Day 5 – The Mother
This week I will be sharing a Christmas story with you in six parts. It is an excerpt from my book, REMEMBERING WHEATFIELD BRIDGE, now available in paperback and also on Amazon. Feel free to share the story with others as it enfolds each day. You may also visit my website jonivannest.com for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
CHAIN OF LOVE
By Joni VanNest © 2016
“What do you have there?” A tiny child with upraised arms holding a crayon drawing ran toward Pam Stilling at toddler warp speed.
“A ‘smastree,” came the excited answer.
For some reason Hope always overlooked the first syllable of Christmas tree and ran the two words together as one. Pam was glad to know verbal language was a fluid thing.
The child leapt into her arms for a hug. Pam hated the long days her little girl had to stay in daycare, but she had to make a living. Those outstretched arms running toward her at day’s end were enough to temporarily quell the guilt of being a working mom and soothe her troubled soul. It was not as if she had an option. If she didn’t work no one else would pick up the slack. “It’s a very pretty Christmas tree.”
Hope’s eyes sparkled. “Sandy says Santy’s coming.”
Again, it’s a fluid thing. “Santa, honey. And we’ll see if he gets around to us, he’s pretty busy you know.” Pam tried to keep a low profile on the Santa Claus issue but found it nearly impossible this time of year. He was everywhere. Of course, the daycare workers were just doing their job. What kid didn’t dream of presents under the tree? However, this would be Hope’s first cognizant Christmas and it would be spare. If she had to spend money on the holiday, it was better to buy things her daughter needed. Pam was more inclined to think of practical gifts like snow pants and boots rather than toys.
“Pam, I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a second?” Sandy, the daycare manager, put her hands out in front of her indicating to Pam to let her take the child. “Hope, I need to talk to your Mommy. Why don’t you go play with the blocks a minute?” The girl was easily distracted and did as instructed when Sandy put her down.
“Look, if it’s about the balance on this week’s tuition, I get paid next Friday. I just needed to keep a little aside to get Hope a present.”
“Actually, that’s what I want to talk to you about; not the tuition, but a present. You, or rather Hope, was nominated to receive a gift from Toys for Tots. Are you familiar with the program?”
Pam was speechless. Yes, she knew of the program, she’d seen the toy drops around town. They were almost as common as the red kettles. But to be standing here having this conversation as an apparent recipient of one of the toys put her in unfamiliar territory. She had always worked hard to provide for herself and Hope. The public-assisted daycare was a godsend she couldn’t make it without, and the rent on the studio apartment over the toy shop was manageable. It was usually the incidental things like car repairs and illnesses that sent the budget on a downward spiral, and Christmas was not doing them any favors.
“I don’t understand,” finally spilled from her lips.
“It’s really simple. We’re one of the agencies that helps to coordinate the distribution of donated toys. Hope’s name came up.”
Hope’s name came up. Despite her hard work, despite her trying to be as normal as everyone else, she was still a statistic – one of the families that just wasn’t making it. Pam swallowed her pride, for Hope’s sake. A low, “Thank you,” was all she could utter.
* * *
Pam looked around the apartment. Currier and Ives it was not. The small artificial Christmas tree in the corner wasn’t even theirs. They borrowed it from a neighbor spending the holidays with relatives out of town. But Hope’s handmade decorations of glittered pinecones and aluminum foil stars and bells graced the boughs making it feel like theirs. Last night, Christmas Eve, they strung ropes of popcorn from branch to branch adding the finishing touches. Outside the window, a fresh blanket of snow covered the street below without even so much as the imprint of a tire. The world was still slumbering in Christmas peace.
Pam had been in a good mood since receiving the Toys for Tots gifts two days earlier, and the spirit of Christmas filled her heart. Hope would have a toy under the tree. That was important to her but so, too, was the knowledge that someone somewhere thought to care for the happiness of an unknown child. Her child. She quietly uttered a prayer. “Lord, please bless the person or persons who provided this gift for my little girl. I am so grateful for their kindness. Amen.”
Pam had gotten up early so she wouldn’t miss seeing Hope’s face as she awoke to Christmas morning and presents beneath the tree. She would make sure Hope opened the toy first. The practical clothes would take a backseat to the doll. She sat on the couch with a mug of coffee warming her hands and waited. It wasn’t long before there was a stir and Hope stumbled into the hallway dragging her bankie in one hand while rubbing her eyes open. In the twinkling of an eye, she saw.
“Mommy, Santy was here!” She never was able to get it straight – Sandy, Santy, Santa – it was hopeless. At least for now.
“Yes honey, he was. And look, he left you presents.” Pam knelt on the floor and pulled the toy out from under the tree. Hope’s small hands could barely hold the cumbersome package. She placed it on the rug, and at her mother’s suggestion tugged at the wrapping paper until it tore off the box. She raised the lid…
…TO BE CONTINUED. You can view the previous installments of Chain of Love here on my blog. Be sure to like my Facebook page, JoniVanNestAuthor, and to visit my website, JoniVanNest.com. Please generously support Toys for Tots!