The week of Christmas, Jeanne watched her neighbors put up decorations and lights. Their houses brought the spirit of the holiday when there was little to have. In the small village, the factory had shut down. Paychecks were diminished and families couldn’t afford food, let alone presents.
Jeanne, a girl of seven, desperately wanted to give her mom a present for Christmas. In the attic, she searched and found nothing to give. It had been emptied and sold to keep their house. The attic now held remnants of their family possessions. A broken rocking chair, empty boxes, clothes from when she was a baby. That’s all.
Dark webs and dust covered the attic and represented what the holiday felt like this year. Dark and unrelenting. A miserable time when joy should be upon them. Sitting on the floor of the attic, she cried.
Two days before Christmas, she sat brooding on the steps of her porch. Lights and decorations littered the streets. On her block, her house was the only dark one. The only flash of light was a yellow lamp outside her front door. It flickered and would soon darken to black.
Feeling down, she glanced around the yard and saw the cones sprawled on the grass. They were all different sizes and shapes. The Browns changed from golden to dark and everything in between. The petals of grass hid some from not being cut.
Jeanne had an idea. Gathering the cones in the front of her upturned shirt, she took a pile and brought them inside. In the drawer full of discarded items, she found a long piece of string. She tied the cones to the string to create a chain. When it was long enough, she tied it to the fireplace.
With a smile, she felt determined to decorate their house as a surprise to her mom. When she came back from the wash, the house would be full of cones. Jeanne spent hours covering the banister of the stairs, the beam that spread through the living room ceiling, the doorways, and she tied a few in a circle to appear as a wreath.
When she stopped, she looked around the house and decided her work was done. Later, when her mother came home, Jeanne yelled, “Surprise!”
“What’s all this?” Her mother put the clothes basket down on the sofa and turned in a circle taking in her surroundings.
Jeanne explained, “I couldn’t find you anything for Christmas. I thought if I decorated the house, it would make you happy and it would be like everyone else. Do you like it?”
Confused by her mother’s reaction, she frowned at the tears falling down her cheeks. “Mama, why are you crying? Do you hate it?”
“No,” she exclaimed. “It’s the most thoughtful gift, sweet pie. It’s beautiful, thank you.”
Jeanne was enveloped in her mother’s arms. That night, her mother said to her, “No matter what happens, we have each other. Merry Christmas, sweet pie.”
“Merry Christmas, mama.”
Even if you don’t have money for gifts or decorations, it’s the thought that counts. A family always has each other. Jeanne learned a valuable lesson about living with little. What you make of it makes all the difference.
by Ruth Anne Garcia
I hope you enjoyed this story.