66: Battery Included

66: Battery Included

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Battery Included

Gratitude is the music of the heart, when its chords are swept by the breeze of kindness.

~Author Unknown

When we first moved into that little basement suite, I felt very at home. The family who owned the house lived on the main floor and I felt so connected to them. Years earlier my older sister had lived there with her husband and baby daughter. I’d also gone to school with the son of the couple who owned the house.

Things had been tough for that family because their son had been killed in a farming accident, and they never got to see him grow up and have a family of his own. He was such a fine person and when I think of his parents having to continue their lives without him it causes a sad ache in me. And it touches me even more as I remember what his parents did for us on our first Christmas in their basement suite.

It was hardly a suite, just a huge room divided by two sheets of plywood. The bathroom down the hall was shared with two other “suites.” Our kitchen area, besides a fridge and stove, featured a table and four chairs, cupboards and a huge box that my dad had made — a kind of hope chest. I always figured that when we could afford it maybe we would buy a television and it would sit on the hope chest.

There really wasn’t money to buy a car so when it was time for our first baby to be born I phoned my dad and asked him to take me to the hospital. It would have been nice to have had a car to bring her home in because, even though it was April, the day the baby arrived a blizzard hit!

By the time Christmas rolled around our new baby was eight months old and we’d acquired an old car. Now our strained budget included car payments. That left very little in the budget for much of anything else. Even fruit became a treat.

Early in December, that old car decided it needed a new battery. Unfortunately there was no way we could afford a new battery, so the car sat at the curb while snow piled up on it. This meant we wouldn’t be traveling very far in any direction any time soon.

In the weeks before Christmas we could manage the two blocks to the grocery store, but walking long distances in the cold to visit with family was out of the question. We made the best of it.

I didn’t drop hints about our “needs.” I didn’t complain about not being able to afford fruit, so I sure wasn’t going to complain about not being able to buy a car battery. I never imagined for a moment that others were aware of our needs.

That Christmas week, the landlord sent his daughter downstairs with an early Christmas gift for our baby. It was not only her first doll but also her very first Christmas gift! Then we were directed to come out into the hall and look up at the top of the stairs. When we did we could see something square and black sitting at the top. We were told it was from the family (our landlord). We flew up those steps, excitedly hoping that it really was what it appeared to be. And indeed it was — a new car battery. We were soon racing back down the stairs, along the hallway and back up another flight of stairs to give the family an excited and heartfelt thank you!

When I was little, my mom and dad got me this doll that made a soft crying sound when I squeezed her tummy. I was so thrilled. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. Well when I saw that car battery I got the same “excited in the pit of my stomach” feeling.

Our landlord and his family must have cut back on their own Christmas spending just to help us. These were people who really took the meaning of “giving” seriously.

I will carry the memory of this with me forever, of this special Christmas gift, with battery included!

~Ellie Braun-Haley

Calgary, Alberta

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