Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Past at Little Red House


Originally posted in December 2007. It's a story I think about often at this time of year.


When I was growing up, times were tough for my parents. My father was a heavy equipment operator; he drove bulldozers and backhoes and excavators at building sites big and small. Here in New Jersey, that is often seasonal work. And in the 60's, when I was a kid, even union jobs were hard to come by. There were times when he was without a paycheck for a month or more. He used to supplement his income by shoeing horses -- something he learned as a young man. Horses were his first love, so I suspect that he enjoyed this more than the noisy, smelly machines he drove each day.


I come by my love of animals from my father. My mother was a "city slicker," as he would say, and never to my knowledge set foot in the barn. I can remember helping my dad to clean out the stalls one Saturday morning when we discovered a nest of tiny newborn mice. They were pink, and hairless, and about the size of my pinky finger. I held one in the palm of my hand. I was thrilled by our discovery, and wanted to bring it into the house to show my mom. She was on the phone at the time, but stopped long enough to peer into my grubby hand, shriek loud enough to shake the rafters, and jump up onto the chair, as if the tiny thing would leap from my hand and start to chase her around the house.


Not exactly the response I had expected, but one which my dad thoroughly enjoyed.


I can remember a certain Christmas where all I wanted was a pair of leather riding chaps. They were quite an expensive item, and one that a young child would quickly outgrow. Frankly, my parents just could not afford them. My mother tried to explain gently that Santa wanted to be sure there were several items under the tree; that chaps were too expensive, and that he would probably bring me some other nice stuff, like warm clothes, and books, and a game or toy. She tried her best to shield me from worry. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I know now how difficult that conversation must have been for her. We didn't have a lot when I was growing up, but I never felt deprived in any way, and I certainly never considered our family poor.


I don't remember what was under the tree that Christmas. Certainly there were a few books, as these have always been my favorite Christmas gift. There was probably a new scarf and mittens, and perhaps some Barbie doll clothes. My dad would have given my mother some little decorative thing for the house -- like a few china teacups with pink roses on them (I still have one of these), or maybe a small piece of costume jewelry. She always gave him a new blue workshirt and pants, which he would carefully put away. When he died many years later, we found several sets, brand new and still in their boxes.


Later in the day, after we had gone to Christmas mass and my mother was in the kitchen preparing the feast for my aunts and uncles and cousins, a knock sounded at the door. She hurried to answer it, drying her hands on her apron. It was our neighbor, Mr. Silverstein. My dad used to shoe his kid's ponies, and help out in their barn. He had brought a gift for me, with his family's thanks. I remember feeling a little shy, and curious. What could it possibly be?


I opened the box and there, nestled in the tissue paper, was a beautiful pair of brown leather riding chaps. He could not possibly have known what I had asked for, and since his family did not celebrate Christmas, I'm not sure what really prompted him to give us a "thank you" gift at this time of year.


I shyly murmured my thanks and my dad shook his hand, but my mother just stood there with tears in her eyes. I have so many memories of Christmases in our Little Red House; of my childhood and of my children's, too. Every Christmas eve, when my husband and I place the gifts under the tree, I say a quick prayer of thanks, realizing how fortunate we are, and remembering that Christmas years ago, when the grace of God brought me that unexpected gift.

51 comments:

  1. Oh Mary!
    Ok see I'm crying now. What a beautiful story. God works in mysterious ways honey.

    Love,
    Julie

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  2. Ok, Mary--stopped by quickly on my way off to work and am just so touched by your story! Looks like I'll need some tissues for the car ride!

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  3. That is the sweetest Christmas story. Thanks so much for sharing a part of your heart.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS,
    bj

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  4. Oh No I have just cried and had to wipe my eyes on my skirt whilst the others in the office rolled their eyes at me - they have no soul - I couldnt even tell them the story or I would have started up again. I love your blog and pictures of your home - I check nearly ever day.

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  5. I am glad I am not the only one with more than a tear in my eyes. What a wonderful story and God Bless Mr. Silverstein. What a thoughtful neighbor and more importantly, a wonderful man.
    Janet

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  6. Mary,
    This is my third visit to your blog and each time I'm inspired.

