Prissy woke up before the sun; too excited to sleep another moment. The house felt extra cold this morning, so she pulled the covers up to her chin grinning widely at the bare walls of her small room. It was Christmas day! She’d waited patiently for weeks, and it was finally here. She had taken great care to be ready; wrapping a present for each of her brothers and placing them carefully under the tree. Each would receive a homemade gift crafted with all the love a six year old could muster. Prissy squealed into her cupped hands thinking about it. When she could no longer stand the anticipation she began to slowly peel the quilt away from her small frame. This quilt was special because it was lovingly sewn by her Great Grandmother, and namesake. It was a patchwork of colors and Prissy loved it so. “Goodness, why does it have to be so cold?” She spoke, scolding the empty room. Once she’d sufficiently pushed the colorful quilt aside, she set about moving her legs to the edge of the bed. This was no small task since she hadn’t been able to move her legs since, well, since she could remember. She couldn’t recall ever being mad about it; Momma always told her God had made her extra special, and Prissy knew her Momma didn’t lie. Once she was perfectly perched on the side of the small mattress, she reached for her crutches that were leaning against the nightstand. She had to be ever so careful not to lose her balance as she pulled herself from the bed and onto her crutches. The crutches were small for her; she’d grown some in the years since her Daddy died. He’d always made her a new pair every year until the accident took him to heaven. Momma was working hard at the store to save for a new pair, but she hadn’t saved quite enough just yet. Prissy had made up her mind not to complain. The old ones were just fine, even though she had to lean over quite a bit so they would rest comfortably under her arms. Never mind all that now, it was Christmas and there was snow. Could anything be any better?
Jane remembered nothing until Prissy’s face was directly above hers. “Mama! Mama! Wake up, it’s Christmas!” Prissy’s hot breath blew heavy in Jane’s face. She almost jumped but stopped herself before slamming her forehead directly into Prissy’s. Jane smiled into the morning darkness. “Priscilla, the sun hasn’t even come up yet.” “I know, Mama, but I can’t wait any more.” Jane could see a shadow in the door and new it was Andrew by the tuft of hair standing straight up on his head. “My, my.” She spoke as she pulled back the covers and reached for the robe lying at the end of the bed. “Look at you two, up so early. How about we put a log on the fire and have some hot chocolate while we wait for everyone else to wake?” Giggles revealed she’d made the perfect plan to distract their eager spirits.
Thomas was up and out of the house long before sunrise. He’d wrapped his homemade treasures in brown paper the night before and laid them in an empty stall in the barn. Now to get his chores done before the family woke and it was time to celebrate. He was more excited than he’d been in the longest time. At fourteen, he understood the pain of loss, but this day would be filled with laughter. He was going to do everything in his power to put a smile the faces of the ones he loved. He’d cried as he wrapped each present. Cried because of the loss of his father, cried because he could see the pain in his Momma’s eyes, and cried because his youngest siblings wouldn’t have the chance to know their daddy like he did. The whole situation was heartbreaking and Thomas felt helpless to change it. It was this frame of mind that convinced him to make a special gift for each of his siblings. It’s something his Daddy would’ve done, if he was still alive. He wasn’t the woodworker his father had been, but he had decided to give it his best shot. And now the day was finally here.
Jane made her way to the kitchen with Prissy on her heels. Andrew volunteered to get a log for the fire while Prissy helped Momma with the hot chocolate. The Christmas tree lights were twinkling in the dim light of the morning as the sun began to make its appearance on the horizon. Jane thought as she stirred the hot cocoa how often she’d sat on the porch and watched the sun come up; the faithfulness of its return day after day was a reminder that life really would continue, even if her heart felt like it might stop. “It’s hot, Mama,” Prissy’s voice startled her back to the present. “Let’s see, how about we put a tiny bit of cold water in to help it cool?” Prissy shook her head from her spot at the table, by this time Andrew had joined her. He blew his chocolate until little chocolate drops peppered the space in front of him. Jane could hear the laughter of Jeffrey and Kirk as they wrestled down the hall and rounded the corner into the kitchen. “We want some.” Jane smiled at her rambunctious boys and turned back to the kettle still hot on the stove.
“Morning, Mama.” Jane heard the distinct voice of her oldest. “Good morning,” she responded without turning. “Want a cup of cocoa?” “Of course.” Thomas responded as he sat at the table with his siblings. The boys were swiping each other across the table, Prissy giggled with delight at the commotion. “Settle down, boys,” Thomas spoke, “you’ll spill your chocolate.” Jane smiled as she hovered over the stove, that boy was so much like his father. “When can we open gifts?” Prissy spoke as she used her arm to wipe the chocolate from her face. “Well, how about we sit in the living room and read the Christmas story first?” “Okay, Momma.” Kirk spoke for the others. Three little sets of feet and one oversized teenaged set headed to the next room. Prissy wasn’t far behind. Jane watched the chaos from the stove, smiling, as she realized her heart was abundantly full.
