Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Doubtful Christmas

As the holidays get into full swing, I decided to offer a different kind of story this week.  It’s the story of a young boy whose mother showed him what staying strong and being resourceful in the face of adversity really means, and it’s presented here in his own words:

“During one summer when I was young, my father sold everything we owned, took all the money and disappeared from our lives.  My mother suddenly found herself alone to care for five boys.  I was the oldest, barely ten years old.  My youngest brother still wore diapers.

“My grandparents welcomed us to their place – eighty acres of rocky hill country, twenty miles from the nearest town.  Grandpa butchered an extra hog that year, and we planted a field of turnips to mature in the cool fall weather.  My mother worked in the fields and cared for us kids while I started fifth grade at school.

“Changes in our lives couldn’t be avoided.  My father had been abusive at times, but he’d always provided for us.  Now, I worried about what might happen, but my mother stayed positive, and assured us that she would keep us together as a family and safe from harm.

“I milked cows before catching the school bus, and did chores after I got home each day.  The younger boys washed dishes, fed chickens and pigs, and carried in firewood.  Six-year-old Jerry was paired with me on a crosscut saw, and we regularly cut wood to heat the house during the winter.

“Our efforts paled in comparison to what our mother did, however.  At one hundred-five pounds, she could swing an axe, manhandle heavy horse-drawn plows, haul hay for the cattle, and harvest crops.  Still, she found time to help us with homework and say prayers with the younger boys.

“As Christmas approached, my mother didn’t seem to smile as much.  She hinted that Santa might have trouble bringing us presents this year.  I considered myself practically grown, so I hid my disappointment.

“One day, my mother took a saw into the forest and returned with a stack of tree limbs.  She left them in the harness room in the barn and refused to tell her curious children what they were for.

“She worked on her project while I was in school, but I peeked when I had a chance. Pieces of wood had been cut into different shapes, then planed and sanded smooth.  Later I found a stack of discs cut from a round oak limb.  She also had started to carve a long piece of hickory, but I couldn’t figure out its purpose.

“She hid everything from us and frustrated my attempts to snoop.  But I saw that she had used nails, glue, and paint from grandpa’s workshop.  I concluded that she had to be making presents.

“When school let out for the holiday, my brothers and I cut a Christmas tree in the forest and dragged it home through the early snow.  The whole family helped decorate it with ornaments, pinecones, and strings of popcorn.  We gathered mistletoe and holly boughs and hung them throughout the house.

“On Christmas morning, we hurried into the living room, and saw that a stack of packages had magically appeared overnight under the tree.  My mother handed out the presents, and my brothers opened packages stuffed with brightly colored trucks, tractors and trains.  Those odd pieces of wood she had handled in secret were assembled and painted to form toys.  The round discs made wheels that rolled, and the trucks and trains carried tiny logs and blocks.  The toys were beautifully crafted, and my siblings were thrilled.  When I tore off the newspaper wrapping my present, I found a hand carved bow and a quiver of arrows.

“Many winters have come and gone since that special holiday – that doubtful Christmas. My mother’s determination and perseverance transformed our poverty into a memorable day filled with delight, and foretold her ability to provide for us.  We were never hungry, and she made sure we got an education.  She taught us faith in our own abilities, and that faith sustains me still.”

The author of this story, Doyle Suit, published his first book this autumn, a novel for young adults called Baker Mountain.  Doyle’s stories are filled with hardships and challenges, but remind us that showing gratitude in the face of adversity will lead to a rewarding life.  This holiday, remember to focus on being grateful for the things you have, and there will be no time to think about what you don’t have!

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams 

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