Dancing Snowflakes: A Young Girl’s Christmas Gifts Given of Love
By Thea Childs (Based on her own real life experiences)
I sat in the living room with my brother and sister, playing Candyland. I was eleven years old and watching my siblings because Mom was in the woods collecting evergreens to make wreaths. Dad left us and didn’t send money home to feed us, so Mom had to go on public assistance. Mom said the money was not enough to get us all a Christmas gift so she was making wreaths to sell and maybe she could scrape up enough to buy us all boots.
Mom had always just been a mom to us but since Dad left she had to go back to school so she could get her GED and get a good job to support us. She said our job was to help out and get good grades in school so we could go to college.
My brother and sister were younger than me so I had to help them with their homework and try to get them to pick up their mess. Sometimes it was easier to just do it myself because they seemed to always be complaining or fighting. I don’t know why they didn’t want to help Mom clean our house but sometimes I wished Mom would just smack them. I watched Lee and Laura complaining that their friends had this or that new toy even before Christmas and they wanted to live with their friends. I know this hurt Mom because she was trying real hard to get some extra money to buy boots for us and she could not afford to buy toys.
After my siblings were in bed, I would work on my surprise for everyone; I was making a present for each one of us. I had finished the yarn doll for Laura, she was brown and her dress was calico and I made a little white apron for her. I was making a horse for Lee. He always said he was going to be a cowboy and go out west and shoot some bad guys. The horse was made of pieces of wood I found out back of Smith’s lumber yard. I asked Mr. Smith if I could take some pieces and he said I could have all I wanted. It was hard finding a piece for his head. Every day I would stop by and see if Mr. Smith had thrown away the perfect shape but weeks had gone by and he still hadn’t. One day I found the perfect piece but it wasn’t in the pile of junk lumber yet. I wanted to ask Mr. Smith if I could have it but Mrs. Smith said he wouldn’t be home till late. I couldn’t take it without asking because Mrs. Smith didn’t know if I could have it or not as it was not in the usual pile. I went home but all the while I was afraid it would be gone in the morning. What if Mr. Smith burned it like he sometimes does for heat? What if it broke?
I could barely sleep! I got up the next morning and hurried Laura and Lee so I could go to school early. Mom could see I was in a hurry and told me she’d clean the table then walk Laura and Lee to school. I ran out the door, forgetting my school books and I didn’t realize it till I got halfway up the hill. I had to run back to the house to get them. Later, I had to run back up the hill again and now I really had to hurry because I’d be late for school if I didn’t.
When I got to the lumber yard Mr. Smith was not around and the pile and the truck were gone. My heart sank. It was almost Christmas and I had no head for Lee’s horse and I still had to complete Mom’s gift. Mrs. Smith said he’d be back shortly. I knew I’d be late for school and get in trouble but I sat down to wait – this was too important, I had to speak with Mr. Smith.
It was cold out, I ran so fast in my anticipation that I’d forgotten my mittens. I pulled my arms inside my coat and let the sleeves dangle in the wind. Little snowflakes were drifting down from the sky. The winds would blow in circles that I could not see but it would take the dried leaves up in a little tornado. Around and around they would swirl as though in a spell dancing circles in the yard. Beautiful snowflakes fell around me. When they touched my skin they’d melt leaving behind a refreshing wet feeling. The individual flakes when they fell on my coat were so gorgeous I was looking to see if I could find two that looked exactly alike. Pointed and round edged, big and little, all of them seemed different; and each one more beautiful than the last. Every so often my coat would get too full of flakes and I couldn’t see the individual ones against the backdrop of the navy coat so I’d shake it and start my canvas for nature again.
I was so drawn in to the wonders of earth I had not heard Mr. Smith drive his truck up. He was standing in front of me calling my name when I came out of my trance. He asked why I was not in school and I told him about the problem. He started walking away as he asked me what the piece of wood looked like. He took me to a pile in the back of the truck and there on the top was my piece. Mr. Smith reached out and pulled it down, handing it to me. I thanked him and heard Mrs. Smith yell out for him. Mrs. Smith handed him a bag and he came back to me and told me I’d better get in the truck. Mrs. Smith said he had better drive me to school. He handed me the bag that Mrs. Smith had given him, saying “go ahead, open it”. Inside were penny candies – every kind imaginable! There must have been three cups full. Mr. Smith said I was to put them in everyone’s stockings on the night before Christmas. I started to cry but Mr. Smith quickly asked me what I was doing when he drove up. I told him of the beauty of the flakes falling from heaven as the winds swirled around. Next thing I knew we were at the school.
I thanked Mr. Smith again and he said to wait, I’d probably be in trouble. He got out of the truck and came to the principal’s office with me. When we got there he said “Good morning, Hal, I made this young lady late for school this morning so if you want to give someone a hard time you can chew me out.”
Mr. Campbell said he understood and as long as I didn’t make a habit of this it was okay this time. Then he told me to get to class. As I left Mr. Smith winked and I mouthed the words: thank you.
Putting the candies in my pocket I went to my classroom. It was hard thinking about class work. I kept thinking about Lee’s horse and wanting to eat all that candy. I tried hard to concentrate on work because I remembered Mom’s words. I did my best even though I was tired.
When I got home Mom said she needed to go out to sell the rest of the wreaths so I was to watch the children. I really wanted to finish the book I was writing for Mom, and Lee’s horse, but my siblings asked me to read to them. As I sat down to read a story I yawned. I was so tired! Next thing I knew Mom was in the house stomping snow off her boots. I must have fallen asleep. Too late! I woke up as Mom was coming in. She would be angry that I had not watched the children well.
When I looked around I couldn’t believe that the house was not a disaster because I knew what Lee and Laura were like when they were not watched. Indeed, the house looked clean. Really clean! Laura and Lee laughed at my surprise. Laura jumped clasping her hands together. Lee ran to me holding me tight. Next thing I knew all of us were in a big bear hug Mom, Lee, Laura, and me all happy and kissing each other. Lee explained that when I fell asleep they cleaned the house as a gift to Mom and me. Laura said the hardest part was not waking me up. Mom and I could see how little hands tried to clean off the table and left bits of crumbs. Lee said Laura made him take out all the scraps for the birds just like Mom does.
The children were tired and went to bed early. Mom said she had a surprise. She showed me a new truck and doll for the children. She said she sold more wreaths than she thought she would and because I watched the children she was able to make more. She bought both boots and a toy for Lee and Laura. Also Mom said, “Dad sent us fifty dollars and said he was sending more in two weeks. I was able to finish my gifts and Mom and I put Mrs. Smith’s candy in the stockings each eating a piece as we did it.
The next day was wonderful and everyone loved their gifts! The church brought a fruit basket and some clothes over. Mom cried when she read the book I wrote for her. Months later, she showed it to Mr. Stone my teacher. He said he loved the stories of dancing snowflakes.