97: A Christmas Surprise

97: A Christmas Surprise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

A Christmas Surprise

Be an angel to someone else whenever you can, as a way of thanking God for the help your angel has given you.

~Eileen Elias Freeman,

The Angels’ Little Instruction Book

Due to my Conservative Jewish background, I did not believe in angels. That is, not until Christmas Eve of 1979, when an angel brought unexpected joy to my home.

As often happens in divorce, my five- and eleven-year-old daughters not only lost the security of an intact family, but they tearfully left behind neighborhood friends, a familiar school and the comfortable amenities of a large house — all replaced by a cramped two-bedroom apartment in a poorer part of town.

I arranged to take my vacation during their winter school holiday, and we made plans for the week: cookie-baking, movie matinees, arts and crafts, games, a pizza night, and evening car rides to view neighborhood holiday lights and lawn displays. The anticipation was working its magic, and my daughters’ spirits seemed to brighten.

The week before the school break, however, devastating news of multiple family disasters came in faster than we could process the pain, clouding our vacation plans. By Christmas Eve, gloom enveloped our apartment. An afternoon movie did little to improve our mood.

Upon returning to our apartment, we were astonished to see a majestic six-foot Christmas tree, aglitter with metallic icicle strands, propped against our front door. In mute wonder, we looked back and forth, from the tree to each other, and around the deserted street. Excitement built, and the girls begged to keep the orphaned tree.

“Maybe it’s for us,” insisted the older.

“Yeah,” echoed the younger. “I bet an angel brought it to us!”

I laughed out loud at the idea of an angel bringing a Christmas tree to a Jewish family. Nevertheless, I was caught up in their newfound elation, and I pronounced the tree “ours.”

We dragged it inside and headed out to the only supermarket in our small town open that late on Christmas Eve. With holiday merchandise marked down to half price, I gave a nod of approval to a tree stand, two boxes of multicolored balls, a package of six Santa figurines, a 100-foot string of miniature lights, and one lone paper angel.

Back home, we maneuvered “our” tree into a place of honor in our tiny living room. The girls snipped and glued and painted paper decorations. With an exhilaration that had been absent for months, we strung the lights, placed the paper angel on top and festooned the tree with store-bought and homemade ornaments.

Finally, with a girl snuggled in each of my arms, we sat in semi-darkness, mesmerized by twinkling Christmas tree lights. Smiles and contented sighs proclaimed the end of our long emotional crises; there was joy in our new home. I sat in thankful amazement that a Christmas tree had the power to uplift Jewish spirits.

My five-year-old whispered softly, “Do you really think an angel brought us this tree?”

At that moment, I did not know the tree and its deliverer would forever remain a mystery. All I could do was answer honestly from my heart. “Yes,” I whispered, holding them closer, “I’m sure of it.”

Our vacation was a resounding success — fun, laughter and the nightly wonder of our flickering tree. By New Year’s Day, our spirits were healed, and we were ready to face the challenges ahead, strengthened by the bond of our shared belief in angels and magical Christmas trees.

That winter vacation became an annual family tradition, complete with a “Jewish Angel Tree” in remembrance of our heaven-sent gift. For seventeen more years, we held our breath and felt the familiar tingles up our arms when the original paper angel was placed atop each tree.

Now my adult daughters have their own homes. There are no more luxurious vacation days spent together; there are no more Jewish Angel Trees. But each Christmas Eve, they phone to sigh and reminisce about our angel, and the special childhood memories intertwined in the branches of a six-foot tree.

~Lynne Foosaner

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