Monday, December 3, 2012

The Christmas Gift


                                  

by Ezekiel Drummond, federal marshal (deceased) from the "A Portrait of Crime" series by Sharon Pape

 Back when I was a boy of  ten, I had a Christmas that was both the worst and best Christmas of my life. I know that doesn't make a heap of sense, but that's just how it was. You see, my mama died of pneumonia that year durin' a real hard winter. We lost most of the livestock to the cold and some disease I don't rightly recall anymore. And that summer there was a drought that took the better part of our crop. It was like all the light went out of the world when mama died. It sure went out for my papa and me.

I wasn't lookin' forward to Christmas that year. In fact I was pretty much dreadin' it. Mama had loved the holiday and always made a big fuss. She'd start off by scrubbin' the house till papa said the timbers would collapse. She baked pies that made your mouth water just by smellin' them. And she made plum puddin' like her mama did when she was a girl. Papa and I didn't like it much, but we pretended we did. We were just glad she didn't make it but once a year. She sang carols for days before Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve she'd make us sing along even though we sounded like a poke of squealin' pigs. Good years and bad, she always managed to put aside a little money so I could have a store-bought present.

Papa treated that first Christmas without her no different than any other day of the year. That was fine with me. I wanted no part of the holiday. If I could have slept straight through till the next day I would have. That afternoon, after we'd finished our chores, there came a knock on the door that made the both of us jump. It being late on Christmas day with the wind blowin' hard and cold, I couldn't imagine who would come visitin'. When papa opened the door I saw an Indian standin' there. Now there'd been a lot of broken promises and bad feelin's over the years between the government and the Yavapai tribes, so it was a sight that made my heart start racin' like a spooked pony. But Papa wasn't actin' worried or nervous, so I figured it was okay. When he  closed the door again and turned to me I saw he was holdin' a fresh-killed pheasant. And he was smilin'. For the first time since mama died, he was smilin'.  There must have been a world of perplexity on my face, because he took me over by the fire, sat me down and told me about a winter long ago when I was barely two. He'd gone into town for some supplies and was late returnin', because the buckboard broke an axle. It was after dark and snowin' when he finally made it home. When he walked inside, he was horrified to see an Indian man and woman sittin' by the fire with mama and me. He got scared for us and pulled his gun. But mama made him put it away. She told him the woman was carryin' a baby and just needed to get out of the cold for a bit.  She said it was the Christian thing to do and she wouldn't hear of sendin' them off until they'd warmed up and had somethin' hot to eat. Once mama made up her mind there was no use tryin' to talk her out of it.

Papa said that the Indian at our door that afternoon was the same one mama had helped way back then. News doesn't travel easily between the settlers of Prescott and the Indians on the reservation, so he'd only found out recently about mama dyin' and he'd come to pay his respects. His visit on that bleak Christmas was a turnin' point for papa and me. We realized mama had paid us a visit by way of the Indian man. And I took it to mean that she was still there with us even if we couldn't see her anymore. I never did stop missin' her, but my heart began to heal that day and I understood that it would be possible to be happy again.

What was the best Christmas present you ever received? Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a signed book of your choice from "A Portrait of Crime."

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submitted by Sharon Pape

55 comments:

  1. The best christmas present I ever received was a stand mixer. I love to cook and had been wanting one for a long time and I was so surprised to get this. It was an awesome Christmas morning that year.

    Kimberlee
    http://girllostinabook.blogspot.com
    girllostinabook@hotmail.com

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  2. The best Christmas present I ever received was my oldest daughter, Alexis. I can't believe my baby will turn 18 this year. :)

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  3. The best Christmas in recent memory was three years ago. Our grown daughter and her new husband came over, our son was home from college, and my husband and I fixed the turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our daughter insisted we take a family photo (luckily her brother is a terrific photographer!) and we got some of the best family shots we've ever had that cold December Day, indoors and outdoors.

    Our favorite was the one we call "Fish Faces" with all of us lined up on the couch making fish faces by sucking in our cheeks and looking straight at the camera, trying not to laugh. Our son rigged it with his tripod so he'd be in the picture, too. Those shots are still on our respective Facebook pages.

    That same Christmas we decided to slow way down and not spend much on each other. We each chose a monetary gift to donate to World Vision to help someone in a Third World country start a business, or buy livestock to be able to farm for their families, or something like that. Things were very peaceful that Christmas as we sat on that same couch later, poring over the Christmas catalog that World Vision puts out every year. Christmas carols were playing over the radio in the background, we had a fire in the fireplace, and all was right with the world.

