by Dottie Healy
I expected December 2002 to be the worst Christmas ever, my first rough Christmas. My husband had had a stroke, and though progressing well, wasn’t his true self.
My eldest daughter had planned a family skiing trip, taking my three grandchildren away the entire Christmas week. What would Christmas be without their shrieks of joy and surprise, hugs and kisses?
My son had promised to take his wife home to see her folks. Her family needed her, too. My youngest daughter would spend Christmas with her girlfriends, their last together before someone moved away.
My hopes for a family celebration fell away for the first time in my life. My Christmas would be spent quietly alone with my ailing husband, knowing that he would benefit if people were around.
Then I remembered growing up in an Air Force town during the war, inviting servicemen to share our holidays. Perhaps some of the new college grads at work, recruited from all over the country, wouldn’t be able to head home for their holidays.
I emailed our whole section, inviting everyone without plans and willing to drive 30 miles to come enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas dinner with us. Responses were heart-warming and grateful, but no one actually accepted.
These young folk are more self-sufficient than I expected, I thought, and what was I thinking — asking young people to spend a boring day with old folks, even with food like mom’s.
Then into my email came an acceptance. It was from a long-time friend who knew my situation. She and her husband would love to join us. But I’d advertised music and singing — how would we entertain just one couple? I was panic-stricken.
Christmas morning Don and I opened our presents without enthusiasm, and set them aside to wait out the day. They won’t show, I thought gloomily. They made a pie crust promise. This will be the worst Christmas of my life! At 11:00 a.m. I had the whole, lonely day ahead to be cheerful for my dear husband.
Then out the kitchen window I saw my friend and her husband walking up the driveway. They had come after all, and they both were carrying guitars!
In that moment, I realized that two loving people had read between the lines of my email and come prepared to save the day. And save it they did. They played guitar and sang. Then I played the piano as they sang and my husband whistled along. The joy was contagious.
I know I cooked a meal and we all ate that day, but I don’t remember what it was. My friend’s husband carried on interesting male-oriented conversation for the benefit of my husband, who relished the special attention. My heart sang with gratitude for my friend’s selfless gesture.
What I do remember, and will always remember, is how my friend and her husband made us the recipient of their wonderful charity on a joyous Christmas day.