Friday, December 11, 2009

THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER

I've been lucky enough growing up to have seen both ends of the spectrum of financial status. Though we were never rich, I would call a good portion of our lives "comfortable." But then there were the times when things were really hard. All the moving for my mother's health, sometimes left us precariously close to "poor."

As a child, you don't notice your financial status till it comes to Christmas time. Only then do you realize, you are not quite like your friends when you start comparing what you got for Christmas. Prior to that, you ate enough, had clothes to cover you, and toys to play with and friends who never noticed. Nothing made you realize you were different.

When I was 12 we moved back to Ohio from Florida. My father had a construction company and he stayed behind in Key West to "shut down" the business. It was the only time we were ever separated as a family.

Mother had received a small inheritance and bought a tiny trailer for us to live in while we waited for Dad to join us. What I wasn't aware of was that my parents were undergoing serious marriage problems. Mother started talking about rekindling a relationship with her old college professor who had a crush on her and Dad kept putting off coming to Ohio and was rumored to be seeing a family friend visiting from Ohio.

One day Mother who was really doing poorly health wise, asked my brother and I that if she and Dad ever got a divorce, who would we want to live with? My brother thought a minute, then said he would live with Mother. I did not hesitate as I was a Daddy's girl and said I would want to live with my father.


That answer literally crushed my mother. I was her baby. She had desperately wanted a daughter and now that same daughter had just laid her heart bare with one sentence. She barely was able to say, "Well then I guess we won't be getting a divorce." Not knowing the pain I had caused, I was just grateful that a split was not happening, at least not right then.

However, I was worried by the conversation so I wrote my Dad a letter explaining what Mother had been discussing and that he need to come home quickly. She did not know I had written it and Dad never acknowledged it but soon we got a call that he would be coming home for good at Christmas.

We were so excited Dad was coming but Mother warned us that Christmas would be very skimpy that year. I didn't care, my Daddy was coming home. He did arrive a few days before Christmas and all was good again in my 12 year old world. That I was probably getting nothing for Christmas didn't matter.

However Christmas night, I kept hearing noises out side. It was a hammering sound with occasional profanity from what I recognized as my Dad's voice. Finally I went to sleep to the tapping and cursing.

In the morning, my brother and I played with the dime store toys in our stockings thinking that was going to be all we got. We were delightfully surprised to find one gift for each of us under the meager tree. I wish I could remember what Jimmy got but I can't for I was blown away by my present.

One of our neighbor's hamster had babies and in the cage that my dad had spent part of the night constructing out of donated lumber and wire, were two to the cutest baby hamsters imaginable. For $3.50 the neighbors had supplied the hamsters, water bottle and of course the dreaded wheel.

Dad had bruised fingers and a black fingernail from building the cage. He never was a hammer and nail type of guy. He was the engineer in his construction company so the cage was way beyond his comfort zone. That explained the cursing.

That night when I went to sleep, my hand were curved like they were still holding the little hamsters who were now racing noisily around on their wheel. I had not put them down all day. Never in my 70 years have I had a better Christmas or better present.


Much later when I was in my mid thirties and after a family Christmas dinner, my Dad came up behind me as I washed dishes. He slid a dish in the water and said quietly in my ear, " I got your letter."

This totally confused me for I had not written him in years but then I realized he was finally acknowledging the letter I wrote him when I was 12 years old.

He then added, "I just want you to know your letter is what brought me home that year." I have no idea why he chose that time, over 20 years later, to tell me, but that ranked as the second best Christmas ever.

What Christmas stands out in your memory?

23 comments :

  1. It would be hard to single out a single Christmas. I guess the year Dad purchased the "BIG" family gift, a TELEVISION, one of the first in our little town. We were mesmerized by the black and white movie behind all the snow.

    We lived in a small town. Our signal had to be captured by antenna from Abilene, Fort Worth, Dallas, or San Angelo.

    It was the genesis of my brother's electronic repair career. He was already into CB radio as a hobby.

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  2. A very nice memory and story. You never forgot it.

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  3. I loved your story Patti.....Christmas time brings out such memories of family and there are so many great stories to be told. Some have happy stories and some sad but they are all worth telling. Thanks for telling yours.

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  4. That's indeed the best Christmas gift ever !!! You are lucky. I am so happy you shared it with all of us. Frankly this post of yours nearly had me teary-eyed. Your parents must have found you so special !! :-)

    Christmas isn't really celebrated with great enthusiasm in my home but I recall going on a trip to a hill-station couple of years back with my close friends. It was X-mas eve and it was v v special. We celebrated it in style.

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  5. That is a beautiful memory. What a gift you gave to your family that year!

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  6. Am glad your dad let you know that he did recieve your letter...wow I bet you were blown away.

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  7. Nitwit,
    I remember peering through my neighbors window to watch TV. Finally they invited us in. Sure was lots of snow huh.
    My Mom would not let us have one, for she feared we would quit talking to eachother. What a huge present for you. I'd have killed for one when I was a kid.

    Abe,
    Sometimes the very least is the most.

    Oklhdan,
    Thank you. It is the time of the year where lasting memories are formed and that particular day anchors it in our mind.

    lostworld,
    Thank you so much.It gave me happy tears. Christmas is possibly our biggest celebration. It has gotten too commercialized lately but the family feeling is still strong.

