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An unexpected gift lives on
Liberty lore
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We listened to the bitter wind whistling around the corner as we lingered in front of the fireplace to keep warm on Christmas Day 1959. This was the first Christmas that we did not even have a sparsely decorated pine tree in the corner of our tiny, five-room log cabin in the backwoods. It was home for 10.
We, the seven children, knew we could expect very little in the way of Christmas celebration this year. Our 81-year-old grandfather who had lived with us all our lives had been sick for several months and he had gotten worse in the last week. His hospital bed had to be set up in the living room so the fireplace could provide enough heat to keep him warm.
The fireplace was the only heat in the 139-year-old cabin. Pa was Mama’s father and she just did not have her heart in preparing for Christmas this year.
Even though I was 12 and very well understood that there was no money for gaily wrapped gifts, the child in me still hoped for some small special gift just for me and I knew the other kids did too. Even the package that my aunt always sent from Florida had not arrived in the mail this year.
Mama spent most of her time running from the kitchen where she had a fresh pork ham boiling on the woodstove to her father’s bedside. I tried to keep the wood stove stoked and helped her as best as I could with dinner preparations.
At 11:45, a.m. a shiny black car pulled up in our front lane. Daddy went to the gate and talked with the man who proceeded to open the trunk of his car. He took out two large boxes and from the porch I could see little packages wrapped in Christmas paper. There must be a Santa Claus after all!
They set the boxes on the porch. The man was Sonny DeLoach from the Long County sandhills and the gifts had been sent by a social services agency that his sister worked for in Liberty and Long counties.
Just as the boxes were placed on the porch and Sonny wished us a Merry Christmas, I heard Mama cry out. Hurriedly, we ran inside to find that Pa had just died. The gift boxes were forgotten. Sonny offered to take Daddy to a telephone so he could call the funeral home. It was such a comfort to have someone else there at the time.
I remember going to the kitchen and checking the ham to make sure it did not burn, but I cannot recall that we sat down to a dinner that day. A few hours later we looked at the gifts and gave them out. Each was wrapped so prettily and had each of our names on them. I took mine and very slowly savored each moment as I carefully unwrapped the huge thick book of classical stories. I loved to read and this was as ideal gift for me. This was truly the only bright moment we had on that Christmas Day.
Looking back across the years, I know now that my precious book was not a new one. Some other child had already owned it, but I guarantee it had not been appreciated as much as I appreciated it. A lot had gone into these gifts. Someone had to donate the items and others had to take the time to select and wrap and get volunteers to take their time from their own families on Christmas Day to deliver the gifts. There had been no way for these donors to know their efforts would be the only joy this family of 10 would have on this day of sorrow.
This Christmas season, find someone less fortunate than you with whom to share. Donate to the agencies collecting gifts if you are able. Many nursing homes and children’s homes put up angel trees in early December. Choose one or more and fill it. The gift you give may very well be the only one a person receives.
You and the recipient will be well blessed. A little gift is a huge one when it is the only one! A sorrow shared is divided and a joy shared is multiplied.
I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, healthy and happy year in 2010!
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