December 24 – When I was a kid, about six or so, Mom made me a Santa, chunky and overweight as all Santas are. This one, made of felt, had a round head with the typical hat and shaggy white beard made from cotton batting. The body was all in one piece with dark embroidered lines to set off the arms, legs, and boots. Since we had very, very few toys, none from the store, I really thought I was lucky to have that Santa.
Much later, I went off to Africa and returned to live not too far from Mom and Dad. One day, around Christmas time, I told Mom how I had never forgotten that Santa she had made for me, and I wished I had it back again for old times sake.
Well, Mom didn’t say anything about old Santa, but at Christmas that year she gave me a box to open. Inside was another homemade Santa, as much like the first one as she could remember. But it was NOT much like it at all! No embroidery, no old-fashioned whiskers or a bag hung over his shoulder. It wasn’t made out of felt, either. Every Christmas after for 10 years or so, she made another Santa for me, trying to capture the old memories. I still have most of them (the Santas, not the memories) in a box up in the attic.
Another part of that memory… When David and Biz were about 5 and 3 years old, I wanted to get them something a little special for Christmas. But where would I get the money? We just didn’t have it. So I decided to borrow a few dollars from Mom. She gave me all she could scrape together, just fourteen dollars. But that was a bit of a fortune to me in those long-ago days.
As I have mentioned before, we didn’t own a car, so I walked the couple miles from our house to the plaza while Dale entertained the kids at home. As I strolled through the store I kept in mind how much I could spend on Dale and each of the kids. Finally, after looking for a long time, I went up to the counter with several items. When the clerk behind the cash register came up with the total, a few cents short of the $14, I looked all over for the bills. I remembered I had clutched them in my hand as I looked for items to buy. But obviously, I had laid them down on a counter when I was checking out the merchandise. How could I have been so careless? Almost tearfully, I told the clerk what had happened. Very tersely she said, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to put the things back on the shelves!”
Sadly and slowly I walked back home. Not only had I lost the money, and bought nothing, but I owed $14 to Mom! After Christmas, when Dale was paid, I managed to somehow scrape together some of the money to give to Mom. When I explained the situation, she grabbed me, held on tightly, and with tears said, “No, you’re not paying anything back. No two dollars, or four, or fourteen! You’ve suffered enough already.”
Now the third and last part of the story. Years later, on Christmas, David handed me a shoe box and said something like, “Here, Mom, this is special for you and should bring back some memories.” Of course, I thought that he had bought me a pair of shoes. What else comes in a shoe box? On the cover was a photo of special shoes, Flex Comfort brand.
When I opened that box, I nearly fell over with joy and appreciation for a son like him. Inside, lying serenely at the bottom was a Santa, who fit just exactly in the box. Made of a kind of burlap dyed red, with cuffs and pockets in a checkered pattern, and plenty of ragged whiskers, he glanced out from under his cap, staring right at me with bright black eyes above his sizeable round nose!
When I picked him up, my eyes fell upon a number of bills which I quickly counted. One ten and four ones. Did that bring back memories? Oh yes. But the last straw – under the pile was a small piece of white paper with the words, “Consider the debt paid. Mom.” David must have labored a long, long time to copy those words from some of Mom’s handwriting that he had seen through the years. Some, maybe from greeting cards she had sent to him and his family. Others from poems she had written for him.
What a wonderful Christmas journey that was. From the Santa of my childhood, right on to a very special Santa from my son! When I think of this story, I remember the amazing Present that God sent us from heaven at this season, The Son of God Who has canceled all of our debt, and continues to give us presents of health and happiness, of joy and of the hope of eternity with Him in heaven! – CHRIS