color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: Spirit of a Christmas Past

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Spirit of a Christmas Past

She was a stunning auburn-haired 21-year-old nursing student; he was a dashing and handsome black-haired 24-year-old disabled World War II vet when they married. He’d lost his left arm just above the elbow at the age of 18 just as the war ended and had spent a few years in Army rehab programs learning to use the plastic arm and the hooked claw that became his one hand. He spent a few years after that bouncing around...

Their first children came while he was enrolled on the G.I. Bill in a major midwestern university and completing his accounting degree in 2-1/2 years. By the time she was 30 and he was a partner in a major accounting firm, they had seven children. His drinking and violent temper worsened, they divorced, and he moved from one job to another until there was only his drinking; then he disappeared... physically and financially.

She had returned to work a few years before the divorce and now worked two jobs in the same hospital: 7:00AM until 3:00PM in the ER and 3:00PM until 11:00PM in the OR. The children – the oldest just 11 and the youngest 5 – learned to cook and clean in between the homework and athletics. There was no extra money for babysitters so they learned to care for each other. Even the double wages of a nurse with seven children to feed, clothe and shoe could not also cover the mortgage payments of the big, beautiful home in the quiet suburban neighborhood they had bought when he was the principle breadwinner, and soon the home was foreclosed.

No one wanted to rent to a woman with seven children, and she certainly couldn’t afford much rent. After a long search, she found empty law offices above an empty storefront on a major commercial street on the south side of the city. She and her children spent weekends that November hauling out the garbage and tearing out the extra walls in the old offices to create living space. There wasn’t much she could do about the hole in the bathroom floor, the rotted floor at the rear door or the live electrical wires that hung in the room that would become the dining room. She put a board over the hole, forbad the children from the room with the rotted floor and put caps on the wires.

They moved in the week before Christmas. She needed the money so she worked that Christmas – double shifts in the ER. What little money she had was spent on moving costs, and there had been no money for Christmas presents. Gone along with the big house were the Christmases the children would awaken to gifts piled so high that you could barely see the white flock tree covered in big gold ornaments that stood in the large picture window in their living room – the dolls, microscopes, pianos, record players, bicycles…
Amongst themselves that Christmas, the seven had decided that they would each choose a name from a hat and each would give their most precious possession to one of the other kids. The presents were wrapped in newspaper and tissue paper. One gave the small statue of the angel with a rosary tray in the bottom that she had received when she made her first communion; another gave the small ceramic dog they had crafted at the arts and crafts program at the local park the last summer there. They told her when she got home from work late that night. She hugged them all and later that night she wept.

The next year in that place went fast, but finances didn’t improve with the two oldest now in a prestigious academic high school; even if they were on scholarship, there were the costs of transportation, meals and uniforms. And there were the continuing costs of rent, food, utilities, and clothing for the other five. She had tried as hard as she could to put away little bits here and there, but there was always some emergency – a flat tire, a tooth to be pulled.

Still, that Christmas Eve, rushing home from work to the local department store, and arriving just an hour before closing, she began to walk up and down the aisles looking for things she could give her children – perhaps ice skates for the daughter who the year before had worn her mother’s size 10 skates on her size 5 feet to win a speed skating competition, a baseball glove for a son who wanted to play but was too embarrassed because he didn’t have a mitt… She couldn’t bear the thought of her children having another Christmas without at least one present under the tree. But as she wandered the aisles, she came to realize that the little money she had would not be enough to put a present for each of her children under the tree and she leaned on a display in an aisle and began to cry.

She could hardly speak when a manager approached her; after a few minutes, he took her to his office and offered her a cup of coffee. When she calmed, she explained her situation and continued to cry. He told her to just stay until she could compose herself while he closed the store.

When the manager returned just after 6:00 that Christmas Eve, she rose to leave and thanked the man for his kindness. The man took her by the arm and escorted the tired woman around the store and helped her choose one gift for each of her children. As they chose ice skates, a baseball mitt, a doll, she wiped away the tears and thanked him with each gift. He stayed and helped her wrap each present and helped her carry them to her old dilapidated car. She tried to give him what money she had for the gifts, but he refused and told her Merry Christmas. It was a very happy Christmas...

I miss you, Mom. Thank you for teaching us all how to count our blessings.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

17 Comments:

At 12/25/2005 2:39 PM , Blogger Maggie45 said...

