Romolo Tavani, Adobe Stock
In this "Christmas I Remember Best" story, Heidi Hachtman recalls "the dreary Christmas of 2000" and the lessons she learned from it.

This is the eighth of nine winners in the Deseret News annual Christmas writing contest, "Christmas I Remember Best."

It was Christmas 2000 and I was a senior in high school. As I think back on that time in my life, I recall being a very happy, healthy and confident teenager. My worries were few and my future hopes were high.

I had been carefully planning my Christmas list and was looking forward to Christmas Day. One busy Saturday in December my mother took my sister and I shopping to our favorite stores. She had us pick out everything we wanted, and never questioned the price. I can still remember each item purchased that day.

My sister and I were beaming with excitement, we couldn’t believe how generous Santa was going to be this year.

Christmas Eve arrived and my parents eagerly pulled out the shopping bags and let us wrap each gift beautifully. New paper, tags and shiny ribbons. We were sure this was going to be the best Christmas yet!

When finished wrapping, my parents asked us to load the presents in the car. My heart froze, and I immediately felt sick. My sister and I looked at my parents in shock and asked, “Is this a joke?”

Anger soon replaced my disbelief and while fighting back tears, I said, “How could you do this? You are the meanest parents in the world.”

My sister and I begrudgingly loaded them in the car and sat in a painful silence while our parents quietly delivered the gifts to a family in need. My heart was as cold as the ice on the driveway.

When they came back in the car I asked, “Why did you make us think the gifts were for us?” My mother replied with, “I knew you wouldn’t pick out the best gifts if they weren’t for you.”

I wish I could say Christmas morning brought us something bigger and better, but it didn’t. Besides a bitter spirit, I honestly do not recall what awaited me that Christmas morning.

Years later, as I think back on all of the comfortable and happy Christmas days in my life, the one that sticks out to me most is that dreary Christmas of 2000.

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Looking back on that night, I now understand that the family who received our gifts had a very uncomfortable life. Illness, abandonment, poverty and addiction were some of the things this family was struggling with. I still get a lump in my throat when I replay this night in my mind, and I now wish I would have done more.

I am thankful for this particular Christmas that I remember best. It taught me to cherish the many gifts that I so easily took for granted years ago. A warm home, caring family, my health, a hopeful future, and parents who taught me that the best gifts in this life are not found under a tree, but rather in our hearts.

Thank you Mom and Dad. I’m sorry for the silent treatment I gave you that whole Christmas break of 2000.