“The Christmas Gift,” Friend, Dec. 1992, 14
Katy, Yolanda, and Marcia sat on the couch, looking through the new Christmas catalog.
“Oh, look at that dollhouse!” Katy exclaimed.
“Santa will never get that thing in his sleigh,” said Yolanda. “It’s too big.”
“Santa can do anything,” insisted Marcia, the youngest.
At the supper table that night, Katy mentioned the dollhouse. Dad and Mom looked at each other. “I think things are going to be a bit different this year,” Dad said. “Santa has some extra kids on his list, so we’re going to ask him for fewer things than usual.”
“But Santa can do anything,” Marcia objected. “Who are these kids, anyway?”
Mom answered with a question: “Have you met the girls who moved into the Jones’s house?”
“The Jones’s house?” Katy exclaimed. “They must really be poor!”
“They are poor, Katy. Santa and our family are going to help them. That’s why there will be fewer presents under our own tree this year.”
There was silence around the table as the three sisters thought this over.
Dad sighed. “I can see that this won’t be easy for you, but we have so much, and your mother and I feel that it’s important to share.”
“Santa will still bring you a few things,” Mother reminded them before adding, “but the best gift that we’ll all get is a wonderful feeling.”
Katy was unconvinced. “You can’t open a feeling on Christmas morning.”
Dad looked disappointed. “If you each share just one of your toys, that’s all we’ll ask.”
“Except that I could use some help with the Christmas cookies,” Mom added. “We’ll put some in a big basket for them.”
“What about us?” Yolanda whined. “Don’t we get any?”
“I think that’s just about enough,” Dad said sternly. “You’ll meet the Smith girls tomorrow at church. We expect you to be polite and show them around.”
The meal ended in gloom and silence.
The next day the three sisters kept looking around the chapel to see if they could spot the Smith girls. “There! On the third row, next to the door,” whispered Yolanda. Her sisters slowly turned around and stared at the two strangers.
“They’re wearing braids,” Katy said. “Nobody wears braids anymore.”
“Hush and turn around,” said Mom. “It’s rude to stare.”
On the way to Primary, Dad introduced the new family. “Girls, this is Sister Smith and Susan and Beverly.”
“Hi,” everyone mumbled.
“Where are you from?” asked Katy.
“From Grafton,” said Susan.
“That’s a long way from here. Why did you move?”
Before Susan could answer, the Primary president poked her head out the door. “Time to get started, girls.”
At lunch the next Saturday Marcia asked, “Why did the Smiths move here?”
“Well,” Mom said slowly, “they lost their father last summer. Sister Smith was able to get a good job with the telephone company, but she had to move here to take it.”
“If she has a good job, how come we have to give up our Christmas to them?” asked Yolanda.
“Because she doesn’t have any money yet,” Mom said. “And you’re not giving up your Christmas—just a few things. Try to remember that these girls have lost their father.”
“I still don’t like it,” said Marcia.
Just then the telephone rang. Dad answered. “Yes,” they heard him say, “I’m sure that they’d like to come.”
“Who was that?” asked Katy.
“It was Sister Smith inviting you to spend the afternoon with her daughters.”
“No way! They didn’t say three words to us at church. Please, Dad!”
Dad was wearing his stubborn look. “Look, girls, I know this is hard. But sometimes we do things just because they’re right.”
Mom helped them into their coats and herded them out the door. It seemed like too short a walk through the fast-falling snow. A soft knock brought Sister Smith to the front door. Her daughters stood silently behind her.
“Come in, girls. We’re happy that you could come over.”
Katy, Yolanda, and Marcia entered the living room. There was no furniture, just a big pile of moving boxes against one wall. They followed Susan and Beverly into the big, old-fashioned kitchen and were greeted with the smell of gingerbread. In the middle of the room was a large oak dining table. On it were candies, bowls of frosting, and a sheet of baked gingerbread.
“Bev and Susan thought it would be fun to make gingerbread houses,” said Sister Smith.
“Wow! All right!” Yolanda exclaimed. “I didn’t think we would—” Katy pinched her before she could say “have any fun.”
“Come on,” said Beverly. “Let’s get started!”
“Yeah,” said Susan. “We do this every year with our friends. We’re glad we have you to share this with.”
The five girls started on the gingerbread houses and were soon laughing at each other because of the frosting on their faces.
Later, while they were waiting for more gingerbread to cool, Katy said, “Let’s go play in your bedroom.”
“We can’t,” said Beverly. “It’s too cold in there. We only go there at bedtime.”
Beverly jumped up. “I know—let’s make paper chains for our windows! Mom, don’t we have colored paper somewhere?”
Soon the girls were absorbed in their project, scattering bright paper scraps like confetti on the floor.
“Let’s make some for your tree, too,” Yolanda said.
Susan and Beverly exchanged glances. Finally Beverly said, “We might not get a tree this year. They’re pretty expensive.”
The three sisters looked at each other. After a while, Katy said, “I’m tired of making chains. Let’s make something else.”
“I know,” Susan said. “Let’s make foil stars and hang them from the light fixtures.” Soon they were scattering silver foil and cardboard among the bright scraps of paper already on the floor.
Before long, the setting sun appeared through the clouds, filling the room with light. Later, just as the clock on the wall chimed five times, a knock sounded at the kitchen door.
“Look, it’s Dad,” Yolanda said. “What does he have?”
“It’s a tree!” cried Beverly as Sister Smith opened the door.
“A little offering from our family to yours,” said Dad with a grin. “Do you have a big bucket or something else we can put this in?”
“Bev, run to the shed and get that old gray bucket. Brother Harris, how can we ever thank you?”
“Well, we all wanted to do something fun.” He winked at his daughters.
Beverly burst into the kitchen, carrying a large gray bucket. The next few minutes were filled with happy, noisy confusion as everyone tried to help Dad put up the tree. Satisfied at last that it was secure and well watered, he stood up, sniffing appreciatively.
“Mmmm, pine trees and gingerbread—it sure smells like Christmas! Bring out the ornaments, and we’ll finish the job.”
“Well, I’m afraid all I have is a string of lights,” Sister Smith said.
“We have something!” cried the girls. They scampered off and brought back armfuls of paper chains and foil stars.
“Now, that’s the ticket! Sister Smith, you go get those lights. Girls, get that stuff untangled, and we’re in business. Hey, got any gingerbread men?”
As everyone got busy, they filled the old kitchen with laughter. Finally they all stepped back to admire their handiwork.
A soft knock sounded at the door. It was Mom carrying a large casserole dish. “A little something for your dinner,” she said. “My, that’s a fine tree! It looks like you girls have had a busy afternoon.” She set the steaming dish on the counter.
There were tears in Sister Smith’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for remembering my family. This is a Christmas we will always remember.”
Katy, Yolanda, and Marcia didn’t know what to say. Mom did. “Thank you for letting us share. We need you too.” She gave Sister Smith a hug. “Come on, girls, let’s go before their dinner gets cold. Ours too.”
As the Harris family walked home, Yolanda turned and looked at the Smith kitchen window. The Christmas tree lights blinked brightly. “Mom, what did you mean when you told Sister Smith that we needed her?”
Mom took Yolanda’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Do you remember how you felt when you went to the Smith’s this afternoon?”
“Well, how do you feel now?”
“I feel wonderful. Is that what you meant? I understand now—we needed to give so we could feel good again.”
“And we’re not done yet!” Katy and Marcia chimed in.