There's always the good moments and bad moments of every year that people always remember, and this year will be no exception for me. But I think this will be one of my favorite Christmases.
First, I got a text message this morning from a boy I know that went north for the holiday. Well, more correctly, it was a picture message of snow on huge old fir trees. The caption below said "It makes me think of you." It made me smile. Living in south Alabama, if you get a white Christmas, it's because someone dumped washing powders all over your yard....or toilet papered your house.
But last night was most special.
There's a friend of mine who has two young boys. Her husband is ex-military and works at Sears. She just recently was able to find another job, and so they've fallen on some lean times. So lean in fact, they really weren't going to have a Christmas this year to speak of. So, I called up a friend of mine, Charlie, and we concocted a plan to "Christmas" them. We bought them a tree, two boxes of 100 light strings, 100 ornaments, a stand, and presents for her kids. The plan was to deliver it on Christmas Eve. Charlie got called away, and I got terribly sick, so I had her come to my house (and leave her kids in the car because I was burning up with fever and wanted to minimize exposure). First, I handed her the presents, and she thanked me profusely. I could feel the grin on my face when I told her "Wait a minute, there's more". And then I took her to the garage, where the tree and the lights and ornaments were. The look on her face was priceless. I helped her load it up, and her kids, sitting in the backseat, were like "Wow, she got us a Christmas tree! Thank you so much!" Some other friends had gotten her boys presents, too, and they were laying in the back as well. And so, I sent them on their way as "Christmased" as they could be. She texted me later and told me one of her boys said this was his favorite Christmas ever, and honestly, I couldn't have been more pleased. I was so glad to do it.
I went over to my parents a little later, and I told them what we had done. I had already told my dad earlier because my dad had questioned why there was another tree in the garage. His reply was this: "Okay, little Jude. You know, she found someone to do that to every year." I didn't know this, actually, as my Aunt Jude had died when I was nine- but I'm constantly told how much like her I am. And my father, being THE quintessential storyteller, launched into his favorite story about one such time that they'd done the very thing we had done.
This woman dropped off her four year old daughter at her grandparents house. They lived in a two room shack at the back of a man's property, and the man that owned it let them live there for free because they were so old and frail and it wasn't really the kind of place that you could actually rent out anyway. There was a single bulb in it, hanging from the ceiling, and two electric outlets. Because they were so poor, they could not afford to do anything for Christmas, and they told the little girl that there was no Santa and that they couldn't afford to do Christmas. Well, Jude would have none of this. She went and got the old folks and the little girl on Christmas Eve and brought them to the family dinner, and my grandmother (who was a hair dresser) kept them occupied by fixing the old lady's hair and the little girl's hair. My Aunt Jude gave the little girl a frilly red dress to wear. Daddy said she looked just like a little princess doll. And while they were diverted, my dad and Jude's husband Jimmy, took a tree, ornaments, lights, and a boatload of presents (including a tricycle) over to the house and set it all up. When they were done, Jude loaded them all up again, and brought them home. When they walked in, my dad plugged in the lights on the tree, and being as it was dark, that's all you could see. The little girl's eyes lighted up, and she looked up at her grandparents and said "See? I told you there was a Santa!"
One of the best Christmas stories ever.
Jude did this every year for a family, apparently. I didn't know it, but it's nice to have yet something else that links her and I together. That story was one of the best presents I got.