Reading the Christmas Story on Christmas morning was always a special time for their family. Jane read the account from the second chapter of Luke while Prissy held a picture of their father in her lap. Jane had a lump in her throat as she read; not just because of the person missing, but also because of the joys in life. “Is Daddy in heaven?” Prissy asked after the reading. “Yes, he is, sweetie,” Jane answered softly. She’d answered Prissy more times than she could count, but she didn’t mind. Prissy needed affirmation and Jane was more than willing to give it. Andrew reached over and gave Prissy a hug, again showing the temperament of his Momma. “Time for presents!” Jeffrey said loudly, lifting the mood. He was her quiet soul so when he spoke, Jane always made sure to listen. “Yes, Jeffrey, time for presents. Thomas would you like to pass them out?” Thomas got up and made his way to the tree. He called out names until each child had a wrapped gift. “Ok, everybody, open them!” Jane no sooner had the words out of her mouth when squeals, high fives and chatter filled the air; their joy was palpable. Because of the commotion Jane hadn’t noticed Thomas make his exit, the next thing she knew he was standing by the door holding several wrapped packages. He had a boyish grin on his face and, for some reason, Jane thought she might cry at the sight of him.
“I have some gifts for all of ya.” Thomas spoke proudly. Several hollers and a delighted scream filled the air. The energy in the room was light and full of Christmas joy. “Here ya go, Jeffrey.” Thomas handed the wrapped package to his little brother. “And Kirk.” Kirk reached out and took the gift. “Thank you,” Kirk’s voice was gravelly in this early morning hour. “Andrew.” Andrew jumped from the floor with glee and grabbed the brown package. “And Momma.” Thomas handed Jane a wrapped box with a bow made of twine. Prissy looked around disappointed her name hadn’t been called, Thomas answered before she could ask. “Prissy, yours is in the barn, we’ll go out and get it in a minute, ok?” She grinned and nodded. “Open your presents, everybody.” Thomas’s voice cracked and he didn’t even care.
Jane sat in wonder with her gift on her lap. What was happening? When did this man-child find the time to make all these gifts? One by one, the boys opened their presents and thanked Thomas with hugs and more high fives. The gifts were his finest work, each hewn from wood made with his Father’s tools. Tears slid down Jane’s cheeks as she watched. “Okay, you’re turn, Momma.” All eyes in the room turned to her. This she knew, the gift in her lap, although kind, wasn’t the real gift; the greatest gift was the scene that just unfolded in front of her. Jane wiped her tears and began to unwrap the paper while Thomas shifted back and forth from one leg to the other in anxious excitement. Underneath the paper Jane found a simple brown box made of wood; it was sanded and stained perfectly. “Oh, Thomas, it’s lovely,” her voice was heavy with emotion. She opened the box and fussed over how perfect it was to hold the dress pins she wore to church. “Look at the top, Momma.” Thomas spoke through a grin. Jane closed the lid and saw the word “MOMMA” carved into the lid. Jane ran her fingers across the crude lettering with gentle affection. She could no longer contain her emotions, the tears began in earnest; she got up from her chair and embraced her precious son. “I love it, Thomas.” And he knew she did.
“Okay, Prissy, your turn.” Thomas picked her up from the couch and Kirk opened the door. The cold air was unforgiving, but no one seemed to notice as they trailed behind Prissy and Thomas to the barn. Prissy was giddy with excitement and Jane was still in wonder. Thomas carefully sat Prissy on a wooden crate and walked into one of the stalls. “Close your eyes, Prissy.” Andrew put his hands over her eyes “just to make sure,” he said. Prissy giggled and sat still as a mouse. “Are you ready?” “Yes!” She could barely speak for excitement. It was then Thomas came around the corner of the stall, into the open air of the barn, holding a brand new pair of crutches. Jane gasped, and put her hand over her mouth; the brothers cheered. “Okay, you can open ‘em now.” Andrew took the cue and removed his hand, backing away so Prissy could see her special gift. Prissy’s eyes opened wide, and for the first time Jane could remember, Prissy was perfectly speechless. Tears began to roll down her small face and the group would later tell you she looked like an angel glowing with joy. Thomas walked over and handed them to Prissy, “here, these oughtta fit you better.” Prissy cupped her hands over her face and Thomas laid the crutches down to embrace his little sister. She was so small and he vowed right then and there to always protect her, no matter what.
Finally, Prissy wiped her cheeks and reached for the gift, Andrew was quick to grab them off the barn floor and hand them to his baby sister. She stood the crutches in front of her and lifted herself slowly to her full height. “I love them, brother!!” The joy Thomas felt in that moment was something he couldn’t explain to those who asked about it later. His hard work and late nights had paid off in ways he hadn’t imagined. Now he understood why the Good Book said it was more blessed to give than to receive. He was convinced nothing could ever compare to that moment when Prissy walked around the barn without having to lean over. Her laughter was beautiful; it sounded like music to Jane, so she began to sing. “We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas…” One at a time the kids joined as they laughed and skipped around, and, for the moment, all the sorrows seemed to be far away. This truly was a Merry Christmas.
Andrew had the idea first, “Hey, let’s make snow angels!” There were whoops and hollers as the kids took off for the fresh snow, even Prissy. Her angel might look a little different than the others, but we all know God loves differences. Later that evening the family stood around the piano and sang Christmas carols while sipping on hot chocolate. It had indeed been a merry day, one they would never forget. As Jane laid in bed that night, she couldn’t get the images of the day out of her mind. Father, you are truly the best gift giver. Thank you for this day and would you please tell James we’re okay. He’d be so proud of the kids. We miss him dearly, but his spirit lives on in each of our hearts. Help us, Father, to never forget how good life was and may we always find hope in the goodness that lies ahead. She stared out the window at the moonbeams, then drifted off to sleep; and it was, indeed, in heavenly peace.