75. Christmas Chimneys

75. Christmas Chimneys

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Christmas Chimneys

“Maybe Christmas,” the Grinch thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

~Dr. Seuss

“Ready for pumpkin pie?” I asked.

“Not yet,” answered my sister Debra. “Thanksgiving dinner needs to settle a bit, but I am ready for Joseph to help me get something special out of my car.”

Debra headed out the door with my five-year-old. Rachel and Rebecca, ages four and three, scampered onto the loveseat to spy on their aunt and brother through the front window.

Rachel yanked her thumb out of her mouth long enough to say, “They gotta box, Mama. Wonder what’s in it?”

Debra settled cross-legged on the living room floor with three pairs of eyes fixed on her. Four pairs, if you count mine. The three pieces of cardboard my sister pulled from the box looked like miniature redbrick chimneys, only with drawers on them. Each stood about two feet high and four inches wide. My sister had printed the names of my children across the tops, one chimney per child, and numbered the drawers from top to bottom.

“We’re going to celebrate the Twenty-five Days of Christmas,” Debra told the children. “See the twenty-five drawers in the chimneys? One week from today is December first. On that day, you will each open drawer number one on your chimney.” She slid open a drawer, revealing a small red package.

Rebecca leaned over her aunt’s shoulder and whispered, “I wanna open it now.”

“Nope. Not until December first and you each open one drawer each day.”

Debra alternately opened several drawers of each chimney to display the little red, green, gold, and silver packages. I’d never seen such itty-bitty bows. Finally, the gift-giver exposed the contents of a bottom drawer, the one to open on Christmas Day.

“Aw,” Joseph lamented. “There’s nothin’ in there, Aunt Debra.”

My sister pulled him close. “That’s because I’m bringing your last present when I come on the 25th. It’s way too big to fit in that drawer.”

“Oh, boy,” exclaimed Rachel. Her hazel eyes sparkled with the possibilities.

While the children tugged at drawers and viewed their minuscule contents, I motioned for my sister to join me in the kitchen.

“Debra,” I whispered, “you spent way too much money on this.”

“No, I didn’t,” she insisted. “I got half of the stuff at the dollar store and the other half are free trinkets from fast food restaurants. Of course,” she added with a laugh, “I did occasionally have to eat at the same place three times in one week.”

“It must have taken forever to gather and wrap them all,” I said.

“It did,” she agreed. “I worked on this project all year and had a blast doing it. Don’t let the kids tear up the chimneys because I want to do the Twenty-five Days of Christmas every year until they tire of it.”

After breakfast each morning, the children marched into the living room and sat in front of their chimneys. Giddy with anticipation, they determined the appropriate drawers to open and unwrapped their gifts in unison.

Rings, necklaces, miniature candy bars, matchbox cars, packs of chewing gum. The presents were often identical except for the color. Other times, Debra had personalized them, like the white bead bracelets with the child’s name spelled out.

Every time I talked with my sister on the phone, I rattled on and on about how much fun the children were having with their chimneys. I told her they played and played with the little gifts, usually while discussing what might be in the next drawer.

Which gift turned out to be the favorite for each child? I don’t remember. What large gifts did Debra bring on Christmas Day? I don’t recall that either.

Well, then, what do I remember? A comment made by Rebecca. The children had just opened tiny packages of Christmas stickers and set about embellishing the packages under the tree.

Rebecca, kneeling beneath twinkling green branches, looked up at me. “Aunt Debra thinks about me all the time. Did you know that, Mama? She thinks about me all the time.”

Rebecca was right. And that’s the best gift ever.

~Arlene Ledbetter

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