by Lewis Hellyer
1948 was a stressful year for the adults in my family. My dad, a tubercular, was the third adult to survive a pneumoectomy at that time – his right lung. He wasn’t able to work during his recuperation. My stepmother, pregnant, was also unable to work at her occupation of laundress. As “welfare” recipients, a whopping $25 per month filled our coffer.
I was seven, in second grade, and I loved school. I learned to spell my name before entering first grade (there was no kindergarten), but, I spelled my first name with a B rather than a D. Like a sponge, I soaked up everything I could read.
On a crisp, sun-blessed December day, Mama Betty and I went on an excursion to the local hardware store. The bitter cold stung my cheeks as I trudged behind Mama Betty. I tried to stay on the path she made as I struggled to walk in the knee-deep snow. I delighted in the crunching sound our movements made. The hard crust of the snow held small, twinkling lights that peeked up at me; I imagined they were shimmering diamonds.
The large storefront window displayed all kinds of wares. My eyes went to the Christmas tree, then past it to a most wondrous thing: a school desk! I pressed my face against the window in an effort to be nearer to the prize I so desired.
Mama Betty appeared at the corner of the window, telling me sternly to get inside the store.
Excited, I told her of my find and how I wanted Santa Claus to bring it to me for Christmas. I offered to have the desk as my only gift. She merely told me to tell my dad, as he was the one who spoke with Santa about such things.
I presented my case for the desk to Dad, extolling all the great things I could do with it: homework, writing letters, and playing school with my younger brothers. I finished my argument with the childhood phrase, “Please, please, with sugar on it.”
Dad informed me that good ol’ St. Nick was short on money and he didn’t know if the “old gentleman” would be able to grant my wish. Disappointed, I remained hopeful Santa would grant my heart’s desire.
In the days leading up to Christmas, I fretted over the desk to the point that I made myself sick.
Dad and Mama Betty managed to buy a tree, and my brothers and I made decorations for it. Christmas Eve, I cried myself to sleep while Mama Betty played her guitar and sang Christmas hymns to us.
Christmas morning. I woke to shouts of sheer joy from my brothers. I didn’t want to get up. I was very depressed. I finally got out of bed and joined my brothers. My attention was first drawn to that scraggly little tree … and then, sitting there against the wall, was MY DESK!
My brothers asked for the prized treat of the oranges that came in our stockings – they were expensive and we only had them at Christmas. I asked for a sheet of paper and a pencil.
FOOTNOTE: To this day, I am grateful for the sacrifice Dad and Mama Betty made to get me that desk. What a magnificent gift!
Lewis Hellyer is the pen name of Jamie Lewis Hellyer and Darlene Eutsler Lewis, a mother-and-daughter writing team. Their new novel, a light romance titled On Butterfly Wings: A Journey of the Heart, is soon to be published. Jamie is working on her thesis for her Ph.D. in metaphysical science. Darlene is tackling manuscript preparation for publishing, promotion, and marketing. Darlene is also working on a memoir and a new romance novel and a republishing of her revised children’s book, Where Is Reice?