’s father also had a new job, but with the recent medical bills from the newborn, their funds were very limited. They celebrated Christmas by gathering around the tree, reading the Christmas story, and opening the few gifts that was under the tree. Fred was a little disappointed with the outcome; he really did have his heart set on a football.
Later that day after Christmas dinner, Ben and Danny went outside to play in the snow. Fred was also outside. He had been working on a snowman for little while. “Hi Fred, Merry Christmas,” Ben called.
“Merry Christmas, I guess,” Fred replied gloomily as he continued to work on his snowman.
It didn’t take long for Ben to notice Fred’s glumness. “Whatcha get for Christmas?” Ben asked.
“A crumby pair of jeans, how about you guys?’ Fred asked.
“We both got clothes too. Danny got a toy fire truck, and I got some building blocks.”
“Wow, that’s cool,” Fred replied with a little envy.
“Fred, time to come in,” his mother called.
“See you guys,” Fred said and walked towards the house.
Danny pulled on Ben’s coat to get his attention. “Fred no toys for kisstmas?” Danny asked.
“You wouldn’t understand; you’re too little,” Ben told him. “Let’s go build a snowman.”
“Otay,” Danny replied.
A little while after supper, Ben and his dad were playing with the building blocks, and Mom was cleaning up the kitchen. Mrs. Anderson was out on the sidewalk taking her yorkie for a walk when she noticed a small shadow moving across the Rod’s yard heading towards the Parker’s yard. After her eyes adjusted a little more, she was able to make out that the shadow was a small boy. She also noticed that he didn’t have coat on and was carrying what appeared to be a poorly wrapped present complete with a bow. The small boy crossed into the Parker’s yard. Mrs. Anderson followed at a distance and spied on him as he walked up the front porch and place the gift in front of the door. She then saw him push the doorbell and run back towards his own house.
The mother of the house opened the door in answer to the bell. She looked out but didn’t see anyone, and then she noticed the present. She bent down and took a closer look. Through the holes in the paper she could make out the lines of a toy fire truck. “Fred, come here,” she yelled. Mrs. Anderson still looked on from the sidewalk. A few moments later when Fred came to the door his mom pointed to the present and told him, “I think that someone brought you something. Go ahead and open it. Fred removed the wrapping revealing a toy fire truck. “Is this mine Mommy?” Fred asked.
“I suppose so sweetie. Do you have any idea who could have left it?”
“Ben said that Danny got a fire truck for Christmas, but why would he leave it for
From the sidewalk, Mrs. Anderson said, “I don’t know why, but I saw Danny bring
“Oh,” Fred’s mom said. “I didn’t see you there. You saw Danny drop this off?” Fred’s mom said pointing at the fire truck.
“I was walking Sparky, and I saw Danny walk over with a present and ring the bell,” Mrs. Anderson said.
“I wonder why,” Fred’s mom said.
“Why don’t we go over to Danny’s house and ask him?” Mrs. Anderson suggested.
The four of them walked over to Rod’s house: Fred with the fire truck, Fred’s Mom, Mrs. Anderson, and Sparky. When they got to the front door, Mrs. Anderson rang the bell. A few moments later Evelyn opened the door.
“Mrs. Anderson, Fred, June, good evening. Can I help you?” she asked, puzzled by the delegation that was standing at her front door. Mrs. Anderson briefly explained the reason for the visit to Evelyn. “Why don’t you come in and have a seat,” Evelyn invited. They all went in, including Sparky who was ready to come in out of the cold. Evelyn gathered her family in the front room with the guests.
Evelyn started by asking, “Danny did you give Fred your fire truck?”
“Yes,” he replied
“Why did you do that honey?” she asked
“Fred sad, no kisstmas toy,” he said.
“We couldn’t afford much for Christmas this year,’’ June offered. “Hank started his new job just a few months ago, and then the baby came. With the hospital bills, we just didn’t have enough money for much more than a pair of jeans. You know how little boys go through jeans.”
“I sure do,” Evelyn replied. “We didn’t have a much either. The boys each got some clothes and a toy; the fire truck was Danny’s present.”
“Fred, give the fire truck back to Danny,” June said.
But before Fred could hand the fire truck back Danny ran out of the room. The adults sat and looked at each other, each one wondering what to do next. After a few moments Mrs. Anderson spoke up. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That little boy, he’s, well, I’ve never seen a heart filled with that much goodness. Reminds me of something I’ve long forgotten.” She grew introspective for a few moments. “It’s been a long time since I’ve given anyone a Christmas greeting, would you mind?”
“Well no, Merry Christmas Mrs. Anderson,” Rod said. They each in turn went around the small circle expressing their holiday greeting to Mrs. Anderson.
When it came back around to her, she said “Merry Christmas everyone. My, it’s been a long time since I said that.” The yorkie gave a small yip of agreement and from the next room a little voice joined in. “Merry Kisstmas Mrs. Anderson”
“Thanks, I needed that,” Mrs. Anderson said. A tear was rolling down one cheek. “Danny, come out here please,” Mrs. Anderson said. Danny tentatively came out of the hallway and joined the others. “Fred, do you like the fire truck?” Mrs. Anderson asked,
“Yea, I guess so,” Fred said
“What did you really want for Christmas?” Mrs. Anderson asked.
Mrs. Anderson then addressed Danny. “If I get Fred a football for Christmas, will you take your fire truck back?” June started to protest, but Mrs. Anderson held her hand up.
“Otay,” Danny answered.
“Ok, tomorrow Fred and I will walk down to Mr. Green’s Store and pick out a football.” Addressing Fred, she said, “If that is ok with you, Fred, then you can give Danny back the fire truck.” Fred handed the fire truck back to Danny. “Now boys why don’t you go play,” she suggested. The three boys ran out of the room, Danny carrying his fire truck,
“Thank you Mrs. Anderson, you didn’t need…” June started.
“Yes I do. That little boy showed me what Christmas is all about, and I don’t want any arguments. He reminded me that it’s about giving something of yourself for someone else’s benefit and not expecting anything in return. It’s been a long time since I’ve celebrated the season. I have some catching up to do.” With that, she pulled the check book out of her purse.
“Mrs. Anderson you don’t need to…” Rod started.
“Hush,” she said sternly. Then she made out two checks. She handed one to Rod and the other to June. I know that may seem like a lot of money, but like Scrooge said, ‘there’s a lot of back payments included’ if I remember my Dickens right. With that, she pulled on Sparky’s leash and began to leave the room. “June, send Fred over at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Merry Christmas everyone,” she
smiled when she heard herself. “My, that feels good to say.” With that Sparky and her were out the door.
Mrs. Anderson kept her promises, and more. A few months later, on a warm spring day, Rod looked out the living room window over at the park. He was surprised to see Mrs. Anderson pitching underhand to the boys while they took turns batting. When she saw Rod, she waved and mouthed, “Merry Christmas,” and then returned to the game.