Debbie could not wait for the bus to arrive in Casper. The snow was falling and she could imagine the parsonage decorated for Christmas. She could imagine the taste of her mother’s traditional pumpkin roll and the smell of her father’s coffee. She remembered the sound of her brother’s baritone laughter. She closed her eyes and she could see a huge spruce in the bay window wound in lights.
Just a semester away at college but it seemed forever. She would sweep her little brother up in her arms the minute she stepped through the door. There would be luminaries lining the walk between the parsonage and the church and they would walk home with their candles still lit from the candlelight service. After the service on Christmas Eve she would put him in bed and read “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Then they would pray together. She missed that so much.
The bus slowed and exited. Debbie was five minutes from home. She brushed her hair and checked her make-up and her heart began to race. The moment the Bus station came into sight she saw the old red truck her dad used every year when they went to get the tree.
She ran from the bus and threw herself into her father’s arms. His eyes were moist and he said; “Merry Christmas, Debbie, we are so glad to have you home.” He waited for her luggage and expressed surprise at its size. “Where did you get this steamer trunk?” he joked. “Oh, it belongs to my roommate but she was flying and didn’t need it. I just wanted to take advantage of free laundry service while I am home so I borrowed it.”
He swung the huge suitcase into the bed of the truck and within minutes the house came into view. Light glowed from within and the house was blanketed with snow. Everyone talked at once laughing and crying all at the same time.
For the first time in months they were all together again under the same roof. Debbie could not remember a time of greater happiness. A huge fire roared in the living room and Debbie’s mom had cocoa and cookies ready for everyone. Then the stories came out like a flood. After the stories the family sang carols until late and then Debbie slept warm and secure in her own bed under a quilt her grandmother gave her the winter of her death. She could feel the weight of her cat at the foot of her bed.
Her heart was full of gratefulness for her family and she expressed her thanksgiving in prayer. Those prayers were her last conscious thoughts of the day.
The holiday went as she hoped, shopping, baking, church, visits with old friends. Then Christmas Eve. It was sweet to hear her Father read the old Christmas texts again. He didn’t really have the polish and flair of some of the men who preach in school chapel, but as she listened to the Christmas story her heart was flooded again with joy at the thought of the fact that her sins were forgiven because a Savior had come. She learned it first from her Daddy’s preaching and dozens of others had, too.
In the morning the family had Mother’s Christmas morning tea ring and then it was time to open the gifts. Debbie’s dad was a mission pastor so things were thin, especially because Debbie’s school bill had to be paid. But the small home-made gifts were gestures of genuine love. When they were all given out and opened. Debbie rose and straitened her skirt. Now there is one more thing, she announced. I have a few gifts to give, too.
Debbie’s mother said; “Now Debbie, you have no income, how did you buy gifts.” Debbie left the room without answering and returned with the big suitcase. Opening the suitcase she set beautifully wrapped gifts out on the floor one after another. Then she closed the suitcase and put it away. There was a book for her little brother Benjamin. It was a beautiful binding with the title stamped on the front in gold foil. For her brother she bought a harmonica. Her mother opened her gift, a pair of dress gloves more luxurious than she had ever worn before. And then her Dad opened his gift. When he turned the wrapper back on the gift the tears began to flow. In the box was a Bible, leather bound and leather lined and imprinted on the cover with his name. He pulled it from the box and held it reverently close to his heart.
There was a long, happy silence in the room. The only noise came from the popping a crackling of the wood in the fire. Then Debbie’s dad broke the silence. “Debbie, there is only one thing missing that would make a perfect Christmas, if you would play “Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming” on your violin like you did last year at the Christmas Eve service. Tell me you did bring your violin home, didn’t you?”
All eyes turned and rested on Debbie’s face. Love shown from her dark brown eyes and at once it occurred to everyone in the room that Debbie had sacrificed her violin to express her love for her family that year.
When Debbie pillowed her head it was near midnight. Her heart was flooded with joy and she breathed again a prayer of thanks to the Lord. She understood better than ever before that some sacrifices are right to make, even if they defy logic. The years would come and go and the sound of the violin would be heard again in the old parsonage. That Christmas night her brother sat up by the fire playing his harmonica and the Church bell outside Debbie’s window rang the end of a joyful Christmas Day.
(This is a work of fiction based on something that really happened at Christmas time in 1978).
(From Stonebridge Newsletter -Number 62)