The wood box was empty. I knew the children were cold in their beds. John where are you? Doesn’t he realize it is Christmas Eve, that I need him here? There is no tree, no presents. I couldn’t dare deny the children’s secret smiles and hidden whispers that Santa was bringing everything this year. If only Tibby, Matthew and Shannon knew the truth. I could only thank God that little Melanie was too little to remember the empty cabinets and the hollow fridge.
I walked to our sparsely furnished living room, it seemed darker than usual. Even the corner where we normally placed the tree was glaring at me in shame. My heart grew heavier with each footstep.
“Santa,” a sleepy voice called from behind me. I turned in dread. “No Tibby, it isn’t Santa.”
I could see the all too familiar look of disappointment flare in her eyes. Only seven and she knew the keen challenges of life and the ultimate let downs. My heart tore in two. It was supposed to be different this year. That is why John sought work in the bigger cities. We were going to hit it big this year, but all we had hit so far was rock bottom and broken dreams.
Tibby’s tears began to pool in her eyes. “Momma, there are no presents are there? Santa isn’t real! If he were wouldn’t he have brought food and clothes! Wouldn’t he have brought Matthew the toy car he wanted and Shannon the little dolly?” The tears were pouring down her cheeks. All I could do was wrap my arms around her while I prayed for a miracle.
I was searching for the right words, but before I could sort through the noise of my heart and mind I heard another sound.
The noise was distant but growing stronger. I could hear the gentle words speaking to my heart. “Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining….”
Tibby ran to the door and flung it open. I followed in curious confusion. Outside was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. Slowly the crowd of carolers formed a semi-circle and sang the remaining words of my favorite Christmas carols. I stood there unable to speak from the tears clogging my throat.
One person stepped forth, a man with a white beard and a red knitted sweater. “Mama, it’s Santa,” Tibby exclaimed.
The man smiled kindly at us. “Hello Mrs. Miller my name is Ted Wallace and I am the director of the Salvation Army. We were wondering if we could bless you and your family with a few items this Christmas. Would that be all right?”
I nodded as my floodgate of tears began to poor out.
Tibby looked at me. “I haven’t seen Momma cry like that ever since daddy went to be with Jesus,” Tibby spoke in her child like innocence.
The kind mad nodded in understanding. The carolers crowded in our tiny home and began to decorate a tree they brought and overloaded it with presents.
Later after many of the carolers left the kind man who resembled Santa came towards me. Tibby was passed out in exhaustion from the evenings events.
“I wanted to tell you how sorry we are for your loss, but that God will get you through it.”
“Thank you,” was all I could say but more heart cried out more.
“If you ever need anything, please come to the Salvation Army on Maine Street. I am always there.”
“Thank you Mr. Wallace.”
He nodded humbly and went on his way.
Tibby must have heard the door close because she sleepily asked, “Did Santa leave?”
I laughed, “No sweetie Santa didn’t leave, but an angel did.”
She fell back asleep almost instantly. I carried Tibby’s limp body to the bed we now shared and climbed in next to her. Dreams of hope and peace filled my slumber as well as the knowledge that my children would not go hungry and their hearts wouldn’t be broken so soon after their father’s death. John may not be with us this night, but he was certainly smiling down from heaven because true angels came as carolers to a shabby ram-shack house to deliver a message from heaven: Jesus reigns even in an empty home and a sorrow filled heart at the end of Maine Street.
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