Sally glanced around her bedroom. Everything looked a little worse for wear. She could remember the furniture being delivered to her house long ago to squeals of delight while big brother Fred looked on with envy, but her furniture was now quite dated compared to the bedrooms of her friends at school. Her stuffed toys had mostly survived, though Percival Bear had lost an eye and some of the stuffing protruded on one side. Her friends didn’t think it was cool to come around and hang out any more.
She sighed. Times had been tough since Dad had a terrible accident on the freeway. It seemed like just yesterday he’d bounce into her room with a small gift after returning from an interstate delivery on one of the big rigs from work. Her brother Fred would race into her room to show off his gift and see what she’d received. Then he and Dad would wrestle on her bed until Mom appeared at the door to see what all the noise was about and command them to stop before someone got hurt or the furniture damaged. Of course Sal, her pet name, knew her Mom was secretly delighted with the goings on but Moms had to do their Mom thing. Sal smiled briefly at the memory then sank back into sadness.
Dad had died two years ago after a protracted fight with his horrific injuries and the family had gone into freefall. Sal’s Mom had wrestled with deep depression and Gramps and Grannie had come to live with them for a while to do their best to steer the family through this crisis. They paid the mortgage and monthly bills while they could and almost bankrupted themselves in the effort. They were pensioners and were using up savings at an alarming rate.
It was then Mom dealt with the reality of the situation as she watched her parents physical and financial situation deteriorate. She decided it was time to move on and went out looking for work so she could take over responsibility for her family. Gramps and Grannie were gently prized out of the home to go back to their retirement resort and physically and financially recover. Mom was able to get work at the law firm she’d worked at before marrying Dad. The law firm paid well, but Dad had earned much more. They were able to manage the mortgage and eat comfortably, but vacations and luxuries were out of the question now.
Sal’s friends at school had soon noticed the change in her family circumstances. Parties with their parents in the back yard of Sal’s house ceased, parties in the home for Sal, Fred and their friends were no more so Sal found herself on the perimeter at school rather than full centre. Sleepovers were a thing of the past too.
Sal understood her Mom was pulling out all stops to care for family responsibilities. Fred had dropped out of school to take a job at Dad’s old company as a diesel mechanic in training to do his part for family finances. Sal looked forward to the time when she too would become independent and take a further load off her Mom’s shoulders. She’d then be able to buy new clothes again she thought wistfully. The idea brightened her mood.
She glanced at her shabby room again. It was clean at least. Turning away she began to descend the stairs. There were chores to be completed before Mom got home from work and homework to be done. Must keep my grades up she thought! She’d decided to follow in her Mom’s footsteps and become a legal aid. That would require high grades and years of night study while in employment. Mom would not have the resources to help her with a college degree.
That evening they sat at the dining room table eating pizzas Mom had bought on her way home from work. Lights on the old Walmart Christmas tree winked hopefully as they cast their light on the pensive pair.
Finally Mom broke the silence.
“Your graduation is coming up next year Sal. How are your grades and what is your plan after graduation?”
Sal looked up in surprise.
“I’ve maintained a 4 point GPA Mom so anticipate I’ll graduate with honours. As for plans, you know I want to be a legal aid like you and plan to get a job and do the course at night school.”
Mom nodded her head in appreciation. She was proud of her brave daughter. Life had been hard for her. Mom had been told by Sal’s teachers Sal’s former friends hadn’t been there for her after Dad’s death. Mom had felt the slow withdrawal of friendship from their parents when things became really tough and they no longer enjoyed those parties at Sal’s home. Mom had the friendship of her peers at the law firm, but she watched her daughter anxiously to see how she’d handle rejection from former friends while dealing with the loss of her dad.
Then December 24 arrived. The legal firm had closed down for Christmas and year end celebrations. Sal and Mom sat and waited for Fred to arrive home for Christmas. He’d been transferred to another city and owned his first car. He’d been sending money home for some time and Mom had put it aside in a bank account in his name. She hoped Fred would return to school and money had to be set aside for that and added to what he sent home. Mom knew Fred would be disappointed she hadn’t used that money to help out with home expenses but she wanted the best for her son, and best always required money. She planned to make Fred a signatory at the bank while he was home visiting.
Mom looked at the foot of the Christmas tree and thought of how full it had been when Dad was alive and working. She sighed. Now there were two envelopes and one gift under the tree. One envelope had “Sally” printed neatly and the other “Fred.” She knew the gift marked Mom was from Sal and wondered where the money had come from for her to do that.
While she was considering this there was noise of an approaching vehicle in the driveway.
“Fred!” shouted Sal, running to the open door and jumping stairs to the pathway leading to the driveway. She raced to the driver’s side door and jerked it open to hug her brother.
“Whoa!” shouted Fred in excitement. “It’s great to be home again.”
Fred rummaged in the untidy back seat and pulled his luggage from the accumulated mess.
Sal slapped him on the back. “Your room was always messy and now you have a messy car!”
They both laughed and hugged as Mom arrived panting and joined the hug fest.
“Welcome home son!” Mom scanned him and took in his healthy tan and muscular build. He was obviously looking after himself she thought proudly.
