One of seven winners this year in the Deseret News' annual "Christmas I Remember Best" writing contest.
The December of my second-grade year, I was excited. And I don't mean a little bit; I mean sugar-fueled-ADHD-holiday excited. Christmas was coming and I could hardly stand myself. It was about three weeks before Christmas and my parents had decided that we would drive over to California and have Christmas with my grandparents. As a result, they didn't see the necessity of getting a Christmas tree or making purchases because they would do all that in California.
But my young, hyper mind could not really wrap itself around that. We needed a Christmas tree, decorations and presents; I bothered my dad ad nauseam, asking him when we were going to get a tree, when we would decorate said tree, when we would buy presents, when we would wrap them and when is Christmas! Finally my poor besieged father had had enough. In frustration he blurted out, "We are not having Christmas! We can't afford it!"
Well, that did the trick — it shut me up. It’s interesting to look back now as I think about it. I wasn't really upset by it. I took it as the gospel truth; I mean, it had come from my dad and he would be the one to know, so I accepted it. I abandoned all thoughts of Christmas and just continued on with my normal life; however, when my teachers at school would ask me, “John, are you excited for Christmas?” my response was, “We’re not having Christmas, we can't afford it.” And when my Sunday School teachers would ask if I was excited for Christmas, I would again answer, “We are not having Christmas, we can't afford it.” This was my answer to anyone who would ask, and I said it until about two weeks before Christmas.
My family was sitting in the front room when the doorbell rang. I answered the door and, lo and behold, right in the middle of the porch was a Christmas tree. I couldn't believe my eyes! It was a Christmas miracle. My parents were dumbfounded. Where could it have come from? Why would somebody give us a Christmas tree? Not knowing anything better to do with it, we took it in and decorated it.
The next night we were watching TV when the doorbell rang again. I ran to the door and on the porch was a giant box of presents! My sisters and I danced rings around the box while my bewildered parents again wondered why people were giving us things.
During the next four to five days, the doorbell continued to ring; each time the porch would magically replenish itself with food, presents, decorations and Christmas trees. (We got three Christmas trees that year; the first two we decorated and the last one we just leaned in the corner.) Our pirates' hoard of presents went halfway across the living room. That's after my mom donated one half of them to Goodwill. I was so overjoyed that I was about to explode; I didn't care where this stuff came from, but my parents were going nuts.
My poor mother — in her women's group at church, she had gotten involved in a program to help the less fortunate in the neighborhood, and had donated some homemade caramels to be handed out. You can imagine her surprise when one of those knocks at the door was the women's group, unknowingly, and very charitably, giving my mother her own caramels and wishing her a merry Christmas. I can vividly remember my mother yelling out as she closed the door, "Why do people think we are poor?"
That was the best Christmas ever. I think my sisters and I got every single toy that was created and advertised that year.
It wasn't until I was a teenager that I finally realized my mistake in announcing to the world that we were too poor to have Christmas. And it wasn't until my late twenties, with all of us sitting around the dining room table for another Christmas, and Mom said, “Do you remember that Christmas when everybody thought we were poor?” that I finally worked up the guts to tell her. I could tell that time had not diminished my mother's feelings about the situation when she ran at me with her hands outstretched as she screamed, “People thought we were poor!”
But I will always remember it as the best Christmas ever.