Early in December, I start watching for my most wanted and needed gift.
I never know what it will be, until it drops in my lap like a feather falling from heaven. When I see it, I always smile and shake my head.
The first Christmas I recall, I was almost 4 years old. My parents were divorced. I lived with my mother and missed my dad. Christmas Eve, as she put me to bed, I said, “Mama, can I see my daddy for Christmas?”
“Not for Christmas,” she said, “but maybe soon. Go to sleep.”
I didn’t sleep. A knock at the door sent my heart flying. But it wasn’t my dad. It was the man my mother hoped to marry.
They went in the kitchen for cofffee. I fell asleep, but awoke a bit later to hear my mother arguing with someone at the door. Then she went in the kitchen and said to her friend, “It’s him. He’s putting together a toy for her. He won’t be long.”
Him? Santa? I tiptoed to the living room. And there on the floor — assembling the doll house of my dreams — was my dad!
I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. So I smiled, shook my head and went back to bed. I loved that doll house. But what I most wanted and needed was to see my dad for one moment and know he was thinking of me.
A week later, when I went to visit him and his folks on their farm, I said, “I saw you fixin’ my doll house Christmas Eve.”
“I saw you, too,” he said, then added with a wink, “and I stole that doll house off Santa’s sled.”
I could tell you stories about every Christmas I’ve been given a most wanted and needed gift. But we aren’t getting younger, so I’ll fast forward to this year.
My sister and brother and I are the oldest survivors of our family. They live in South Carolina. I live in California. We try to keep in touch by phone.
Bobbie recently moved to an assisted living facility. And Joe, who is totally blind and severely impaired by cerebral palsy, lives alone in public housing. Sending them gifts has never been easy, and it seems it’s getting harder.
The only gift Bobbie says she wants is a visit. Or candy. Because of COVID-19, I can’t visit her. So I sent her a box of candy and a small Christmas tree. I hope by some miracle they will reach her.
Joe is even harder. In recent years, most packages I’ve sent to him were stolen from his porch. Gift certificates and personal checks vanish from his mailbox. Even shipments that require his signature don’t always work. Joe moves like a drunken snail with a walker. By the time he gets to the door, the carrier is gone.
“Don’t worry, Sister,” he says. “You don’t need to send me anything. I know you love me.”
It’s hard to picture my brother getting nothing for Christmas. But I couldn’t find a solution.
Then I called Bobbie and found her in rare high spirits.
“Martha came to see me!” she said, “and, bless her heart, she brought me all these treats.”
Martha is my forever friend. We grew up together and have stayed close, despite living miles apart. We don’t talk often, but when we do, it’s hard to say goodbye. When I phoned to thank her for visiting Bobbie, we spent a good hour catching up.
Finally, I said, “Thank you for visiting my sister. It meant more to me than it did to her. And she loved it. Especially the treats.”
Martha laughed. “I will do anything for you. I want to help. What can I do for Joe?”
Suddenly, there it was — my most wanted, most needed gift. I smiled and shook my head.
So I’ll send Joe’s gift to Martha. She’ll drive 30 miles in any kind of weather and maybe get lost looking for his place, but she’ll make sure he gets it.
Kindness is a gift any time of year. But it is especially wanted and needed at Christmas.
I wish you much kindness this Chistmas and always. I hope you get lots of it and give it all away.
And I pray you’ll be blessed, as I am, with a friend like Martha, whose kindness to you and to those you love will keep you smiling and shaking your head.
Randall is an author and longtime newspaper columnist who may be contacted at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, CA 93924, or via her website, sharonrandall.com.