Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas

Christmas Magic

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Can we go see Santa tomorrow?” four-year-old Tami asked, drawing at the kitchen table while I prepared supper. “Jenny’s going.”

Jenny was Tami’s best friend at preschool, and I imagined they chattered nonstop about Santa with Christmas just three weeks away.

“I think we can make time for that.”

“Can Daddy go?”

“Afraid not, sweetie. He’s working this Saturday.”

“We could ask Monty.” Tami loved her godfather, who was such a close family friend that when my husband, Tami and I moved to Portland from Los Angeles he relocated too. He had a kind heart and a sharp wit, and had spent many hours helping us make repairs on our fixer-upper house.

How could I explain to Tami that he’d do anything for us but celebrate Christmas? Monty and I had argued about the holiday for eight years and finally agreed to disagree. He objected to the commercialism of the holiday, and wanted no part in it.

“Call him, Mommy. Please,” Tami begged when I hesitated.

I punched in Monty’s number. Maybe for Tami he’d make an exception. “Tami and I would like to invite you to visit Santa with us tomorrow,” I said after we exchanged hello’s.

“You know I won’t go near a department store at Christmas,” Monty said. “Got a sink that’s leaking? A cat up a tree? Glad to help with that.”

“Monty’s busy,” I told Tami. “Let’s see if we can go with Jenny and her mom.”

The next morning Tami and Jenny held hands as they approached the big, gilded chair where Santa sat. Tami’s blue eyes sparkled with excitement as she climbed onto his lap and whispered her dream list in his ear.

“Santa said I’ve been very good,” she confided to me afterward.

“You have been,” I agreed, thinking that both Hal and Monty would enjoy seeing her so thrilled.

That night Hal told us he’d spotted a U-Cut Christmas Tree farm just a few miles from our home. “Why don’t we cut our own tree tomorrow afternoon?” he suggested.

“Our own tree? Monty will want to do that!” Tami said confidently.

I lifted her into my lap. “Monty doesn’t feel like we do about Christmas,” I explained, my arms around her waist. “He doesn’t want to do special holiday things.”

“Why not?”

“People have different beliefs. We believe we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, and it’s a special time for families to do things together. Monty thinks stores push the holidays to make money and they’ve ruined the real spirit of Christmas. He doesn’t want anything to do with it.”

Tami frowned. “You could at least ask him.”

I felt torn between respecting Monty’s wishes and honoring my daughter’s. Tami’s pleading blue eyes won.

“Would you like to get a tree with us?” I asked when I called. “Christmas is very important to Tami and she wants to share it with you.”

“I thought we agreed to disagree.”

“You and I agreed. Tami didn’t.”

“Consider this an opportunity for her to learn to respect other people’s views.”

Chastened, I promised not to ask again.

The next afternoon Hal, Tami and I headed out to the tree farm, all singing Christmas carols. Tami wandered up and down the rows of trees, then stopped in front of a full, seven-foot Douglas fir. “This one!” she cried.

“Good choice,” I agreed.

On the way home, the tree tied to the rack on our CRV, my thoughts turned to Christmas Eve. “Wouldn’t it be fun to have another family over and act out the Christmas story?” I suggested.

“Jenny’d like being in the play.” Tami bounced excitedly in her car seat. “She could be the angel. I could be Mary and Monty could be Joseph.”

“I’m not asking Monty again, sweetie. He’ll just say no.”

“I’ll ask him.”

“Heavy pressure, having Tami call,” I could imagine Monty scolding me. Once again I was torn, but called and handed Tami the phone.

“Will you come be Joseph on Christmas Eve? Please, Monty?” she asked. I couldn’t imagine anyone resisting her high, sweet voice.

But Monty was as determined as she was. “He said he’d take me to the zoo after Christmas,” she said, shoulders slumping when she hung up.

Jenny’s family, including two older brothers, was thrilled to join us for Christmas Eve. After a spaghetti dinner, I pulled out costumes: robes for two wise men and Joseph, a leather vest and walking stick for the shepherd, a small alpaca rug for the sheep now agreeably on all fours, a white polyester dress with a wide blue sash and a blue head scarf for Mary, a similar dress and a princess tiara for the angel. I’d written a simple script for the narrator, Jenny’s mom.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night,” she began. The shepherd bowed and the sheep baahed. “And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them.”

Just as the angel stepped forward, the doorbell rang.

Carolers perhaps? I motioned everyone to hold their positions and went to the door.

“Ho, ho, ho.” Monty stood in the doorway with a self-effacing grin.

“Come in,” I beamed.

When he saw our little costumed group, his cheeks reddened. “Don’t let me interrupt,” he said, backing toward the door.

“Monty.” Tami flung herself in his arms. “Come see our play!”

“Please stay,” Hal and I chorused.

Monty graciously settled onto the couch and watched our play, applauding at every possible spot. Afterward he visited amiably with everyone and accepted a piece of spice cake. I knew the effort he was making and my heart swelled with appreciation.

When Jenny’s family said goodnight and piled into their van, Monty turned to Hal. “I brought something for Tami. Could you help me carry it in?”

“A present?” Tami clapped her hands.

Monty ruffled her blond hair. “I guess it’s a present. It’s something I thought you could use.”

I grinned at his effort to minimize the Christmas part and Hal followed him to his truck. They returned with a vanity dresser that looked to be from the forties. It had been freshly painted a soft yellow with green trim.

I gasped. We had scant furniture and this would be perfect in Tami’s room.

“I love it,” Tami said, twirling in front of the oval mirror.

“The former tenant of the place I just rented left behind some furniture,” Monty said.

“I know,” I laughed. “Strictly practical. It took no time at all to sand and paint it.”

Tami stopped twirling, raced to Monty, and leapt into his arms. “You’re one of Santa’s helpers, aren’t you? This is too big for his sleigh.”

“Well . . . no . . . it’s just from me,” Monty stuttered.

“You have to be his helper. You come on Christmas Eve, you have a huge present for me, and you’re even wearing a red shirt.”

Monty seemed surprised when he looked down at his shirt. “It is red,” he said softly. “I have some Christmas spirit after all. You must be magic.”

Tami snuggled against his shoulder. “Christmas is even better with you here.”

“For this year anyway,” Monty smiled, tightening his arms around her.

~Samantha Ducloux Waltz

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