Christmas Eve was taken up with the happy reunion. They all talked at once in a vain attempt to catch up on time spent apart. Fred yawned as rigors of long distance travel began to catch up with him. He was home, he could relax now. Glancing at the tree he took in the three lonely packages under the tree and eyes misted as he remembered all the gifts there in happier times when Dad was alive. He excused himself and headed for his old room where he unpacked gifts returning proudly to place them under the tree.
“One for Mom, one for Sal,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Mom started to cry.
“Did I do something wrong?” Fred said unhappily.
“No son, it’s just that you look so much like your father now and that’s the way he’d have expressed himself.”
Mom walked over to Fred and hugged him. “You’re a wonderful son and I’m proud of you!”
Fred stood up straight and looked pleased.
“Shall we open the gifts tonight or tomorrow morning?” Mom turned to study her children’s faces.
“That’s a no brainer Mom, tonight of course!” Sal had her eye on Fred’s gift as she spoke.
“OK, get your gifts and hand them out,” said Mom laughing.
Sal and Fred bought their gifts to Mom and stood expectantly waiting for her to open them. She opened Fred’s first. But there was one box inside another, and another, and eventually after discarding loads of boxes there was one small box. Inside was a $100 Visa Cash Card.
“That is for new clothes Mom and I want an account to show every cent is spent on you, not the house.” Mom sniffled in grateful surprise.
Sal’s box was less complicated. Inside was the new handbag Sal had caught Mom looking at wistfully in the Mall. Mom nodded in appreciation.
“Now it’s your turn,” Mom turned to her children.
Sal turned to Fred, “I couldn’t wrap your present so it’s up in my room under the bed. Will you help me bring it down?”
They bounded up the stairs together and there was a yelp of delight that roused Mom’s curiosity. She hurried upstairs as fast as she could. There was a tool kit Fred had opened and was checking out with glee.
“How did you know I wanted this particular set, and where did you get money from?” Fred looked at her curiously.
“I’ve been running errands for the shop down the road after school and saving money for Christmas. I checked with your friend down at your company office and he told me you’d inquired about this particular set. He got it for me on special. He’s rather cute!” Sal looked proud she’d been able to keep her secret from Mom.
Mom nodded her head and looked at her daughter with admiration.
Sal raced downstairs to retrieve her gifts. She’d been so excited about Fred’s gift she’d temporarily forgotten she had gifts under the tree. She chose Fred’s gift first and gave it a careful shake. It was a repeat of Mom’s box. Box after box was discarded until at last the small box was reached. Sal nodded her head knowing what was in the last box. A Visa Cash Card for $50 this time.
“I’m rich she shouted happily,” and planted a kiss on her embarrassed brother.
Then she reached for the large envelope and opened it with a puzzled glance at her mother.
Inside were two documents Sal searched quickly then turned to her Mother, “What is it Mom?”
“Read it”, said her mother quietly.
Sal sat and studied the documents while Fred opened his envelope.
Fred studied the forms carefully and turned to his mother, “Mom?”
“Sign the forms,” said Mom matter-of-factly.
“This is a lot of money what am I supposed to do with it?”
I want you to complete your education son. I’m doing OK now and it seems Sal will be cared for too.”
Fred glanced at his sister and saw she was sobbing silently. “What is it Sal?”
Sal handed her brother the documents. A quick read showed it was a sponsorship from Mom’s legal firm that required her to give them two years of service for every year sponsored toward a law degree. She could go to college after all with tuition paid and it would only need for her to get part time work for her living expenses while there. Her potential future was far beyond her expectations.
“Happy Christmas,” said Mom
“Happy Christmas Mom, you’re the best mother in the world.”
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”
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19 thoughts on “Christmas Gifts”
Oh, my!! Sweet Ian I am typing this through tears…love this story. Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Hugs
Thank you. It was a quiet Christmas for us as our children live in the US and they have obligations there at that time of the year. We usually see them in June when they can make it. Have a wonderful year 2015.
Heart warming story which could only describe true love. Happy Christmas.
Thank you so much, and a Happy Christmas celebration to you too. Looking forward to reading more of your interesting stories in 2015.
A touching story, beautifully told Ian. Merry Christmas!
Thank you Madhu. Enjoy your celebrations in beautiful Bharat Mata. I would again like to express appreciation for the quality blogs you’ve provided for our enjoyment this year.
Touching, Ian. The thing is, there are so many families (and kids) in these straits, scrambling to keep afloat. Just unbelievable what single parents do. There is always room for a helping hand.
It seems to be an increasing trend of the times. In the case of this story it was the tragic death of the father, however in most cases of single parentage it is because of abandonment. Yes most do a remarkable job of bringing up their children under the circumstances but there will always be scars.
Well written, Ian, and lovely story…wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas!
I’m glad you liked it. Have a wonderful family celebration at Christmas
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having been widowed six months ago, I related to so many parts of that story Ian..not only well written but a great emotional read.
Thank you Barb. You being a writer yourself you know that writing is an emotional activity. You actually feel the scene you portray in order to communicate the story.
Beautiful Christmas story! I really enjoyed it a lot! Thanks for sharing this with us right before Christmas.
I’m glad you enjoyed it Sharon. I wondered what to write to portray the spirit of the season
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Lovely story, Ian. Wishing you and your family happy holidays.
Thank you Elizabeth. You enjoy your celebrations with family too.
Best advise from a mother to her children for their Christmas gift.
Yes Yoshiko, Mothers are prepared to make any sacrifice for their children no matter how difficult that may prove to be.
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