The Christmas I Missed
It was a good little house for us, although it was old and had many problems. The kids knew everyone in the area and there was a large open field by the house that they could play in. I was a single mom with six small children and it was a tough year. My bills amounted to more than I was able to make and Christmas was going to be small. It is hard to know that your children need so many things, and you cannot provide it for them.
I did not have to work on Christmas day and we were looking forward to spending the day together. The kids and I had planned on making candy and baking goodies all day. I worked late on Christmas Eve and did not get home until after dark. All the kids needed baths and we walked over to the Temple to look at the lights and listen to the music. This was my way of reminding them of the things that were really important. When we finished at the temple, we had to come home and read our traditional Christmas stories. We loved to read together out loud and talk about the stories. We sang our favorite carols around the Christmas tree on the living room floor.
I felt so guilty for not being able to be home with them. I had to work a lot of hours back then, and it seemed as if they were growing so fast. I knew that they would not be children for long. We got to bed very late that night, and it seemed as if I had just gone to sleep when there was a banging at the front door.
I was startled and scared, but went and turned on the light and peaked out onto the porch. There was no one there. I opened the door a crack and there was a big black garbage bag sitting on the porch. I opened the door and couldn’t see anyone. I dragged the bag through the door and into the house (not a small feat as it was bulging on all sides) and opened it up. It was filled with wrapped boxes and bows. Everything was labeled girl or boy with an approximate age, but with no names on the packages.
I set everything up under the tree, thanking my Heavenly Father for the generosity of His earthly angels and their willingness to help my children in our time of need. After I got everything out of the bag and arranged under the tree, I glanced at the clock and saw that it was in the wee hours of the morning. I was so tired and I still had not had much sleep that night.
I went into bed and slept the sleep of the emotionally and physically exhausted. I awoke in the morning to a quiet house. (This was unusual on any day but especially worrisome on Christmas morning). If you have had small children, you know that they do not ever sleep in on Christmas. The anticipation of the presents and Santa is enough to wake even the most sleepy child, from their dreams and send them scampering into the living room with wonder shining from their eyes.
My bedroom was filled with light. As I lay in bed, I could begin to hear happy noises coming from outside the house. I sat up in alarm and looked at the clock: It read 9:00 am. I went into “panic mode” and leaped out of bed, dashing into the living room. The floor was all cluttered with boxes and bags and ripped off ribbons. There were clothes I had never seen before strewn all over the floor. It looked like a tornado had entered my living room, whirled around the Christmas tree, and exited out the front door.
I walked, stunned, to the door and opened it up. Out in the yard, all my children were playing happily. I stopped in amazement. You see, Santa did not just bring them presents to put under the tree the night before. He had brought them a play house. Complete with three rubber- band guns for the boys and baby dolls for the girls. All six of the children were out in that house playing and having the time of their lives. The boys were climbing on the roof, and the girls were hanging out the windows.
I broke down in tears and wept. I had slept through Christmas! I had missed it all! Imagine waking up and all the fun had happened without you there to participate. I was so sad and sorry for myself that year. I did not know how I had managed to sleep through all the noise and confusion of the morning. My children hastened to assure me that they had tried very hard to be quiet because they knew that mommy needed her sleep.
The missionaries came over later that afternoon and helped the kids play with the rubber band guns. I never could decide who liked those guns more; my boys, or the missionaries. The day went well and we all had a wonderful day, for the rest of it. When I got over being sorry for what I had missed, I was so grateful for those who made that house and brought the gifts. The children had an amazing and fun-filled day which, I think, they have never completely forgotten.
Of course, the problem with not buying the gifts myself, is that I did not have a clue about what belonged to who! I did not know if a toy was Kirbi’s or Lori’s, Lou’s or DJ’s. I did not know what shirt was for which girl, or what pants were for which boy. So, for the most part, we just put the toys and clothes in a pile and divided them up. The kids just could not understand why I was so upset when they had decided to let me sleep in. They had done me a favor and let me rest. They had a great time and I had sleep, so what was the problem anyway.
Probably, our most enduring tradition came from this one Christmas. I learned that I am not Superwoman, (This is true!) I could not stay up late into the night on Christmas Eve and expect to wake up the next morning when the children did. So, I determined that this would be the last Christmas I would ever miss! Every year after that one, I pulled up a blanket and pillow and slept at the foot of the Christmas tree. This happened every year until the oldest ones were grown and left home. I usually go to bed for an hour or so when the kids do. Then I get up and wrap and put all the stockings together and put all the presents under the tree. When this is done, it is usually about 4:00am. I lay down for an hour, and sure enough, the kids wake up and go through their stockings and we all open presents together around the tree.
I won’t be the one that sleeps through Christmas again!