22: A Giant Box of Love

22: A Giant Box of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

A Giant Box of Love

If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.

~Lord Langdale

It couldn’t have been easy for my mom — a single mother with three energetic kids ages ten to sixteen, who worked long hours to provide us with clothing and food. Somehow she did it, keeping us busy and out of trouble. Sometimes she had to be really creative.

One Christmas, Mom came home from work with three boxes… three refrigerator boxes. Seriously. Refrigerator boxes. That weekend, she sent us out to the garage with those boxes and several cans of paint. Our only instructions were to paint them however we wanted. We had no idea what those boxes would be used for and I painted mine my favorite color: bright purple. To add a touch of whimsy, I added huge yellow and orange flowers. It was the 1970’s, after all. I can still picture that box; it was awful, really quite hideous, but my ten-year-old self was so proud!

After our day of painting, my siblings and I put those boxes out of our minds and began to look forward to Christmas Day. We knew Mom didn’t have a lot of extra money; we shopped at the thrift store for school clothes, gathered supplies at Pic-N-Save, and bought dayold bread at a local bakery. But that certainly didn’t keep me from wanting something very special that year. A just-for-me gift that wasn’t a hand-me-down from my older brother or sister.

I knew, though, it was unlikely. We didn’t have the money for the one gift I wanted and I was okay with that.

Christmas Eve came, and we followed our tradition of going to Christmas Eve service at church. We sang all the standard Christmas songs. Our pastor spoke of the birth of Jesus, the choir sang, the nativity scene was played out. Afterward, we sipped apple cider and munched on sugar cookies. My friends and I talked about what we hoped would be under the tree. I didn’t even mention the special gift I wanted.

I kept telling myself that it wasn’t going to happen. I would be happy with whatever my mom gave me.

We headed for home and followed another tradition of opening our stockings and one gift. Just one. As always, our stockings were full of candy, small toys, and a pair of socks. Finally, we opened that one gift — matching pajamas. We drank hot cocoa and sang a few more carols. Then it was off to bed.

On Christmas morning, we were not allowed to even peek in the living room before breakfast. This Christmas was no exception. After inhaling eggs, bacon, and toast, we ran to the living room… and stopped dead in our tracks.

Those refrigerator boxes were in front of the tree. But we still weren’t allowed to open them. We had to sit quietly in our matching pajamas and read the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke.

After prayer, we were finally allowed to open the giant boxes.

My sixteen-year-old sister’s box was hiding a bright red beanbag chair, a very cool thing for a teenaged girl. She immediately settled in to what would be her favorite seat. My fourteen-year-old brother found a refurbished drum set in his box.

And in mine?

My very first, all-for-me bicycle! Exactly what I wanted! It too was refurbished, but that didn’t matter. It was sparkly and purple with pink and white tassels! The basket was white with purple flowers! It was perfect. Just perfect. I could ride all I wanted without having to wait for my brother or sister to let me use theirs, which was never as often as I would have liked. I don’t know how she did it, but my mom had once again made a Christmas wish come true.

Yes, it couldn’t have been easy, but somehow, my mom made that Christmas one of the best I’d ever had… and few since have topped it. No other refrigerator boxes have appeared before my tree. And no other gift has illustrated a mother’s love in quite the same way.

~Sauni Rinehart

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