Day 5 – The Mother


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 for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!


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, Please generously support Toys for Tots!


Day 3 – Chain of Love

holding hands.jpg
This week I will be sharing a Christmas story with you in six parts. It is an excerpt from my first book, REMEMBERING WHEATFIELD BRIDGE, now available in paperback. Click here to get your copy. Feel free to share the story with others as it enfolds each day. You may also visit my website for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
By Joni VanNest © 2016
Day 3 
The Young Couple
It had been six months to the day – a beautiful wedding, the most wonderful day of their lives. Dianne’s memories of the occasion were just as vibrant on that cold winter evening as they had felt on that bright sunny morning. Recent comments from an older friend regarding their “monthaversary” still played in her mind. “Six months? Honey, you’re still on your honeymoon. Come talk to me after you’ve had at least a decade under your belt.” Dianne looked forward to that and many more joy-filled, and perhaps even challenging years ahead. On this particular evening, she saw the future in her husband Kenny’s eyes, by candlelight at a small Italian restaurant in the village.
A waiter placed heaping bowls of pasta on the table; steam rose from them into the twilight of the room. As if by instinct or ritual, she joined hands with Kenny across the table while he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for six outstanding months and for the many years still to come. We ask you to bless this food to our bodies that we may be strong for you and for each other.” A duet of “Amen” concluded the blessing. Their eyes met one last time before they turned their attention to the waiting food.
“Mmm. I think I died and went to heaven.” Dianne savored the marinara sauce, letting the rich flavor linger in her mouth before washing it down with a drink. “So, have you thought about what we’re going to buy everyone for Christmas? I have some ideas about my side of the family, but I’m at a loss as to what to get your Mom and Dad.” Dianne loved Christmas. She had tempted Kenny with her visions of sugarplums since Halloween. The question was just one of the many things they had to work out for this, their first Christmas together, as they were still learning the finer details of how to create a family.
“You know, I really haven’t given it much thought, but there is something I wanted to run by you.”
Dianne put down her fork to give full consideration to her husband.
“I’ve been thinking, this whole year seems to have gone by in such an amazing whirlwind: the wedding, the island honeymoon, moving into the apartment together, getting that promotion at work. I just can’t help but feel that I, that we,” he corrected himself, “have been blessed beyond compare.” There was no doubt, things were certainly going well for them – so well, in fact, they were even considering the possibility of starting their family earlier than planned. “So I thought maybe we could share a little of that blessing with someone else this Christmas. I know it sounds hokey and it doesn’t have to be anything major, I just feel that I want to give back a little – you know, to make Christmas special for a needy kid or something like that.”
Dianne sighed and looked at her husband with deep admiration. This was why I married him. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. In fact, I saw one of those Toys for Tots barrels the other day. We could start with a donation there.”
They finished off the meal with a tiramisu for two and decided to walk off the damage by going for a stroll around the green before heading home. Linked arm in arm they window shopped along the way. Village Toy Shoppe was just getting ready to close as they stood looking in the window.
“Oh honey, isn’t that adorable? And look, she’s got on pink bunny slippers.” Bonita Bunny caught Dianne’s eye and heart. “We have to get it for Toys for Tots. Come on!” Kenny was not given an option. She grabbed his hand and yanked him into the shop.
“Hi Caroline.”
“Well hey, if it isn’t the two lovebirds.” Dianne’s childhood neighbor and local toy merchant peered out over half glasses. She looked as if she’d had a long day and was ready to call it a night. The two greeted one another with over-the-counter hugs. “Gee, five more minutes and you would have missed me. I was just closing up.”
“Oh, we won’t keep you. We know exactly what we want.”
“Dianne, let her close up. We can come back another time.” Kenny then turned to Caroline. “Every now and then I find myself rescuing people from my wife’s impetuous nature.”
Dianne pouted in her husband’s direction and implored Caroline, “Please. We need to buy that purple bunny in the window; it’s for a special little girl.”
“Well, don’t let it be said that I’d ever keep a toy from a child.” Caroline went to the front of the store and locked the door before pulling the rabbit out of the window display.
“Bonita Bunny. I have to admit, I thought she was something special when I first saw her.” The woman carefully wrapped the little rabbit in white tissue paper, taking care not to cover its face. She placed her in a gift bag, feet first, so her head would stick out.
“So, who’s the special little girl?” Caroline inquired as she rang up the sale.
“I don’t know,” Dianne blurted out, only realizing afterward how silly it must have sounded.
Kenny came to her rescue. “We want to give a gift to a toy drive. I’m afraid Dianne fell suddenly and madly in love with this doll. But I think it would be perfect as well.” He smiled at Dianne and she in turn kissed him.
“Two hearts, one mind.”
Caroline paused to look at Bonita Bunny before passing the bag to Dianne.
“This probably sounds silly, but I’m a bit sad at seeing this little rabbit leave the store. I’ve grown quite fond of her since her arrival. I suppose I’ll have to be appeased knowing the doll will soon be in the arms of a deserving child.” She finished ringing up the purchase and joined the couple’s generosity by giving them a discount on the price.
As Caroline locked the door behind them, Dianne and Kenny walked out into the crisp night air. Snow flurries filled the space between them but their love for each other and for a little girl they would never meet kept them warm.
…TO BE CONTINUED. Be sure to like my Facebook page, JoniVanNestAuthor, and to visit my website, to read the previous installments of Chain of Love. Please support Toys for Tots this Christmas.