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  1. #1
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    AN EARLY CHRISTMAS STORY

    Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their
    means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who
    were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was
    from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not
    from receiving.

    It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the
    world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to
    buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early
    that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time
    so we could read in the Bible.

    After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of
    the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still
    feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood
    to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up
    again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already
    done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy
    wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear
    night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said.
    "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not
    only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me
    out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd
    already done all the chores, and I couldn't thnk of anything else that
    needed doing, especially not on a night like this But I knew Pa was
    not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do
    something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat,
    and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave
    the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

    Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was
    the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were
    going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell.
    We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.


    Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up
    beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I
    was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the
    woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high
    sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been
    a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but
    whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high
    sideboards on.

    After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and
    came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling
    down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and
    splitting.

    What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are
    you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow
    Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year
    or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight.
    Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just
    today,"

    Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying
    to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

    That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed
    for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high
    that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

    Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke
    house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to
    me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

    When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder
    and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little
    sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had
    gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this
    morning.

    I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas
    without a little candy."

    We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried
    to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly
    standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what
    was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into
    blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so
    we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa
    buying them shoes and candy?

    Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors
    than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind
    side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible,
    then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The
    door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles,
    Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

    Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped
    around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were
    sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave
    off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit
    the lamp.

    "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of
    flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had
    the shoes in it.

    She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time.

    There was a pair for her and one for each of the children---sturdy
    shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit
    her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes
    and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted
    to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

    "We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and
    said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up
    to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went
    back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much
    as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

    In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace
    and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with
    so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled
    within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had
    given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much
    difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

    I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids
    started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow
    Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for
    a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I
    know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he
    would send one of his angels to spare us."

    In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled
    up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms
    before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was
    probably true.

    I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I
    started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and
    me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

    Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed
    when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get.

    Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord
    would make sure he got the right sizes.

    Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to
    leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug.
    They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed
    their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

    At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to
    invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The
    turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get
    cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to
    get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around
    again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the
    youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved
    away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't
    have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

    Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't
    even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and
    said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been
    tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that
    rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

    Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by
    to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that
    now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to
    do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the
    woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I
    had to do.

    Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children.
    I hope you understand."

    I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very
    well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on
    my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the
    look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three
    children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens,
    or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back
    that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me
    much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of
    my life.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Sep 2008
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    What a lovely story florence, thank-you for sharing molly-m xx

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    419
    That's a lovely story Florence.

    The true meaning of Christmas

    Margo x

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2006
    Location
    Scotland
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    thank you for sharing that it was lovely

    love dino
    xxxxxx

 

 

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