Rough Christmas this year? Yeah, I’ve had some of those too. Our hardest came the year my husband had been out of work for eleven months. We were down to eating what we could grow in our backyard garden. The kids were sick of spinach and beets and tomatoes. But Christmas had always been such a special time for us, and I just couldn’t bear to let it go.
For Thanksgiving our church had brought us a gift box filled with a turkey and all the fixings. I found a twenty dollar bill tucked between the cranberry sauce and the stuffing mix. We feasted on that delicious turkey, and I hid twenty away to save for Christmas.
We knew a couple who owned a Christmas tree farm, so I got up my courage to ask if they might have a reject tree they would sell us cheap. They did. It was small and leaned to the side, but to us it was lovely.
Twenty dollars for Christmas gifts. I went to the local thrift store and bought my husband a shirt, my daughter a sweater, and a sweatshirt for my son. Next door, I got each of them their favorite candy bar for their stocking.
Only three dollars left.
A sudden inspiration hit me. I hurried to our local library and rifled through a huge selection of donated books—paperbacks: 15 cents each or four for a dollar. I bought twelve.
Our tradition has always been to label the wrapped gift from some name that would give a hint to what’s in the gift without giving away what the gift is. (For instance, a checked flannel shirt might be from Paul Bunyan.) So on each individually wrapped book I put a tag with the recipient’s name, then from Ben Franklin. (We do have him to thank for our public libraries, after all!)
When my kids talk about their favorite Christmases, guess which one is always at the top of the list? Right! And still today, years later, every Christmas someone gets a gift from Ben Franklin. Just because he was there when we needed him.
“I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”