    Olga,
    Thank you but I feel they gave me the gift that year. It was the least I ever got but meant the most for we were back together as a family.

    Amanda,
    It really did blow me away for it was so unexpected. My daddy was a brilliant, humerous guy but not the least demonstrative. That was big for him to do.

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  8. Such a heart warming story Patti...especially your Dad saying that to you so many years later...that small thing you did as a child made a big impression on him. You made a difference in his world and yours.

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  9. Hi Patti, I love reading your life stories... Glad your daddy came home that Christmas. That was a special gift...

    My best Christmas memory was when I asked Santa for a sliding board to go with my swing set... I was so worried that Santa wouldn't be able to get the sliding board down our chimney... On Christmas morning, they sliding board was on the side porch --with a note from Santa--saying that was as close as he could get it. That made me SO happy!!!

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  10. What an incredibly beautiful Christmas story, both of them. It's very touching that your father told you all those years later that your letter brought him home. A daughter's love is a very powerful thing.

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  11. Oh Patti, you have touched the most sensitive part of my soul, my heart. Your story has brought tears in my eyes.

    Honestly, we were not brought up celebrating Christmases but I do remember my mother cooking something special and we always had some nice food to eat, not necessarily on what you call Christmas Day. I didn't know anything about it until I was in my Grade School. Still the significance did not sink on my mind, so I did not care much about what we have not.

    As a teenager, I had some time enjoying it because our neighbours would drag us out of bed to join their family midnight meal, as their tradition. So we're kind of "go along with neighbours".

    Inspite of that, for some reason, our parents allowed us to go caroling. And I even sang solo in the group and we earned lots of good money which my friends and I shared equally.

    So I can't tell really which is the best Christmas and what best present I ever had.

    All I can say is that, sometimes when you live with nothing, it makes the best Christmas present ever. You know why?

    In my case, I don't have to worry about anything. Thankfully, my children did not mind a bit. Even so, they still received Christmas presents from well-meaning and thoughtful friends.

    Their father? Forget about it!

    So congratulations to your very smart moved by writing to your father. And you are truly a Daddy's girl. He listened to you.

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  12. Wanda,
    I guess we never know when what we do will have an effect. I really thought he had never gotten the letter.

    Betsy,
    Thanks Betsy,
    What clever parents you had to solve the mystery with a note from Santa. Just think of all the presents they never got credit for.

    robin,
    Thank you so much. I don't know what made him do it that day, perhaps being Christmas, he started reminiscing. His telling me allowed an ending to an unfinished chapter.

    Bonnie,
    Thank you Bonnie. Good to see you back.
    I always wanted to go Caroling but somehow never got the chance. My terrible voice could have been why I wasn't asked.
    Being with family is truly the very best present.

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  13. Thanks for sharing that, Patti. It's very good that you wrote the letter.
    I'll have to think about my best Christmas, as nothing stands out in my memory right now.

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  14. You were very mature for a 12 year old to have the foresight to write your dad – great story! I love getting together to celebrate Christmas with my family – it is always very special and lots of fun! Like you, there were several years growing up we didn’t have presents under the tree, but the memories are just as wonderful.

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  15. That was certainly a great X-mas! The best a child could wish for!
    Thanks for your visit and comment. Well my sister and I are not English, but we love horror stories and always watch British detective series like: "Midsummer Murders", "Inspector Morse", "Lewis" ,"A Touch of Frost", "Taggart"and many more! We use to tell each other urban stories, from an early age.

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  16. Oh boy you have some real tear jerker posts and everyone one of them is so good. Not sure what my best xmas was, just enjoying reading about yours. and it just goes to show we should do what we feel as like you said we never know if it will make a difference.

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  17. kenju,
    Thanks. If nothing stands out in your memory, that must mean they were all equally special. That is terrific.

    Jewels,
    I was a scared 12 year old who felt she had to do something. Today, a child could just pick up a phone.
    Isn't it funny that the Christmases when we got the least, stand out the most. Goes to prove,it really is the thought that counts.

    Reader wil,
    I will have to see if I can get those programs. I love the British sit com's that I get on BBC America and Public Broadcasting. Will have to see if I can get the detective stories.

    Linda Starr,
    Sorry about the hanky time but dog stories and Christmas stories kind of work out that way. This time, for me, it was happy tears remembering a great time.

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  18. Oh Patti. . . you probably changed your family's history! That was a very brave, wise step for a little girl to take!

    How fascinating that your father chose to tell you of the importance of your letter after so many years.

    Good thing you WERE a daddy's girl!

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  19. I've linked one of your posts in my blog. You've been awarded too :-)

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  20. Wow, Patti! What an awesome story. I love that your dad finally told you that he got the letter and it made the difference. Aren't men funny.

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  21. MML,
    I sure don't know why he chose then or even ever for it had long left my mind. Pretty sure he would have come back, maybe just not then.

    lostworld,
    Why thank you so much for thinking of me for the award. I am very flattered and appreciate it. You certainly have gotten so many well deserved ones. Congrats.

    SMB,
    Thank you. I know it really floored me when he did it for it was totally out of the blue. It was the only letter I had ever written him as we always lived phone call close.

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  22. You were a bright kid to think to write your da a letter like that, And change your family history. Thanks for sharing with another daddy's girl.

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  23. Brighid,
    I would like to think they would have gotten back together with out my letter but perhaps that sped things up. We Daddy's girls have to do our jobs.

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