    It may sound hokey, but the best Christmas present I've ever had was the experience of that year with my family. I felt happier that Christmas without all the stuff under the tree that most Americans are addicted to, and I enjoyed my family more. We're supposed to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child at this time of the year, not flood the department stores endlessly. I'd like to think that somehow He would have been pleased that we slowed down to think about what it's all about.

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    1. Sounds like a truly wonderful Christmas!

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  4. The best gift I ever received was actually a week before Christmas and it was a brand new little itty bitty Chihuahua puppy! That was all I wanted, all I got and was the best for a long, long, time and her memories still warm my heart and bring back lots and lots of happy memories! Thanks!

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  5. Back in the 40s I received a doll house from Santa made by Mr Klaus. Yes, that really was his name and he had a furniture making business. I loved that doll house and played with it for years. My boys weren't too interested and my granddaughters got their mother's. About 5 years ago I gave it to the little girl next door who was as thrilled as I was so many years ago.

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  6. Picking the best Christmas gift I ever received is hard. There have been so many wonderful ones and of course it depends on the age you receive it. As a child, I think getting my bicycle at about age 10 was the best gift I received but as an adult, receiving my Mother's ring from my family was the best gift ever.

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  7. The best Christmas present I had was the book, "The Little Prince" that my husband gave me. We had only been married for a few years and were going through some lean times, but he knew that I loved the book and he made sure that I had a copy of my own.

    kagashi(at)fmtc(dot)net

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  8. Wow, what a great story, thanks for posting it. My best Christmas present? Two years ago, I "got" my current boyfriend. We are living together now, happy.

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  9. My best Christmas present ever as a kid was the year my sister and I got a dollhouse and a kitchen set. Then as an adult the best present was my Brett Favre - Green Bay Packers Jersey. There is a long story behind that one, to long to share here.

    Thank you for the chance to win.

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  10. My family is Jewish, so there are few memories of Christmas gifts. There is one that stands out thought. It happened back in the early 1950's. We lived in an apartment over the family's real estate office.

    There were two apartments on the second floor. The other apartment was occupied by a Polish Catholic family with a young daughter named Patricia (Patti). She was my best friend. We were back and forth between homes constantly. One Christmas around 1954, I was teaching Patti how to play Dreidal (a Chanukah top with 4 sides with a Hebrew letter on each side) and sing a Chanukah song I'd learned in school, and she sang carols to me. It seems that our parents decided that we would receive our gifts TOGETHER.

    Early Christmas morning I woke up to the sound of someone stomping around on the roof. When I ran out into the hall to see what was happening, I found Patti coming out of her apartment also. The hath to the roof opened up and it seems that Santa was running a bit late as he came down the ladder with 2 large pillow cases of gifts. One for each of us... That was a surprise (I found out later that morning that it was Patti's uncle )!

    Santa went into Patti's apartment and placed all the gifts under the tree. After breakfast my parents and I went next door and Patti's dad handed out the gifts. It was truly a very special holiday for both of us.

    Thank you for bringing this memory back to me. Sometimes you forget the fun you had as a child.

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    1. Sorry, forgot to put in my email addie.

      NoraAdrienne(at)gmail(dot)com

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  11. My best Christmas ever was when my son was born on Christmas day. We named him Nathan which means gift.
    Ann

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  12. My best Christmas present was a jewelry box that was also a music box with a ballerina that "danced". It was given to me by my dad. He is gone now but I still have the jewelry box -- and yes it still works!!!

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  13. the best Christmas present i ever received, was & still is the best, as it was a kidney donated by a friend............

    thank you for this giveaway!!

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  14. It's hard to pick the best Christmas present as I've always been very blessed. When I was younger, books were my favorite - but these days no one buys me books because they are afraid I might have already read them. Now that I'm much older and that my husband has finally retired from the military, the best Christmas present for the last three years has been having him home for Christmas.

    Beverly aka Booklady

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  15. A blue stuffed teddy bear with plaid pants and a plaid vest. He was my best friend for years, and even when my mother threw him out because he was getting too tattered, I snuck him out of the garbage and hid him back in my room. kuzlin(at)aol(dot)com

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  16. Reading the comments is lovely as there are so many touching stories. This got me thinking back to all the special presents that were given to me through the years, many, many years. It's hard to chose just one, but I remember the year that my Mom asked me what I would like to get for Christmas and I told her that I'd like a pair of flannel pajamas like a ski outfit with fitted cuffs on the arms and legs. I guess I had seen a picture in a newspaper ad. I had little hope of getting them as they would be expensive for her, but I did get them after all. It meant all the more to me since she had to work the night shift at the post office sorting mail, going back and forth on the city busses in the dark and cold.

