Every year, my dad sends a check in the mail so that I can buy my kids and me something nice for Christmas. He’s usually pretty generous, so it’s always exciting when we get his card in the mail. This year has been extremely difficult for our little family, and I needed most of my dad’s gift money to get caught up on bills. I’ve been a little down about not being able to do a lot for the kids and hadn’t even gone out yet to shop for them yet.
Sunday morning, I woke up to a thump on the roof around 6 a.m. I figure it was a well-sodden ponderosa branch. I looked outside and saw big, beautiful snowflakes piling up all around. Three little kids I know were going to be really excited in a few hours.
As soon as my middle child woke, I opened the curtain and showed him the snow. He jumped out of bed and ran outside in his socks and stuck out his tongue. Finally, a good day.
I dressed him and forced on his coat and we raced to Bi-Mart (at 10 mph) to spend our Christmas money. We picked out boots, snow pants and a couple of sleds — and a package of donuts because you’re only a kid once. The cashier rang up our order and I ran my card through the machine. She gave me a blank look. It was declined.
I was numb, but this has become the new normal. I told my son, “We don’t have enough for the sleds. We’ll get the boots and the pants to keep you dry and we can improvise some kind of sled.” I tried to block the thought of the meltdown that would be coming at some point between there and the parking lot.
Without my own bag, I picked up the boots and pants and preservative-laden donuts and headed for the door. The cashier gave me a look and said, “Don’t forget your sleds.” The woman behind us in line had heard our conversation and shelled out the $20 I was short. A year’s worth of crappy days that had been pushed down welled to the surface. My hands were full, otherwise I would have given this person a hug. I awkwardly kissed her cheek instead.
Experiences are remembered, sometimes for a lifetime. Trendy toys, not so much. Hopefully, my kids will remember how much fun they had sledding that day and how their dog chased them down the hill. They built a snowman and threw snowballs and walked home exhausted and hungry. Donuts only go so far.
Hopefully, when they are grown and remembering that year we had in Ashland when we didn’t have much and Mom was not her usual self, they will remember sledding and having a brother stuff snow down their backs. I will remember the woman behind me in line, the volunteers at the food bank, the school that adopted us for Christmas, and the compassion that offsets the darkness in our world.
Thank you to everyone who care and help.