Ho, Ho, Hope

Ho, Ho, Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Ho, Ho, Hope

My decision in the 1960s to run away from a newly divorced life in California and move to the safety of Canada was a big one—one I had to think over for nearly five minutes.

Hooking a battered trailer to my ancient Chevy, I gathered my five young children and headed for parts unknown. Along with my little brood, I took a month’s worth of rent money, a pocketful of dreams, some hope for our future and a heart filled with faith.

Vulnerable and haggard after the long drive, I slowed my rickety rig when I saw the sign ahead. With five tousled heads bobbing in the windows, the startled border guard’s mouth flew open.

My seven-year-old tossed him her cheekiest smile. One six-year-old twin looked tremulous and wide-eyed at the large man brandishing a gun on his hip; the other glared in defiance. My two- and three-year-old toddlers babbled to capture his attention and interest him in their toy cars and stuffed animals.

Obviously, we’d caught the bewildered guard . . . off guard.

Warning that I’d better have a job (I did) and threatening immediate deportation if I attempted to go on welfare, he waved us through.

Shortly after we settled in a small apartment, my old car sputtered to a quick death. I found a sitter for the children and began hitchhiking to work, but because I was sometimes late, I lost the job. My last check went for another month’s rent, and there was nothing left for food. As Christmas approached, desperation dogged every waking minute and even disturbed my sleep.

So did the kids’ concerns.

“Is Santa real, Momma?”

“Will he find us, Momma?”

“Do you believe in him, Momma?”

With painstaking care, I explained that Santa didn’t know where we’d moved and would miss us this year, but we had each other, and we would make do and . . . sing Christmas songs and . . . try making gifts and . . . and . . . well, everything would work out.

So, even without a tree, we glued colored paper garlands and strung popcorn to make the apartment festive and ourselves cheerful.

But the day before Christmas, my desperation reached a new low: We had nothing in the cupboard for supper. Reluctantly, I approached our neighbor and asked to borrow a can or two of soup to feed my children. After a curt “No,” the door slammed in my face.

Humiliation and shame were my new companions. And, for the first time in my life, I felt utter fear, despair and hopelessness.

Christmas Eve, I drew my little ones near—the boys on my lap, the girls nestled at my sides. In our meagerly decorated room, we told stories, played games and sang seasonal songs. I smiled at my wee darlings, but inside I was crying. And praying, again and again.

Please, God, oh please, God, send us help.

A sudden, loud THUMP at the door startled us all.

“Ho, ho, ho!” A hearty voice accompanied a loud knock.

And there in our doorway stood the jolly old man himself!

With a full sack slung over his back and three merry elves crowding his sides, Santa Claus brought the excitement of Christmas into our small home. He came bearing all kinds of wonderful gifts, something special for each child. Plus, an assortment of toys, games and books— even a gift for me—appeared from the depths of his deep pack! Christmas dinner (courtesy of the Vancouver Fire Department) was included, as well: turkey and the trimmings, enough to last several days.

Laughing and crying, I gazed around the joy-filled room at the satisfied faces of Santa and his helpers and the gleeful abandonment of my little family.

“Momma, Momma, he’s real!” they chorused. “Santa found us!”

Yes, indeed he found us . . . in answer to my prayer. And that made a believer out of me.

Angela Hall

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