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Christmas I remember best: A wish is altered by love

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Susan Nielson

Susan Nielson

I was not yet born when my favorite Christmas occurred, but I like to think I hold some of the original memory in my heart, just the same.

Perhaps I watched as my own dear mother, then just a child, dreamed her secret dreams while peering through a window at her Christmas wish.

Just beyond the Christmas tree display, with its big, brightly colored electric bulbs, was the dream. She was perfect down to the tiniest detail. She was glorious, robed in her little red cloak with a row of miniature pearl buttons all the way down to her petite, real leather, fashionably high-heeled boots. Her glossy black curls were framed by a fluff of white, feather-soft fur. Her delicate, rosy pink china hands held a small fuzzy muff to match. She was beautiful, she was heart's desire, and she was out of the question. Her daddy's eyes had told her that, although his face always found a smile.

She felt his hand on her head, and the Christmas dreams released their captive for awhile. Her father had finished the errands that had brought them into town from the farm. He had come to fetch his small daughter, not doubting for a moment as to her whereabouts. The sight of her slim figure bobbing about at this particular window had become familiar. The farm furnished most of what they needed, and his trade as the town smithy filled in most of the gaps. Still, with sole care of his six children, there was just not enough for costly extras.

His little Joy (for that was her name as well as what she was to him) took his big, hard-callused smithy hand into her own small chilled ones. She smiled up at him, not quite meeting his gaze. She was filled with hope and Christmas magic, her child's spirit not ready to relinquish the dream of rosy tinted china, red velvet and fur.

Seated beside her father on the wagon, Joy sent a quiet prayer to her angel mother in the direction of the shimmery stars. Joy had been just a toddler when her mother had gone to heaven. She found comfort in believing that each glimmer and flicker of the first evening stars were kisses from her mama. On a night like this, one had to believe that miracles could be made to order.

On Christmas morning, the warmth of the quilts, usually such a comfort against the prickly cold mornings, didn't feel at all tempting. With dark braid flying behind her, she was up and halfway to the tree when her daddy's arms halted her. "Slow down there little sis," he said, chuckling.

"Hadn't we better let the house warm up a little before you go flying about in your nightie? Come here close to the stove, and I'll make us some toast. It sounds like your sisters and the boys are awake. We'll wait for them. The tree will still be there in 10 minutes time!"

Ten minutes to an eager little girl expecting a Christmas miracle is an eternity, but soon enough the required toast was swallowed. All they needed was a nod of their father's head, and they were off in a squealing, giggling chase.

With excited laughter the bundles were handed around. Wiggling a little, Joy settled hers in front of her and pulled at the string bow slowly. The paper wrapping fell away from her father's gift to her. She let her breath out in a rush, not realizing she had been holding it for some seconds. Her reflection stared back at her . . . not from the crystal blue eyes of a richly dressed doll, but from the shiny patent leather sides of a little red purse.

Time seemed to hold the purse suspended. . . . Joy's own puzzled expression looking back at her. Her eyes grew heavy with unshed tears. She sat perfectly still, holding the little purse at arm's length, studying the image of her face in its smooth, mirror-like polish. A reflection of movement behind her made her catch her breath. She turned to her father. He was standing with his back to her as if he were about to move from the room. There was something about the set of his broad shoulders, the angle of his head, that brought a cry from Joy.

"Daddy?"

He turned to her, no smile or pretense of one anywhere about him. "Oh, Daddy," she breathed, "Oh Daddy! How did you know? It's exactly what I wanted!"

She clutched the suddenly dear little purse to her, knowing from somewhere inside her that what she said was true. Somehow, within the mere twinkle of a tear, her heart's desire had turned about.

Yes, I believe I must have been there. I knew that little girl and I loved her even then, and even then she was my example and my teacher. She taught me that Christmas does hold miracles. Perhaps not miracles made to order, but rather made by the order of love.

About the author

Susan Nielson of Spanish Fork is a floral designer. She was born in Salem, Utah, but grew up in Mesquite, Nev. She has been married to her husband, Wayne, for almost 27 years. They are the parents of two children, Spencer and Chris. Her hobbies include writing, reading and camping. She has lived in Spanish Fork for 14 years.