My story begins in the early 80’s. I worked at a local hospital as a nurse’s aide. I was a single mom with two small kids. Mid-December I was scheduled for a minor surgical procedure but things did not go as planned. My healing process ended up being a bit more complicated than expected. At the point all I could do was rest up and follow doctor’s orders. That seemed simple enough.

Well payday came and went and no paycheck came. A quick call to the business office at work and I was informed by my employer that instead of utilizing vacation time for my time off as I had requested, I had to apply for sick time instead. There were several flaws to that plan. First off, at that time in my life I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. Secondly, it would be six weeks before any check would arrive. Finally, and worst of all, Christmas was just around the corner and I hadn’t even started shopping for the kids. Oh no!

To heap more challenges into the mix, all our Christmas decorations were nowhere to be found. The best I could figure out is that after a recent remodel to convert an attic into an added bedroom, that all the boxes were bordered up, sheet rocked and plastered over into the walls. Oh no again!

 I would like to say that I started praying for a miracle but I didn’t. I fretted and worried instead.  I did finally share my dilemma with my mom. She immediately went into her fabric stashes and craft supplies. We sat around her dining room table as she orchestrated the design of poinsettias out of felt and pipe cleaners and glitter as a finishing touch, of course. Later that week she surprised us with Christmas stockings she made … blue velvet and dotted Swiss material at the top, trimmed in white rick rack and with our own individual initial glued on in yarn on each of them.  Only one problem now; no tree.

One day the mail arrived and as usual for the holidays my grandma and aunt Nannie always gave the kids a card with a few dollars in them. My son, hearing me fret over the situation, without hesitation handed me over his money. His sister followed suit. I burst into tears as they gave me all their Christmas money – a total of $13. We hugged for a while and I decided we needed to go find a tree. We loaded up in the car and off we went. You may not believe this but we found a 6-foot-tall, perfectly shaped tree for $3 at a Christmas tree lot that is now Little Caesar’s Pizza on Gallia Street. That night we decorated it with our felt/pipe cleaner/glittered poinsettias and added construction paper chains. We sipped eggnog and sang carols to an Andy Williams tape. We hung our stockings on a shelf even though I knew I had nothing to put in them. 

I slipped out while my mom babysat and I spent the rest of the money on several toys I purchased at 75% off since it was Christmas eve. As I wrapped the presents, I missed the usual smell of tangerines in the house that had long been a Christmas tradition for our family. Growing up we would all sit around watching Christmas specials on our black and white TV peeling tangerines and cracking nuts. As I was lost in thoughts of the Christmas time in the past, a knock came at the door. A dear friend from work came bearing a big basket loaded with fresh fruit and cookies. I got my tangerines! We chatted a bit, hugged and said our goodbyes. After she left, I realized how truly blessed I was as I filled the stockings with her gifts. 

Mom passed on several years ago but each year when I get out the Christmas decorations and pull out a now-faded stocking with a big “L” on it, I remember my favorite Christmas of all. Then I recall a friend that reached out to me at a very difficult time.  I now realize God had it all under control the whole time.

I hope you enjoyed this memory and it prompted you to think of Christmas times in the past. 

If you want to share a Christmas story, we’d love to hear it on the Facebook group for Never Too Late Cafe.

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