For as long as I could remember we never spoke of Christmas. Nor was anyone that we knew or associated with in any way, shape, or form invited into our home if they were involved in that holiday. However, that changed one winter’s day when a needy family knocked on our front door.
Although we still lived near Boston, in a somewhat remote hamlet called Lynnfield, dad had promised mom that we would be in Palm Springs before snow flew. Yet as I opened the door and peered into the twilight it seemed that snow covered our walk and driveway. I knew it was an early snow because those who lived in this community told us to consider ourselves lucky to have a sign of snow before that holiday which we seldom mentioned passed.
“Glad I found ya’ ta’ home,” the bedraggled man said. He doffed what might have been a hat. Then remembered he had none and turned towards a woman about his age whom I believed to be his wife.
“Seems like they might have something worth seeing,” she whispered to him.
He nodded, took a piece of wrinkled newspaper from his pocket, looked at it and asked, “You the Izzien’s.”
“Eisen,” I said. “We’re the Eisen’s.”
“Pleased ta’ meet ya’.” Since each of his children had grabbed one of his hands, he shook one free. Using his teeth to pull off his glove, he pumped mine. “Mighty happy you’re ta’ home. It’s real cold…can we come in?”
Before I could think what to do, they were standing the hallway.
“Whose there Paula?” mom asked. I was never so happy to hear her voice as I was then for it seemed to me that this family had stepped out of the pages of a Dickens novel.
“S’cuse us mam,” the man said. “We come ta’ see what you all is sellin’.’”
My mom had always been a stickler for checking people out before she invited them in. So I breathed a sigh of relief and stationed myself by the front door knob ready to show them out. However, much to my chagrin, mom leaned over the banister, smiled at the brood and waved them up. I followed. When they arrived at the upper landing dad met them. I was certain he was going to ask them to leave. Instead, he pumped the man’s hand. “Glad you could get here before we packed everything up and shipped it to California.”
I looked from my father to this threadbare family, not a coat between them and wondered how they could pay for anything. Before I could muster enough courage to ask if they were shoppers who could pay, mom came out of the kitchen holding the pad of yellow paper she always wrote her shopping list on and a pencil. “Now let’s see what you’d like to have.”
“Mighty Christian of you,” the woman mumbled.
“Think I want to shelp all this stuff across country when we can help you furnish a place for a few dollars!”
“That’s right,” my dad said. He ushered them into the kitchen. By the time, he handed the man and woman a cup of coffee, mom was setting out milk and cookies for their kids.
I wondered if I was awake or dreaming when I heard mom lament, “It’s hard to have your home and everything you own burn down so close to Christmas.”
“Sure is mam’,” the man agreed.
I heard the girl gulp back a sob. Turning towards her, I saw her brake down and wail, “I lost all my stuffed animals.”
I understood what she meant because since we’d move across country my stuffed animals were my only friends. But as I looked at this girl I realized she had less than I did. In fact, when I looked at her shoes and saw that they were at least a size to large and broken, and hair that might have once sparkled from her mother’s combing, appeared tangled, I knew she had nothing. However, I believed she was unlike others facing this or worse, for although she was at least four years my junior; she stared at me as if daring me to make a snide remark.
Once the couple had drained their cups, they stood.
“Come with me,” mom said. When they followed mom I motioned for the girl to come with me.
“Where are we going?” I led her down the hall to my bedroom, and pulled her in. Since there were stuffed animals galore, I’d expected her to pick one. Then I would give it to her. Instead, her eyes traveled to each one then back to me. “You sure have a lot of…” she sniffled. But she didn’t act as if she wanted any of them.
Why it’s almost Christmas and she has no home, I reminded myself. Where could she put one of these if I gave it to her? It would probably look as rag-tag as she and her folks do within the week.
She smiled and pretended to look at anything but my animal collection, while I looked at her and tried to figure out how a Christian who I’d always assumed would want every present on the planet could just look.
Mom walked by and nodded. “You two getting along okay?”
Dad and the man walked by carrying mom’s chest of drawers. “Paula, what are you doing teasing Sis like that?” he pointed to the stuffed animals on my bed.
“It’ll be okay dad.” I closed the door.
“What did ya’ do that fur?”
“I didn’t want anyone snooping.”
She nodded, then gulped back a sob. “I can’t be happy when my mom’s been cryin’ enough for all of us!”
“You and your folks will feel better once you’ve picked out one of these animals!”
Sis eyed me. “Really, you’re not sayin’ that to make fun of us?”
I showed her three large packing boxes. “My folks have to pay for everything to be shipped to LA so you’d be doing us a favor if you took one or two with you.”
While her eyes darted from one choice to another, I took a small packing box out of my closet. “I think your choices will fit in here.”
“Oh that box can hold more than one stuffed animal,” she squealed with delight
“I know that!”
“Really…I should fill up this box?”
“Really!” I watched as she chose certain ones and left others that she seemed to like more. At one point, she held the black velvet Siamese cat with foe diamond collar, which was almost half her height, and smile at me. Then she put it back and picked out the biggest, softest, and oldest stuffed animal I owned. I wondered why she chose that one since she hadn’t admired or petted it.
I pointed to the threadbare relic of my toddler years. “Why did you choose this one?”
“It’s real cold and until we get our insurance money what we’ve got got’s to last cause dad got fired the day our home burnt.”
“Where are you sleeping?”
“In our truck...It’s all we got.”
I looked at Sis, turned saw my stuffed animals as a means of warmth during a cold winter’s snow, realized that at 16, I was too old for them, pulled out the big boxes and tossed the stuffed animals into the boxes.
“What yo’ doing?”
“Giving my stuffed animals a good home for the holidays!"
Paula Rose Michelson is the author of Romantic Inspirational Fiction, biblically based Christian Self-help, Political Nonfiction, as well as Works Written to Encourage. To find out more about her and her books visit: http://amzn.to/1z8ydzA