6: Christmas in Texas

6: Christmas in Texas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Christmas in Texas

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

~John Wooden

Imagine moving your household and family, at a moment’s notice, from Florida to Texas — two weeks before Christmas. When my children were young and my husband worked in management for a national hotel chain, the above scenario was not unusual. We received little notice of impending moves to other hotel properties — sometimes no more than a few days — and depended on the moving company hired by the hotel chain to pack our belongings in an organized manner.

One December we were living in Key West, Florida when the call came from the corporate office that my husband was being transferred to Dallas, Texas. A scant week later, a moving van sat in front of our house and we prepared to abandon the beach and relocate to the dusty Southwest.

We arrived in Dallas two weeks before Christmas and settled into the hotel downtown while my husband got to work learning the ins and outs of his new position. I contacted a realtor and started looking at rentals. I felt pressured to find a house to call home before the Christmas holiday; there was all the unpacking to be done, my son was in the first grade and had to be enrolled in school, and we still had to do our Christmas shopping!

We were fortunate to find a great house in a nice suburb north of Dallas. Then began the explosion of activities — setting up bank accounts, new address notifications, and scheduling the delivery of our belongings with the intent of being situated before Christmas.

The holiday came upon us in a rush. We managed to squeeze in time to find a Christmas tree, and the movers had labeled the boxes well enough that we found our decorations. My in-laws traveled to Texas to help us unpack and settle in. They spent time with their grandchildren so my husband and I could shop for gifts. By Christmas Eve, we were happy to have our world as calm as it could be two weeks following such a big move.

After dinner on Christmas Eve my son and daughter completed their evening ritual of baths, bedtime stories, and bedtime songs. The added incentive of knowing Santa wouldn’t show until they were asleep had them snuggled in their beds and snoozing by 9:30 p.m. It was then we realized we had yet to wrap a single present.

Out came the gifts in an excited flurry of bags and boxes. We hunted down scissors and tape.

“Where’s the wrapping paper?” My husband and I asked each other. Panic followed. Neither of us had seen wrapping paper or remembered unpacking it.

We looked everywhere, poked through unpacked boxes and searched even unlikely places like the trunk of the car and kitchen cabinets. After thirty minutes of scrambling, our fears were realized. It was the night before Christmas and we had nothing with which to wrap gifts for our children.

I made my way through the local phone book, praying with each dialed number that I’d find a store still open which had not run out of Christmas wrap. By now it was almost 10:30 p.m. Every place I phoned was closed. I tried all the department stores and drug stores, all to no avail. Finally, in desperation, I dialed the place least likely to be open or carry Christmas wrap: a gas station with a small convenience store.

“Hi,” I said to the woman who answered the phone. “Please tell me you sell wrapping paper.”

“Sorry,” she said. “If you need milk or snacks you’re in luck, but that’s about it.”

“Our family just moved to Texas,” I sighed. “I never thought to buy wrapping paper. Can you think of any place that might still be open?”

“Not this late at night on Christmas Eve,” she said.

“Okay. Well, thanks, anyway.”

What would I use to wrap my kids’ presents? Paper towels? Toilet paper? Aluminum foil?

“Hold on a minute,” she said. “I’ve got a ton of Christmas wrap at my house. My shift is over in a few minutes. Give me an hour to get home and see my kids and then I’ll meet you back here at the gas station and let you have what I’ve got.”

“Really?” I said. “I hate for you to go home and then have to turn around and leave your family again. Especially on Christmas Eve.”

“I’m doing it because it’s Christmas Eve,” she said, and I could almost hear her smile through the phone. “See you in an hour.”

She was as good as her word. Between 11:30 and midnight she met my husband and father-in-law at the gas station and gave us more wrapping paper than we would ever need. My husband tried to reimburse her, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

“Merry Christmas!” she called as she drove off to spend what was left of Christmas Eve with her family. “And welcome to Texas!”

I’ve thought of that lady many times through the years, of her generosity and wonderful spirit. She blessed us with her time, precious time that belonged to her and her family. And because of her kindness, my little ones awoke on Christmas morning with gaily-wrapped presents under the tree and no idea of what transpired to achieve it.

We returned to the gas station to thank the woman again, but she no longer worked there. I never knew her name, but I will always remember her. She demonstrated the true heart of Christmas, going out of her way for strangers so late on that most special of nights, for something as trivial, but as important, as wrapping paper.

It was a single act of kindness that touched our hearts for a lifetime.

~Lisa Ricard Claro

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