“What’s your favorite Christmas memory?” My husband and I relaxed in front of the fire, gazing at the sparkling lights on the Christmas tree. I was curious what Christmas memories the tree and lights brought to mind.
Thinking he may go back to a favorite childhood memory, he surprised me. He told about a Christmas prank he and his brother played on their Mom.
“Mom, look, Santa left a gift for me and Jerry!” John and his brother Jerry began ripping the pretty paper to shreds.
“Look, it’s a train! Like the one we almost got as kids! Whadaya think Mom?”
The look she gave them could have stopped a freight train. Cold. Hard. No Christmas joy. It was the annual Christmas joke and ribbing that began over thirty years ago.
“Moma, can we have a train for Christmas? Please?”
“Yeah, Moma, we want a train!”
For the boys, seven and five, life had been difficult the past year or so. Their 37-year old dad had dropped dead while refereeing a youth football game. Suddenly, the oldest son and daughter had to grow up. At sixteen, brother Jimmy was now head of the family. At ten sister Cindy became the mom, cooking for the boys and keeping the house. Meanwhile, Moma scurried to find work and make a living. Oh yeah, Moma also had to learn how to drive.
The second Christmas without their Dad rolled around. The two youngest boys began to dream. Could Santa, or Moma, give them something fun? Not clothes or socks or underwear. A real toy. The closer to December 25th, the more they begged an cajoled.
“Please, please, please. Just a train. That’s all we want!”
Christmas morning dawned bright and clear. Anticipation and excitement was thick in the air. Perhaps, after all, there would be toys under the tree. They were sure Moma had told Santa about the longed for train.
Little Jerry and Johnny rushed into the living room to see what surprises may be in store for them. There, under the deep green branches of the fir tree, was a box, with the picture of a train and track on it! Hurrah! A train set! They tore into it, everyone joining in, putting the train and track together.
The engine chug-a-lugged round and round, pulling several cars. They could almost see the train crew in the caboose, it looked so real. That little engine worked hard. It was like The Little Engine That Could. Well, almost. “I think I can, I think I can. I think I can’t any more…” After about an hour it stopped.
“Moma, the train’s not working! Moma what now?”
Jimmy, the older brother/dad checked it out. “It looks like the wheels on the engine locked up tight. They ain’t budging.” The little engine couldn’t move. There was nothing they could do but box it back up. Moma would take care of it.
“I’ll return it to the store tomorrow.”
Gladness filled the hearts of little Johnny and Jerry. Tomorrow, they would have a brand new working train!
Only, they didn’t. Moma returned the broken toy, and brought home – an iron!
Eyes wide, mouths hanging open, shock rocked their world. The train they had wanted, that was in their grasp for a short while, was gone forever.
“Oh, come on Moma. Don’t give us that look! We’ve wanted a train for thirty years! Now we finally have one!”
“Y’all don’t realize I did what I had to do for our family. I needed an iron to press my clothes for work. Remember, we didn’t have money for me to take them to the dry cleaners.”
“THAT’S your Christmas memory?” It was not the warm, fuzzy story with a happy ending that I expected.
I couldn’t imagine why my mother-in-law didn’t explain the situation to the boys. Instead she took the train away, never to replace it. Then again, I couldn’t imagine being a young widow with four children to raise.
I couldn’t imagine a need so great that something so loved and cherished would be given up.
But God could:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Other Christmas posts you may enjoy: