Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Story

One generation learns from another. Children copy the actions of their parents more often than they obey arbitrarily spoken rules. Stories are passed down in families. This is one of those tales. Amanda Horn, now a successful engineer, shares a story of sacrifice and love while growing up with very little money.

Jackie King and Amanda Horn (L to R)

A true story told to Jackie King by Amanda Horn

When I was eleven we didn’t have any money at all to spare. Mama was paying off doctor and laboratory bills that had stacked up from some medical tests I’d needed earlier that year when the doctors thought I might have leukemia. So when she told Bubba and me we couldn’t have Christmas that year, we weren’t even surprised. Bubba was my uncle who was living with us. He was just a couple of years older than I was, and like a brother.

Bubba and I weren’t too concerned about not getting gifts, we hadn’t expected any. Mostly we felt sorry for Mama, who worked long hours as a waitress to pay our bills. But we were excited about Christmas all the same. Our thoughts were filled with our own plans for buying a special present for Mama, something beautiful and wonderful that would make her smile again. We knew just what to buy—a matched blue silk-like gown and robe set that just matched her eyes.

Times had been really hard for us since Mama and Daddy got divorced. I loved both of my parents, but Mama was the one who took the daily care of me. She tended me when I was sick and listened to my troubles when I was sad. Because of her closeness to me, she was the one I spent most of my time worrying about. Daddy had remarried and had another family to take care of him. I felt as if Mama was the one who needed a really nice gift.

It was 1977 and Bubba and I had been making some money by babysitting and doing yard work for the neighbors. We stashed every penny we earned in an old jelly jar and kept it hidden under the bed. Finally we earned and saved $22.79, the exact amount needed to buy Mama’s gift. We bought the lovely blue gown and robe. We wrapped our treasure in some bright yellow tissue paper left over from my birthday, and then we were ready for Christmas Day.

“There isn’t any money for a fancy dinner with a turkey and all of the trimmings,” Mama said. I could tell it really hurt her to admit we wouldn’t have what everyone else in town would have. I wanted to say something to make her feel better, but didn’t know what that might be. I just sat and watched her swallow hard before she spoke again.

“So what would you kids like for Christmas dinner? I’ll fix you anything you want that I can afford to buy.”

This was a no-brainer for me.

“Bacon and tomato sandwiches and Pepsi!” I shouted, and Bubba, who was always good natured and happy to go along with my ideas, agreed. And that was what we had. After stuffing ourselves with our favorite food, Bubba and I told Mama that we thought that was the best Christmas dinner ever. Then we took her present from under the bed where we had hidden this treasure and handed it to her.

Mama started crying.

“Don’t cry, Mama,” I begged. Bubba said, “We wanted to make you happy, not sad.”

“But I couldn’t buy one thing for y’all,” Mama said, wiping away her tears with the hem of a dish towel she had tied around her waist for an apron. “And you’ve spent all this money on me.”

Bubba and I kept hugging Mama and begging her to be happy because we were. Finally she wiped away her tears and laughed.

“I am happy,” Mama said. “I’m the luckiest woman in the world and am so proud of the two of you.” She touched the soft silken fabric of her gift to her cheek. And I love my beautiful gown and robe.”

Then Mama made us a promise.

“Do you two remember the story about when your grandpa told me and my brothers and sisters that Santa couldn’t come until spring?”

I nodded and so did Bubba. That was one of our favorite stories.

“Well, I promise you that we’ll have Christmas in July to make up for this disappointment.”
The next July Bubba and I came home one day and Mama had a Christmas tree in the living room—completely decorated and with lights twinkling. Brightly colored packages were piled under the tree with our names on them. And, best of all, we could smell turkey roasting in the oven.

“I promised you we’d have Christmas in July,” Mama said. “It’s sad when Santa can’t come in December, but in our family he always manages to come—even when he’s seven months late.

Recipe for Bacon and Tomato Sandwiches for Three
Six slices of bread (whatever kind you like best)
Nine slices of cooked bacon
Two tomatoes, sliced
Three slices of Swiss or other cheese (optional)
Three tablespoons of mayonnaise
Spread mayonnaise on bread. Add bacon, tomatoes and cheese. Melt butter in a hot skillet and grill sandwiches until a golden brown. Serve hot.

Christmas in July was first published in DEVOTED TO COOKING, Inspiration for the Aspiring Chef in Everyone.
Stories From the Heart

1 comment:

Jean Henry Mead said...

A lovely Christmas story. Wishing you both a happy day!!!