This Christmas season—like many others—has called for reflection over my life and the extraordinary gifts I’ve received. Gifts that have transformed my life, or touched my heart in an incredible way, or have brought peace and comfort during a time I was certain none could be found. This week, I was reminded of a very special Christmas from my childhood. I hope you enjoy.
The first family home I can remember was a massive—at least to a child—and stately old home with hallways so long you could drive a child’s size car down it, complete a child’s version of a three-point turn in it, and drive back down it. The basement consisted of three massive rooms in which my siblings and I rode our bikes during inclement weather and wintertime. Huge house.
The top floor, which came complete with its own entrance, must have at one time been the servants’ quarters, and it had been rented out to a young couple who moved out rather quickly right before Thanksgiving.
Tradition in our house was to decorate the interior and our Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My dad would haul the boxes of decorations up from the basement along with our tree and while he worked on lights, Mom would assemble our artificial tree, and then we would decorate it as a family.
This particular year my dad went to the basement and came back up with an odd look on his face. He and my mother went downstairs together and came back up together several minutes later—and with empty hands. The atmosphere in our living room was very different than I could ever remember then or since. A short time later, two police officers arrived and accompanied my parents down into the basement, where there commenced a muffled conversation. After the officers left, my parents sat us down and explained that we’d been robbed. That all of our Christmas decorations, our tree, some presents my parents had hidden down there—including a new leather coat for my mom—and even our dirty laundry had been stolen.
Included in the missing items was a porcelain angel that my great grandmother had given my mother. If you gently pulled her slippered feet, her wings fluttered and she played Silent Night. She was a family heirloom and about the only material item my mother truly cherished. Gone also were stockings my Great Aunt Mary had knitted by hand and had lovingly knitted our names into each one. Gone too were hand-painted glass ornaments that had been handed down to my dad.
Dad put on his coat, said a few hushed words to my mom, and left the house. It was quite some time before he returned, but when he did, he was angry. I can remember him telling my mom something to the effect, “They have it all. Even the stockings are hanging up. I stood at their door looking in. It’s all there. When I went back with an officer, the stockings were gone and so was the angel. The rest of it—even though I could identify it—could have been bought anywhere. The officer told me it was their word against mine.”
Apparently, the young couple that moved out so quickly, did so because they had broken into our basement and stolen everything that wasn’t nailed down or too large to be carried out. We would never get back any of the possessions they stole.
That Christmas was perhaps one of the worst—and best—I can remember. Our family came together that year and celebrated modestly but lovingly. My parents made certain their children’s lives were not negatively affected by this event. When our relatives heard about the theft, boxes of new ornaments came to our house, a tree appeared, even new clothes were dropped off. We had everything we needed to make our Christmas all that it should be—the gifts of love and generosity were in abundant supply—and my family was truly blessed.
Perhaps the biggest lesson learned that year was forgiveness. My parents taught us—by action and attitude—to forgive those that commit wrong against you. I don’t remember my parents harboring any ill will toward the young couple that stole from a family that couldn’t afford to replace the missing material belongings. What I remember most about that Christmas is that we had all we truly needed and perhaps a little more due to the kindness of others.
That Christmas is forever etched in my mind. Not because of the robbery, but because of the lessons learned, the love shown, and the forgiveness given. Isn’t that the true meaning of the season?
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope 2013 is paved in great joy and loaded with blessings.
Until next time…