“The Things That Really Matter,” Ensign, Dec. 1986, 46
In December 1981, as I attempted to prepare for the holidays, I became increasingly dissatisfied. With three young children, the house seemed too small, and the constant Christmas advertising encouraged me to long for things I knew we couldn’t afford.
Despite these feelings, I wanted to make the season special for my family. The local historical society had restored a 125-year-old house, once the home of the town’s doctor, and had decorated it as it would have been decorated for Christmas in 1860. We decided to take our children on the tour.
The little house had two bedrooms downstairs, but one had been rented out to help meet the family’s expenses. The family’s five children had all slept upstairs in the loft. All the cooking had been done over an open fireplace in the basement, and the clothes had been washed by hand. Each person had had only two or three outfits to wear.
As I looked around, I realized how thrilled the owners of this home would have been with our three large bedrooms, our indoor bathroom, our furnace, and our electric stove.
The home was carefully decorated with strings of popcorn and cranberries, homemade cookies, and a hand-carved creche. As I stood by the fire, a still-warm gingerbread man in my hand, my thoughts traveled even farther into the past. I remembered the mother who had spent the very first Christmas in a stable, with only a manger for her child’s bed. I believe she was content, knowing she was where her Heavenly Father wanted her to be, with her newborn son safe in her arms and her husband at her side. Because, after all, those are the things that really matter.