Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Getting a Very Special Christmas Present by Jo Ann Brown

When you were a kid after Christmas, did you get together with friends to share what was received as gifts? We’d ooh and aah over everyone else’s gifts, as excited as if they were our own. In a way they were, because we knew in the year to come, we’d be playing with our friends’ toys, too. Because we lived in northern New York where the snow could stay until deep into April, gifts like bicycles and skates offered us delayed pleasure. That was okay because while we waited to ride them outside (some of my friends had cellars big enough to ride inside), we put our sleds and ice skates to good use.
Over the years, my two younger sisters and I had a tradition of going through our toys in October and picking out some of the better, but seldom played with toys to donate the town clerk who would see they got to children who would love them, We sewed new clothes for the dolls or even whole wardrobes, so the dolls were even better than new. Stuffed toys were spiffed up with fresh ribbons and maybe even an outfit or two of their own. We knit scarves for everything from Barbie to teddy bears in vivid shades of whatever yarn we’d collected from my mother’s friends.
It was the way my parents taught us about sharing with those kids who might not otherwise have gotten a nice toy for Christmas and knowing that the giving brought as much joy as the getting.
Years passed, and I continued the tradition with my young children. They picked out the toys to donate, and I fixed the toys up so they looked like new. In addition, I began knitting personalized Christmas stockings for everyone in the family, our immediate family, parents, in-laws, nieces and nephews.
My older daughter was five and my son was two when my husband I decided that our family wasn’t complete. Our son had been born in Korea and came to us when he was 11 months old, but this time we applied for an older child, knowing there was a narrow window between our children’s ages and how agencies didn’t like to disrupt the family order for the oldest child already in the family. We filled out the paperwork and waited and waited for the good news. As we’d specifically asked for a girl, I knit our future daughter a stocking with her name on it. We were all set for her.
Sure enough we got our best-ever early Christmas present the Monday after Thanksgiving when our social worker called with news on a little girl who’d been matched to us. She was 18 months old. In her photo, she looked too serious for such a young child, but we discovered she was already in our hearts and we couldn’t get her home.
We put everything on warp speed in hopes of getting her home in time for Christmas, but it didn’t happen. It seems as if no baby, even our Savior, has come when it’s convenient. We hung her stocking and said, “She’ll be here to open her gifts with us next Christmas.” She did, in fact, come home the day after Valentine’s Day after all the hoops were jumped through.
Now fast forward to 2001 and our younger daughter was participating in the college program at Disney World.
That year, we knew she wouldn’t be home for Christmas, because her session ended on January 8. We didn’t want to lose another Christmas with her. Going to Florida wasn’t possible, so what to do? Her sister, her brother, my husband and I discussed it, and we decided to postpone the Christmas gift portion of the holiday until she came home. I was proud of my kids to be willing to put off the fun of exchanging the gifts they’d picked out for each other, and I believe they’d learned about what was truly important in gift-giving from that old tradition of sharing with others.
We set up the tree, hung the stockings and made the cookies as we always did. My husband read “A Visit from St. Nick” on Christmas Eve as he always did, but that year he read it over the phone so our youngest and her five homesick roommates (and apparently a suite full of other kids longing to be home) could hear. We enjoyed the events at church and with extended family and neighbors, but the gifts waited under the tree unwrapped. Our kids couldn’t participate in the “what did you get?” conversations...Not yet!
On January 9, our daughter arrived home. The first thing we did after she got in the house was share the gifts we’d gotten for each other. It was all the sweeter for waiting, and we laughed and laughed about being the last people in neighborhood to open gifts. But the best gift again was having the whole family together again.
Being together as a family is a theme throughout my Amish Hearts series. The final book in the series, An Amish Arrangement, is coming out today (January 1 as an ebook).
The heroine, Mercy, knows all about the different ways of building families because she’s both an adoptee and an adoptive parent. She and the hero, Jeremiah Stoltzfus, must learn, too, that sometimes things happen on their own schedule and all we can do is have faith that God will make everything come out for the best in the end.
Have a merry Christmas with the ones you love and enjoy the special traditions you’ve built through the years!


  1. What a lovely story. Thanks so much for sharing. I received a special Christmas gift 45 years ago when I went into labor on Christmas morning. My son wasn't born until the next afternoon, but after I returned to my room, the nurse brought him to me in a huge Christmas stocking--which he still has. Now we have 4 December birthdays (and 2 in January), so we celebrate our special gifts for 2 solid months! LOL. Your children are blessed to have you.

    1. We have birthday "season" in April and May -- 2 birthdays in the last half of April and 5 in the first 10 days of April. The birthdays were close enough so that I used to have to get creative with birthday desserts because everyone got tired of cake. My kids still love pie and apple crisp for their birthdays!

  2. Hi Jo Ann. What a beautiful post. It shows that your family truly knows the meaning of togetherness and celebrating as a unit. I love it. There's nothing in this world like being with family! Blessings.

  3. Lovely, Jo Ann. Your blog today touched my heart! My family waited for Christmas the year my father was in the ICU for three weeks. I stayed with him in Florida, far from our Georgia home. Like you, I appreciated my children's decision to wait for gift giving until I joined them in January.

    1. Debby, you raised your kids right! The fact that they're willing to wait is a wondrous gift in itself, isn't it?

  4. Jo Ann, thank you for sharing such a touching story.


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