The Joy on My Mother's Face
by Billie M. Darnell
It was a cold day in the middle of December. My mother was busy making a pie out of the last apples we had picked from the small tree just down the hill from the house we had rented. My sister and I were making paper dolls to play with. My four older brothers had gone down the road trying to make money raking leaves from some of the neighbors. My oldest sister was helping in the kitchen and my youngest brother was playing with his imaginary chimpanzee George. My grandparents also lived there but in an upstairs apartment. I knew my mother seemed sad but I didn’t realize why. My step-father had a hard time finding a job and times were difficult for everyone especially around the holidays. He often did odd jobs, like chopping wood, fixing broken windows and roofs. It didn’t pay a lot but it help to buy food or pay the rent.
I had tired of playing dolls and I went to the kitchen and watched as my mother as she prepared the pie. I often sat and watched her cooking and preparing meals. She could make the most out of nothing. She looked at me and smiled. “Have you been working on your poem for the Christmas program?”
“Yes.” I said. “You want to hear it?”
“Sure. Go ahead. I’m listening.” I stood up in front of her and recited the poem.
“In a lowly manger Jesus was born God’s own son. A special gift that blessed morn.” I rambled though.
She looked at me and said. “That was very good but you said it so fast I almost couldn’t understand what you were saying. Just remember to speak slowly and clear. You want everyone to listen to every word you are saying” She gave me a hug and went back to work.
“Mom Christmas is almost here. I’m so excited. I can’t wait.” She looked at me and I saw the sadness in her eyes. I wished I had kept my mouth shut. I knew what she was worried about.” I’m sorry Mom. I don’t need anything. Just get Kim and Kevin something. You know they’re younger. It’s more important for them to have a Christmas.” She hugged me and I saw a tear glisten in her eyes. “Go” she said. “I need to finish this pie.”
I went into the bedroom my sister Kim and I shared. I found the yarn I was using to crochet my mother a pair of booties for her feet. Christmas was only ten days away and I wanted to make sure I had finished them for her. I heard the dog barking outside and I knew my grandfather and step-father were home from hunting. They had caught a rabbit in a cage. Boy. My mother could fix a mean rabbit stew. I remember one time my grandfather had caught a squirrel. Most people would think. “Oh No! They ate a squirrel!” But when you’re hungry. It tastes better than chicken. We had a few chickens, but they were only eaten when they were too old to lay eggs. Even though we didn’t have a lot we were happy with what we had.
I ran down the stairs as they were coming in to the house. I said. “Grandpa! Guess what?”
“What?” He said.
“Christmas is almost here! Isn’t that great?”
“Yes it is! He pulled out a clothe bag and said. “I brought this for you kids.’
He opened the bag and I looked in it. It had pine cones in it.”
“Maybe you can make some ornaments for the Christmas tree? “He gave them to me and I went into the living room and started to decorate them with paints and beads
As it drew closer to Christmas my mother began to really fret that she didn‘t have money to buy Christmas gifts for us children. She had found an old rusty tricycle in an alley in the trash. She brought it home and painted for my younger brother. I was sure she had figured out other things to give each and every one of us. I knew she would try her best to make this a good Christmas for all of us.
Christmas eve we spent making sugar cookies and popping corn. We were singing Christmas carols and grandma was getting ready to read the Christmas story out of the bible.
“Come on. Children gather around.” She said. All my brothers and sisters sat on the floor in the living room as grandma read the story of the first Christmas. She was half way though when someone knocked on the door. My mother went to the door and there were three big boxes on the front porch. She looked and they were full of wrapped gifts, candy and fruit. She walked outside but there was no one there. She had the boys pull the boxes into the house and unload them. I saw in her eyes a joy I had not seen in awhile. There were gifts were labeled with all our names on them with tags that said. “Do not open till Christmas.”
I asked her. “Mama. Where’d all this come from?”
“I don’t know, but God has answered our prayers.”
“Can we open them?”
“No. It says not till Christmas.” she put all the gifts under the small cedar tree my grandfather had cut down and that we had decorated with popcorn and homemade ornaments. Grandma finished reading out of the bible and mother said. “Off to bed. The sooner you go to bed the sooner Christmas will come.”
As I lay in bed. I thank God, not for gifts I would open tomorrow but for the joy my mother would feel seeing her children happy. I remember this Christmas over all the others because this was the year my mother and I became even closer and my faith became stronger. I am now forty five years old and my mother is a grandmother and a great-grandmother and she is still the best woman I have ever known. Until this day we never found out where the presents and candy came from. This year my mother turns seventy and her love and faith has brought us though many tough times. I always smiled when I think back to that time. Thinking of how God blessed us but most of all, I remember seeing the joy on my mother’s face that beautiful Christmas morning.