This is such a beautiful tribute to your mother. I was getting a feeling as I was reading that it was indeed about YOUR mother. And it seems to me that you're a "chip off the old block" if you'll allow me to put it so "crudely". And your family is very blessed to have *you*, just as your and your siblings were blessed to have your mom. As we in the blogosphere are blessed to have you also.

Thank you.

 
At 12/25/2005 3:17 PM , Blogger sher said...

We should all be worthy enough to leave our own children with such precious memories and lessons learned to shape them in life....

Merry CHRISTmas!

 
At 12/25/2005 6:23 PM , Anonymous Agnieszka O. said...

SSM - Merry Christmas from Denver!

 
At 12/25/2005 7:34 PM , Blogger kbug said...

what a beautiful story...I cried when I realized it was your story. Those who have less growing up tend to learn so much more about what's really important in life. From your comment at the end, I take it your mother is no longer on this earth, but you can certainly believe that she is the angel who watches over you everyday and weeps with joy to see how much she is loved. She left quite a legacy behind... :)

Merry Christmas Some Soldier's Mom!!

 
At 12/25/2005 8:48 PM , Anonymous Brenda (who usually silently lurks) said...

Wow!
Your powerful story explains so much about how you became the person you are today. What a beautiful tribute to the kind of Mom who sacrifices everything for her children.
Thank you for allowing us to share in your most personal stories. You add so much to each day and your stories never fail to fill my heart with a swell of emotion.
Merry Christmas and God Bless us, everyone!

 
At 12/25/2005 10:12 PM , Anonymous Julie said...

Your story is what this contry is about. Your Son being one of my Herors makes a lot of sense now. God Bless You Mom. And in your Sons words "You Rock"

 
At 12/26/2005 5:14 AM , Blogger Stacy said...

What a beautiful story SSM. I thought as I first started reading that this was your story. I can see why you are such a special mom/wife/friend/sister. You had such a wonderful mother it seems.

 
At 12/26/2005 11:20 AM , Anonymous MissBirdlegs in AL said...

I was lucky enough to have that sort of mother, also, & I miss her every day. Thanks for sharing this, SSM. Would love to have your talent with words. Hope your Christmas was just what you wanted it to be... Katy

 
At 12/26/2005 7:09 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

Such a wonderful way to pay tribute to a great woman. It seems like in this one tale you've captured the essence of your mom as well as what she imparted on you & your siblings--a bunch of good people in my book.

Merry Christmas!

You are a treasure & it seems like you certainly learned by example. And, God bless men and women like the store manager...angels in disguise who swoop in to help those when they are most in need.

 
At 12/26/2005 10:46 PM , Blogger Pixie said...

Left me in tears... thank you for sharing this wonderful, personal part of your life... God bless your sweet, sweet mother.

 
At 12/27/2005 11:35 AM , Blogger AFSister said...

Oh my goodness.
That's as moving to me as the "Soldiers watching over you" Christmas poems... but yours is real.

My goodness. What a woman! I hope my boys respect me like that when they grow up.

 
At 12/27/2005 2:25 PM , Blogger barb pfister said...

Had to have a kleenex to read this one. It really reminds us of all the many ways we are truly blessed. What a great mother you had.

Merry christmas
Barb

 
At 12/28/2005 6:06 PM , Blogger Wayne's Mom said...

What a thoughtful tribute to your mom. You really have quite a gift for writing. Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

By the way, Wayne is HOME!

 
At 12/28/2005 8:24 PM , Anonymous Mary (Some Soldier's Aunt) said...

It's most assuredly why we put our children first in our lives today, because of what our mother showed us some 40+ years ago...our lives today are much easier, and the life our children have at home is certainly different than the one we had. I only hope we don't forget to teach them about forgiveness, tolerance and faith --in a higher being and in each other. Some day, our siblings are all we have left to share a memory with. And I miss mom, too, SSM.

 
At 12/28/2005 9:03 PM , Blogger Sean from DocintheBox said...

All I can say is wow, that was amazing. Beautiful story. I am at loss of words.

 
At 12/29/2005 2:29 AM , Blogger Crazy Politico said...

That was incredible.

 
At 12/29/2005 7:49 PM , Blogger Jeff H said...

Your mom was a truly great woman. And God blessed her--and you.

Thanks so much for sharing.

 

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