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A true story from the author's life.

by Alice M. Batzel

            We were poor college students and had only been married four months; this would be our first Christmas as man and wife. We were two thousand miles from our families. There would be no Christmas tree, no decorations, no money for the simplest of gifts, and no money to buy materials to make gifts for one another. Every penny was watched closely and spent wisely. There was no money for a long-distance telephone call to wish our families a Merry Christmas, nor was there any money for purchasing greeting cards. Our holiday greeting would reach them only through a letter with a carefully budgeted stamp or two. Our cupboards were sparsely stocked, with more space available than goods on the shelves. The refrigerator held only a few dairy staples. It was apparent, there would be no Christmas dinner. Christmas looked bleak for us.

          We told ourselves that it didn't matter as long as we had each other. We had already received the greatest gift: the news that I was carrying our first child, now only a couple of months. However, I was still hoping to glimpse the Christmas spirit from my youth. It didn't seem to be a possibility for us. No matter, the day would come and go, I thought, and it would pass just like every other day. I was determined not to fret over what we didn't have.

          I told myself that our Christmas lights would be those on the neighbors' houses all around us, and our tree would be that which we could see through the open curtains of the homes that we drove past. My joy would be to know how those families were enveloped by the spirit of the season. I could dream that one day we would have a home of our own, a Christmas tree with lights, gifts under the tree, and be surrounded by our children as we showered them with love and granted the Christmas wishes of their hearts. As the snow fell that winter December of 1973, at least, I could dream.

          Two days before Christmas, we received a greeting card from my parents, and enclosed was a check for $100.00. We were in shock as this was indeed a sacrifice for my parents, given in love to us. Though we could only offer a letter's heartfelt wish for them to have a Merry Christmas, we had not been forgotten. We carefully held our gift check as though it was fragile. We made a grocery list, and straightway we drove to the grocery store and began putting precious groceries into a shopping cart. We strategically stretched each penny as far as we could. Each item found a place in our cupboard and refrigerator. Several times that evening, I would open the door and just stand and look at everything.

          "What are you doing?" my husband asked.

          "I'm looking at our Christmas," I replied, and I beamed with joy.

          We agreed that we could each select something personal after we purchased the food items that we needed. My husband picked two pairs of socks, and I chose some skin cream. My Florida skin was not accustomed to the harsh Utah winter weather, and soon it was soothed with the moisture of the cream. I was so grateful for this.

          A college couple that was friends of ours asked if we would like their Christmas tree because they were on their way out of town to spend the holidays with their parents in Arizona. We gladly accepted. The miniature tree was delivered, still adorned with a simple strand of lights and a few ornaments. The humble yet beautiful sight of it was almost too much for me to bear. I was overjoyed. What had been anticipated as a bleak Christmas had become one to rejoice.

          Before turning off the lights that evening, I looked inside the kitchen cupboard and refrigerator once more and thanked God for our blessing. I stood in front of the three-foot Christmas tree, carefully placed the socks and skin cream under the tree, and just before I unplugged the tree lights, I whispered, "Merry Christmas." The spirit of Christmas was in our meager college apartment, and for just a little while, I felt as rich as anyone could ever dream of being. I prayed that I would never forget this Christmas, how happy we were with so very little. I prayed that someday we would be able to rescue Christmas for someone else, just as it had been for us.

(copyright 2005 - Alice M. Batzel - all rights reserved)

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