By Bonnie White
I don't recall the exact date, however I do know it was in the later part of December, closer to Christmas, 1997. The weather that winter was a typical one: daytime temperatures a gracious 25 degrees F to 32 degrees F, night time temperatures dropping to around -5 degrees F, 10 degrees F if there were clouds covering the sky like a blanket over the Earth. Snow had been falling off and on for about a week, leaving the land covered in a blanket of beautiful white snow that turned to a crystal landscape under a rising sun.
My husband was working as a cab driver 12 hours a night, six nights a week, regardless of the weather. I was attending a community college, keeping a full class load working towards my major in Forestry. I also drove as a cab driver on my days off from class during the week, and dispatched for the cab company 8 hours a night on Saturdays and Sundays. Our oldest was 8 years old and had just gotten out of school for the Christmas break. Our youngest daughter was only 11 months old and growing fast.
With Christmas Eve only a week away, I stayed awake most nights, unable to sleep. My mind toiled over the situation we had found ourselves in. We had no gifts from Santa for the girls. The 250 gallon propane tank was almost empty(stove, oven, hot water heater and furnace were all propane appliances). With propane selling for $1.07 a gallon, with a minimum 100 gallon drop, plus taxes, we were needing at least $130.00 for the 100 gallons. The water and electric bills were behind by a month each.
Some of the questions which echoed through my mind, haunting me, keeping me from peaceful sleep were "What are we going to do? How much money will he bring home tonight? Will there be a Christmas this year? " We didn't have the money for a "Christmas Dinner" as most people would be having. There would be no roasted turkey or goose, no dressing, potatoes, not even a dish of cranberry sauce. We would be lucky to have meat on the menu at all.
I had done all I could in the previous months to get some kind of help for the holidays. I did manage to get assistance from the city to get the propane we needed to keep the house warm, the food cooked and hot water for baths. The propane was scheduled to be delivered in 3 days, the next available day for the area I lived in. I had asked friends, co-workers, teachers and assistance groups through the city for help. They had not much to offer in the way of advice or help for the bills or Christmas.
With each passing day that brought Santa's expected arrival closer, the nights grew longer for me. The children were none the wiser to any of the pending problems in all of this. To them, it was winter, Christmas was coming and the world was a great place to be. For me, it was another season of torment and heartbreak.
When the propane truck arrived 3 days later to deliver the much needed propane, yet another problem reared it's ugly head. I was informed that the pipes which carried the propane into the house had a leak somewhere. The leak was detected when the hose from the truck was connected to the tank, and the pressure gauge on the truck was showing an abnormal pressure inside the tank. The only cause, the driver informed me, was a leak in the pipes under our mobile home. He would not be able to deliver our propane until the system could be checked thoroughly. Seeing as how it was only 3 days before Christmas Eve, and the company was busy delivering propane already scheduled, there was nothing he could do until after New Year's when the company came back from the Christmas Holiday.
With a hasty apology, he proceeded to 'red tag' my tank, and leave. The only heat we would have was one small space heater, which we placed in the living room. The only way to cook would be with a microwave and one hot plate. However, we would still have no hot water to bathe in until after New Years.
Two nights later, the night before Christmas Eve Day, the four of us were sitting in the living room watching television when someone came knocking on the door. A stranger was needing to ask where an address was on our street. I told him, and he very politely said thank you and went on his way. About 10 minutes later, I heard another knock on the door. Deciding it was the same gentleman having problems finding the right address, I went to the door ready to help him again. It was the least I could do, for he was probably looking for his relatives' house.
When I opened the door, I found no one there. What was there, sitting on the porch, stacked neatly, were two large Hefty trash bags full, a white box to the side of the bags, and a frozen turkey setting on top. In the bags were gifts, each wrapped beautifully in exquisite wrapping paper. There were 3 gifts apiece, and three gifts labeled "The Family". In the white box was a fresh turkey, the kind you can order in October or November, and costs quite a bit of money.
I called my husband to the door, and told my daughter not to worry, there was nothing wrong. Standing in awe, tears in my eyes, I looked at my husband who had come to the open door and was looking just as awe-struck. The sight of the gifts had brought tears to his eyes as well as mine. As we stood there, looking at the gifts and looking for the person(s) who left them, we heard two words come out of the night from the dark end of the road. The voices of several children, in unison, cheered, "Merry Christmas!".
Now, who am I to say that Santa does not exist?
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