    Isn't our Lord so gracious to grant our needs and so many of our 'wants'.

    One of the most meaningful gifts was when one of my two daughters was dating a young man. He cut, loaded and brought me a truck load of fire wood. He knew we had a fireplace in our little guest house but had no firewood. I will never forget his thoughtfulness....the gifts that mean so much to me are not the expensive ones but rather those that were made or bought because the giver knew the things that warmed my heart.....

    Merry Christmas to you and those you love....Betty @ Country Charm

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  7. That was a very touching store. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for warming my heart this cold morning!

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  8. Mary, I LOL over your Mother's reaction to the barn mouse and shed tears over your warm and beautiful Christmas story.

    Laughther and tears--what a wonderful way to start the day:)

    Love ya,
    Rhonda

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  9. Absolutely the best Christmas story!!! Thanks for sharing. Connie

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  10. Beautiful story Mary - first I laughed (at the mouse part) then I cried.

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  11. Alright, it's a good thing that I can type without needing to see the keys because I am all bleary eyed. That is the sweetest story -and it touched my heart so deeply. Thank you for sharing that with us Mary.

    Hugs,
    Dena

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  12. Thank you for reminding all of us about the true meaning of Christmas. What a wonderful story! I too, am touched and alittle blurry eyed. Thank you

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  13. Lovely story! Truly "The Little Red House" has cradled and blessed its family in so many ways -- but especially during the Holidays. A bit of Christmas magic lives on -- in warm and loving memories. After all -- didn't the poet Christina Rosetti write about the time: "Love came down at Christmas"

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

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  14. Mary, that was such a wonderful memory to share with us. One of those Christmas miracles that seem to be part of so many of our experiences. As for the mouse part, I have to laugh. My Aunt Grace hated mice and one year I found some grey dryer lint, formed it into a little mouse and cupped my hands like I was holding the real thing to show her. The screams could be heard for miles! She was actually quite disgusted with me although she later forgave me for the deception:>) Why some people cant appreciate a cute little mouse I will never know!:>)

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  15. Beautiful Mary! A home full of wonderful memories - is there anything better.

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  16. I was going to say exactly what Julie said. That's a beautiful story Mary. xoxo Lynn

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  17. What a sweet story. Just the stuff of Christmas that makes it special and magical. God works through us all!

    And your header is back and looking great! Yay!!!

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  18. Oh Mary you made me cry, but you reminded me about what Christmas is about. I suppose God whispered in your neighbor's ear because He loves you so much. Thank you for your story today. Blessings, Karen

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  19. What lovely memories you have of your parents Mary. You are so wealthy in the ways that truely matter.
    ~Abbie

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  20. What a sweet, inspiring story. Today we think we have to spend a gazillion dollars on our family to give them stuff which are forgotten in such a short time. Funny, I always wanted chaps too but knew we could never afford them and even if we could my dad would not see the need for them (military guy you know?)....anyway I got a hand-me down pair that about fell off of me but I pinned those suckers on and marched around the house like a queen! Funny what we remember - so happy you shared your memory - Love ya - Judy

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  21. Well it was back. Your header that is...

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  22. Oh My gosh Mary! That was a lovely story. I have a lump in my thought and tears are threatening to spill down my cheeks!
    Hugs,
    Penny

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  23. http://web.mac.com/lindasbluegate/iWeb/LInda%27s%20Blue%20Gate/Bluegate%20Blog/Bluegate%20Blog.htmlDecember 17, 2007 at 5:16 PM

    That is such a perfect Christmas story... it could be a Hallmark movie... sniff sniff...
    Thanks for sharing that wonderful story.... you really should be a writer..
    Linda

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  24. Mary,

    Your story made me cry too! I couldnt leave a comment right away. I had to come back after I got myself together! I love those photos of you with the horses and that your dad was a farrier! What a lovely story...

