Earlier this month I posted part of a story by an unknown author that my parents found when we moved to a house in the woods. I promised to share the anonymous author’s words from time to time. Today I’m picking a page that really speaks to the true nature of the holidays, the real meaning of Christmas.

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They had bought Christmas cards and sent them to Jim and Steve with the dinner invitations in writing. Neither man had replied, but Minnie and the professor had no doubt they would show up at the proper time. By the afternoon of Christmas Eve all the provisions had been laid in. Late in the afternoon the professor went out into the wilderness along the canal and hacked down a Christmassy-looking tree he had noticed some weeks before. It lacked perfect symmetry, and was a bit chewed around the base, but it would serve. On it they hung ornaments made from tin cans, and strings of popcorn and cranberries. For the very top they had a badly chipped metal angel that Minnie had carried on from her childhood. The children had small mesh bags of candy from the Sunday School party. And the Children had, on Christmas Eve, no other presents. 

“We’re savin up for you know what,” Minnie said as they all sat around the tree. The bad moment had come—the moment when the gap between the generous heart and the lean purse yawns like an abyss. “So we ain’t got anything much for you. What there is you’ll get tomorrow.” 

“That’s okay, Ma. We don’t want no small stuff,” said Cheryl.

The professor looked at her in pain. “Any small stuff…”

“We haven’t got anything for you, Ma, or the professor. Can we get in on that savin-for-you-know-what-deal?”

“Of course,” Minnie said, and the professor agreed.

All four of them were on the davenport, the twins between Minnie and the professor, Arthur on one armrest, Milton on the other. 

“Gee,” Cheryl said, “we’re just like a family.”

“Natch,” said Daryl. “We are a family, aren’t we? Ain’t we? No, aren’t we?”

With infinite sensitivity they then looked with minutest brevity at the professor, and snapped their heads back. 

“We never had no tree so pretty before,” Minnie said, her voice a little weepy.

“Let’s sing carols,” the professor suggested, leading off in a wispy tenor. He established a line for them to cling to and carried them along through several songs.