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    Replies
    1. Your mom sounds like quite a gift herself.

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  17. I think that it is hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it is still 85 degrees outside.

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  18. My bet Christmas ever was last Christmas. The whole family was together for the holidays for the first time in several years.

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  19. First Christmas with my family.

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  20. When I was 10, Santa left me a camera. And my love of snapshots began. Later I started scrapbooking my pictures. My children enjoy looking at themselves when they were "babies".
    Sandy 2012

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  21. The best Christmas ever for me was the first with my son- I'll never forget his expressions (he was 9 months old).

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  22. oh this looks so inviting to get started on for a great winter read.

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  23. my best chritm gift was msterio that wrappe in a garbage sack. I thought it was garbage at the time. didnt know it was for me.

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  24. The best gift that I received was after Christmas one year. Our six kids had not all been home together in a few years and they surprised me by all getting together, with spouses and families, in a big log cabin at a water park. We were all able to stay in the cabin together and we had such a good time!

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  25. I would have to say one of the most precious gifts I have received was given to me the first year my husband and I were married. We were young and very poor, yet he saved and saved and then gave me an electric keyboard because I love the piano so much. After 23 years I still have it.

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  26. Sixteen years ago, I got married - that was the best gift ever.

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  27. Getting engaged on Christmas Eve. That was the best gift I have ever gotten.
    Patti Smith

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  28. I once got a bicycle - that was a good gift.

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  29. I bought myself a diamond and ruby ring while on holiday in Jerusalem.

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  30. My son and DIL surprised me with a kindle a couple years ago. I thought that was pretty great. It was a total surprise and they rarely give me gifts.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  31. Our first grandchild was born on Christmas day. He just graduated from college and is engaged. Wouldn't that be a kick if they married next Christmas?

    rhuss at willow gables dot com

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  32. My favorite present as a kid was two phones that rang and one could talk on them. Now, obviously, this was way before cell phones. My sister and I enjoyed those almost as much as the ballerina dolls we got that year.

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  33. The year I got my brand new two wheeler was a good one. Then, there was the year I got an early present when my son was born on the 11th. :)

    Pen
    pmettert @ yahoo dot com

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  34. My best Christmas present was a beagle puppy---the best friend I ever had. I still love all beagles that I see even today.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  35. My best Christmas present as a girl of seven was a lovely set of liqueur glasses that had actually been intended for my mother from her sister who mis-labled our gifts (too much liqueur?). I found the glasses enchanting and was devastated when they were repossessed. Drama ensued.

    Thanks for reminding me of that. Your book sounds great!

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  36. Sounds like a good book.
    xzjh04(at)gmail(dot)com

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  37. Wow, now that's a powerful Christmas memory. I've got nothing close. I grew up as a military brat and one of my fondest memories is a Christmas in Germany -- must have been 1967. Just before Christmas a big box arrived from the States. On Christmas morning, there was a BIG teddy bear under the tree. He was my size. He became my bedmate for a long time. Great thing to keep the boogeyman in the closet.

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  38. The best Christmas present had to be a new tennis racquet. It was the perfect weight for me. I had been using my Fathers'.

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  39. my very first memory in my life was wanting "Dollikin",who moved all her joints. I was three. I can still remember crying out, "DOLLIKIN!" when I opened the gift. it was 1953, she cost $29, which was a HUGE amount of money then. I still love her -- she still sits in my living room.

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  40. My favorite Christmas Present was doll named Cricket that I wanted really bad when I was little, I got her for Christmas & still have her some 25 Plus years later.

    MinDaf @ Aol.com

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  41. My favorite Christmas Present was my engagement ring several years ago. It was our first Christmas together and he proposed to me over that holiday. I couldn't imagine a better Christmas gift.

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  42. a box of books

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  43. That is an utterly charming story

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  44. my best (early) christmas present is my healthy, adorable, now 9-year-old little boy.

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  45. My best Christmas present arrived on Christmas eve, when my daughter Allison was born. It was a cold, icy December night. The hospital was decorated for the holiday with silver foil wrapping the delivery room door. It was a magical evening.

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  46. When I was a little girl my mom bought me a set of Black Stallion books by Walter Farley and a brand new jigsaw puzzle that looked like the horse on the book cover!

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  47. The best xmas present I ever received was a trip to France!

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