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    Annie

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  25. What a wonderful story Mary ,I always wished for a horse when I was Little but I lived in town and this was not possible.
    Story's like these are the ones we need to pass down to our children and grandchildren, for they tell the real meaning behind giving at christmas.
    Best Christmas Wishes Brenda

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  26. What a sweet and very touching story. Thank you for sharing a lovely childhood memory. Linda

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  27. What a sweet and touching story, it brought tears to my eyes! A very special memory, to be sure.

    Laurie S.@ Laurie4567@aol.com

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  28. What a beautiful story! Of course, I've got tears running down my face - Thanks for warming this cowgirls heart with such a sweet story!

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  29. Mary,
    Beautiful post. I was thinking of my own childhood memories of my father and was teary eyed and said "for goodness sake" to myself, but I see the reaction was the same for a lot of us. I had the same thought as Linda. I told myself when I finished reading I should check your profile to see if you were a writer - believe me, from an English teacher's point of view ~ beautiful job of relating your thoughts.
    A quick note, my daughter had to fix my header by actually changing the HTML code. It will depend on the template you're using. You actually have to put in a width and height for the header.

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  30. Oh Mary.. now that was Santa. The real spirit of Christmas. I bet you anything that your father and that man had a few chats.

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  31. Oh Mary....that was beautiful...just lovely...thanks for sharing that....my eyes are kinda wet,,,can't type
    Blessings,
    Robin

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  32. Mary, what a lovely Christmas story. Thanks so much for sharing a lovely memory of yours.

    Michelle

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  33. Hello, Mary! Thank you for visiting me today. So glad to meet you and then find you here. You have a lovely blog! Your Christmas memories here were so heart-warming and sweet...Thank you for sharing so much! Happiest Holidays to you & yours! :o)

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  34. Oh Mary, What a touching story. It too brought a tear to my eyes. thank you for reminding us what christmas is all about. What sweet memories you have of your home and family.

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  35. How wonderful to be in the house where you spent your childhood Christmasses.

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  36. What a wonderful story! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Isn't it amazing how such insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) one small act of kindness can have an impact on our lives?

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  37. Simply amazing........makes you wonder what that neighbor saw or knew.......people are truly amazing sometimes!

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  38. Damn It. I must have gotten something in my eye....
    Mary, what a wonderful story from your childhood. That's something right out of "It's a Wonderful Life". This got me all, er...choked up... I better go see what's in my (ahem) eye.
    I wish I had read this during Christmas....stories like that leave memories no gift ever could.

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  39. I finally got to this post and after laughing so hard I thought I would fall off my chair now I'm crying...

    Rue

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  40. I'm checking to see if the comments are showing up on this reposting.

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  41. I love that you kept this memory, in your heart Mary.
    If I haven't told you lately, you really do mean the world to me.
    There isn't a day that I don't think of you and how you guided me in this sweet blogging world~ and in other ways, as well.
    I send you love~

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  42. Like so many other's you inspire and touch me. Hold on -- have to wipe my tears or the words could end up who knows what!

    So sweet-- Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

    TTFN~~ Claudia ♥ ♥

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  43. What a great story; thanks for sharing it, Congratulations also, for the houzz interview. The picture of your parlor/library is so beautiful!

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  44. Mary, that is the most wonderful, touching story. Little miracles happen every day. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    xo
    Claudia

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  45. I love this story Mary...

    And farriers are some of my favorite people in this world. I bet your Dad was awesome.

    xo,

    annie

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  46. Mary, thank you so much for sharing this treasured memory. You have reminded all of the things which are important.

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  47. Hi Mary: That was a very moving story. I have tears in my eyes. Just to know that you were well taken care of and loved is enough. We need to remember that with our own families. Valerie

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  48. Just read this lovely post and am joining all your other friends who had to wipe their eyes. There are so many good and kind people who touch our lives. Yours was certainly touched by one.

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  49. Touching Mary, but you shouldn't make me cry at 8:06 in the morning!:) Reading this makes me miss my parents!
    Michelle

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  50. That's such a lovely story, Mary. Isn't it wonderful that we have those sweet memories of Christmases Past? ::Jill

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I love to hear what you have to say!