was the most special holiday of all for my father. The
preparations, gift buying, and decorations were no trouble to him
and just added to his overall enjoyment.
I was introduced to my first Christmas tree when I was nine days
old. Mother told me that it was a small tree, but every
ornament, candle, and piece of silver tinsel were meticulously
hung in place, as only my father could do it. When he had
finished, he took me from my bassinet and held me up to see his
There were to be just four more of Daddy's Christmas trees--each
one a little larger than the year before. And, of course, as
I grew older his delight in Christmas rubbed off on me and it
became my favorite holiday, too.
However, this year was going to be different. A short bout
with pneumonia in February had snuffed out Daddy's life.
As Christmas drew near, Mother sat down with me and as gently as
she could explained, "Madeline, we won't be able to have a
tree and decorations this year because we're in mourning."
"In mourning" meant nothing to a
four-going-on-five-year-old little girl.
I missed my
wonderful daddy and my once gay and beautiful mother, now weighed
down by her grief.
Christmas Eve arrived with no special arrangements for the next
day, other than early Mass and dinner with relatives. In the
afternoon the phone rang and Mother answered.
"Oh, hello Mrs. Dreyfus," she said. And after a
pause, "That's very kind, but I think we'll spend the evening
here together. It's the first since--" She
recovered and thanked Mrs. Dreyfus and hung up.
Mrs. Dreyfus was one of several Jewish families who lived in our
apartment house. They had been wonderful to Mother in
helping her meet her sorrow and adjust to widowhood.
"What did she want?" I asked.
"She wanted us to come down this evening.
"Oh, please, Mother," I cried. "She always
has hot cocoa for me."
Mother was silent most of the day, and later in the evening she
changed her mind. She called Mrs. Dreyfus and told her we'd
stop in for a few minutes. "It's kind of her,"
Mother said, "and thank goodness they won't have any
We rang the doorbell and Mrs. Dreyfus welcomed us into the
foyer. The living room beyond seemed dark with an
She led us into the living room, where we were greeted with cries
of "Merry Christmas." Seated around a beautifully
decorated Christmas tree were Mrs. Abrams, Mrs. Cohen, and Mrs.
Blount. Under the tree were gaily decorated packages for
us. And Mrs. Dreyfus didn't disappoint me. There was
cocoa for me and coffee for the ladies.
There have been many trees since then--big, small, fresh, and
artificial--but I always think of that one as my very special
Christmas tree. I'll never forget those loving, caring
people who shared in an unfamiliar custom so that one little girl
without a daddy could have a Merry Christmas.
Today I can close my eyes and bring back that scene at will.
Many times it has sustained me when things have gone badly, for I
can still feel the warmth and love of those neighbors. It
taught me the true meaning of Christmas--the brotherhood of man.
for the Spirit--
Christmas Stories of Faith
A beautiful and touching collection
of Christmas memories and reflections.
This book is full of Christmas spirit,
one that I keep out in the living room
for the entire Christmas season, as I
read and re-read stories that help
me to keep in mind the true meaning
Highly recommended for anyone
who has even a small bit
of Christmas spirit!