65: The Epiphany

65: The Epiphany

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

The Epiphany

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.

~Anthony Brandt

As a young girl, I started writing my Christmas list in July, and by December I was mailing status reports to Santa about what a good girl I was. Every year on Christmas Eve my father stayed on Santa watch, and at the first sound of sleigh bells or reindeer hooves on our roof he would shuffle me off to bed as quickly as possible. My mother acted as my door guard to prevent me from sneaking out to see Santa at work.

Christmas morning was always the best. As soon as the sun peeked over the trees surrounding our small country house, I would race from my room, dash around the corner, and slide to a halt in our living room. The gas logs were always lit; the stockings were full; our beautiful Christmas tree was glowing; and Santa’s gifts were displayed in plain sight.

Christmas morning was special because it was just my parents and me. We would see the rest of the family in a few hours, but the morning was all ours.

But then one Christmas my father wasn’t there.

It was a harsh winter that year, one of the coldest that I remember. My father was a hard-working employee of the Department of Transportation. He was on call most nights, and risked his safety during some dangerous situations — lightning storms, hurricanes, ice storms, and even fatal car crashes. That Christmas we experienced one of the worst ice storms the community had seen in years. On Christmas Eve, just before our family dinner, my father was called out to work in order to help clear the roads during the storm. I wasn’t too sad. I knew he’d be back soon.

He wasn’t.

As the hours went on, I pestered my mother with questions regarding whether Dad was going to make it home for Christmas. She smiled each time and told me he’d be home as soon as he could. A few hours into the storm, we lost power. I asked my mom if Santa would be able to make it through such an awful storm. She assured me he would; after all, he had Rudolph leading the way.

Mom let me stay up past my usual bedtime to wait for Dad. By midnight, he still wasn’t home. With no Christmas music, no Christmas lights, and no sign of Dad, I reluctantly gave up and was headed to my room when Mom said we could have a campout in the living room instead.

She sang Christmas carols and found every blanket and pillow in the house for us. Then she had me lie down on the couch, bundled up against the cold, and she told me stories — stories of past Christmases, stories about Santa, the story of Christ’s birth, and even stories of she and Dad sneaking Santa’s cookies. Before long, I fell asleep, wrapped in my mother’s warm blankets and hanging onto her happy stories about Christmas.

When I opened my eyes, Santa had come. The presents were there and, for a moment, I felt a giant grin spread across my face. Mom suddenly appeared next to the window and drew open the blinds. We were still without power, but the storm had subsided. The morning sun was bright, and it made the winter landscape left by the storm glitter like a scene from a Christmas card.

With a happy but tired smile, Mom handed me a present. I hesitated, and after a moment asked if we could wait until Dad got home. Christmas morning was our family’s time. It was the best part of Christmas, and it didn’t feel right without him there. She hugged me tightly and sat next to me on the couch. For the rest of the morning we sat there together, huddled under a mountain of quilts, and entertained each other. We sang, we laughed, and bit-by-bit I felt my missing Christmas spirit return.

By early afternoon, the power came back on and the phones resumed working, too. We called the family to wish them a Merry Christmas. Travel was too dangerous, so our family gathering was postponed until the roads were clear.

As the late afternoon sun moved across the sky, a truck door slammed shut outside. Seconds later I heard footsteps crunching through the ice and pounding up the stairs to our front door. The door swung open and my father came bounding in. He was cold and tired, but at the sight of me he broke into a smile and shouted a hearty “Merry Christmas!” I raced into his arms and relished the warm bear hug that only my father could give.

Happy to finally have us all together, my excitement returned. We spent the rest of the day opening gifts, telling jokes, and enjoying each other’s company.

I snuck a glance at my parents as they talked. In that one moment, even as a child, I realized the blessing that I had experienced. We were together, and that’s all that mattered.

~Whitney Woody

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