Thursday, August 24, 2017

First Place 2014 Christmas: One Single Present

December 29, 2014 by  
Filed under 2014 Christmas, Contests

by Violet Rightmire

Rogers Bio Photo[2]


Debra Webb Rogers is a former professional ballet dancer. She graduated from Florida State University, and currently teaches dance and dance history at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville. 
Her first novel, Dancing in Time, written under her pen name Violet Rightmire, was a finalist for an EPIC Award in 2011. When she is not teaching or writing, Ms. Webb enjoys hiking and exploring the Appalachian Mountains with her husband Sam.

 

The first time I remember finding it, I was about four years old. It was in an old cracker box that had seen better days, but Mama had wrapped it up all nice in one of her clean dish towels, tied it with one of Rose’s old hair ribbons and tucked it behind the woodpile near the fireplace. I found it by accident the morning before Christmas and I guess kind of spoiled the surprise. But no matter. Mama gently took it from me and said opening it would have to wait. She hid it again, and it was my sister Peony who found it that time. But I got to help her hide it the next year, so that kind of made up for my finding it early. Our family tradition was that if you found it one year you got to hide it the next year, so finding it was a big deal.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I always do when I get excited about telling this story. Let me start over. I’m Pansy. I know that Pansy sounds like an odd name to you, but Mama loved flowers and she said she named all her daughters after flowers so she’d have them even in the dead of winter.

We lived way out in the sticks. And I mean way out. We walked three miles to school and the other kids teased us because we always kept our heads down. They said we did it because we were ashamed of being poor. But that wasn’t it at all. Mama taught us to be watchful for snakes since there were lots of them hiding just underfoot that could kill a person. No, we weren’t ashamed at all.

For a long time I thought we were rich. For instance, we always had the best Christmas of anybody around, even the fancy Winklander family from over the mountain in their fine brick house. I was just so proud of our Christmas. But Mama said being prideful wasn’t something she wanted to see in her flowers, so I didn’t brag or anything. It wasn’t that we had lots of presents or a big Christmas tree – we had a small tree so it wouldn’t crowd the cabin too much – and as for presents, well, if it had been a good year for Daddy one or two of us might get a new pair of shoes. But mostly, we all went barefoot.

No, our Christmas wasn’t the best one around because of what you might think. It was the best because of one single present. It was the same one every year, but it was the most incredible present there could ever be. Ever. It was never wrapped up the same way, or hidden in the same place or anything. But we knew it would be there somewhere and just thinking on that was one of the best things of all. Now I know you are wondering how one single present could possibly satisfy a family of seven children. Well, it did. You’ll understand in a minute.

When I was eight years old I was finally the lucky one. When I found the present it was stuffed deep in the branches of the Christmas tree and I was so excited I dropped it, and the ribbon came off and the old coffee can almost rolled into the fire. And then my hands weren’t big enough or strong enough to pull the lid off so Daddy had to step in to help. He pulled it off and handed the can back to me so I could take out the contents.

The gift was always surrounded by lots of lamb’s wool – lots and lots of lamb’s wool – so it would be well protected. Even today, just looking at a picture of lamb’s wool takes me back to those wonderful times in that little holler.

I carefully picked the lamb’s wool away and lifted the treasure from its nest. The basket was only about three inches long. Daddy had hand woven it out of bits and pieces he had left from some of the big baskets he made every year. I always wondered how long it must have taken him to make a basket so small and so perfect.

Inside the basket were pieces of straw, and on them lay a tiny baby Jesus wrapped in tiny swaddling clothes. He seemed to be smiling slightly as He slept. We called Him the Miracle Child. I cupped the basket in both hands as Daddy came and sat in the midst of us, the firelight making his face glow. Mama eased down beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. We all gathered closer. Daddy picked up the Bible and it fell open to the spot. He cleared his throat and began to read: “For God so loved the world…”

 

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