Part One Was Published November 30, Part Two Was Published December 7
The days slowly crept by—the three weeks from Thanksgiving vacation until the beginning of Christmas vacation were an eternity. Teachers expected you to do your assignments, pay attention in class, and even take tests. The excitement in the air was almost visible-how could anyone keep their mind on the structure of the atom, the area of a parallelogram, or the countries in Africa when Christmas was just around the corner.
Talk during lunch and recess all centered on the coming holiday. Friends laughed and dreamed of the presents that would be under the tree. Money was scarce, but imaginations ran wild with ideas for presents for parents and brothers and sisters. Homemade gifts of every size and shape were often the fare—pot holders from the loom, carvings of all sorts, embroidered delights, hand painted birdhouses, doll dresses made from scraps, the list was endless. A few lucky kids even had money to spend on small gifts selected with care. The perfect gift was the endless discussion among her friends.
Emma kept silent and only listened to the chatter. It all sounded so exciting and fun, but Emma’s family did not exchange gifts. Santa came every year, but the only gifts were those from a few close relatives. Grandparents could be counted upon to send a small gift—a small check from the grandparents far away and the local grandparents gave a two dollar bill. A special great aunt and uncle always mailed a small gift. There were no other gifts wrapped and placed under the tree.
Santa though had always been generous. Wonderful toys like a bicycle, rockets that really shot, games, tea sets, and once even a doll. Santa carefully filled their stockings with an orange in the toe and Christmas candy and nuts filling out the rest. Along the fireplace were fireworks of every description. Waiting to be shot over the next week leading up to the New Year. It was always a wondrous day filled with fun and play. The most wonderful day of the year.
As Christmas approached, the annual Christmas parties did too. Names were drawn and gifts were exchanged at school and at church. A small limit was placed on the gifts, and Emma spent hours poring over the displays at the local Five and Dime selecting just the right thing for the names she had drawn. Her Mama provided the money, but asked not a question about the purchases and left the wrapping all up to Emma. Determined to enjoy the parties, Emma did the best she could, but Mama did not attend nor even ask a question. It was almost as if she was declaring a halt to all the joy the season always brought. Surely the magic of Santa would still appear---he could not have forgotten Emma and her brothers. He was magic and the day was magical—even Mama’s sadness could not take that away.
Lists were being made by all of the children as they laughed and whispered what they hoped to find on Christmas morn. It proved to be infectious all the wonder and glee and Emma found herself making her list too. Nothing big—why just some small things as she poured over the Christmas catalogs that had come in the mail. Just a few small things were all she would ask—what she wanted most of all was to revisit the wonder—the magic of it all.
Emma’s Mama announced one cold night just before Christmas there would be a change this year in their Christmas day. Santa would not be coming, but instead you could select one gift and then go with Mama to pick it out. No secrets, no gifts, no stockings that year, but instead a quiet day of rest alone at home for their family. All of Emma’s hopes were dashed by this proclamation and her heart sank in a pit of dismay. The final blow of how her world had changed rang down that day as her mother in quiet determination announced the end of all Christmas celebrations. No Wonder—No Magic—No Hope.