When Patricia said, “I do,” she meant it forever so when things began to go wrong, she didn’t tell. It was the early ‘60’s and “nice girls” didn’t get divorced; they stayed—no matter what. For awhile, Patty’s heart found hope and Sandy was born but even a precious new life couldn’t fix shattered lives. The night Patty’s marriage reached the no-matter-what stage, she called her daddy. Cal drove all night and the next morning, with no judgment and no lectures, he took Patty and 18-month-old Sandy home.
Although she and Sandy were safe, Patty was hurt, angry, and confused. She and her baby were little wounded birds who had taken a terrible fall from the nest.
Sandy did not notice a fall because at Grandmama’s and Papa’s house, she was queen of everything. But Patty’s pride, life, and feelings were damaged, and heart ripped out. She had run her own home for five years, faulty though it was, and now she worked in her mother’s kitchen and slept in her old teenage bedroom.
Although she quickly found a job, Patty heard the whispers, “divorced, you know.” Her friends who might understand had long since escaped the small, traditional town where they all came of age and the one time she ventured to church, even her old Sunday School teacher did not stop to talk.
The strain of so many changes sent Patty’s mother to her sick-bed. After work every day, Patty simply wanted to hide in her old room for about 30 years but, there was supper, dishes, and Sandy’s bath. Cal often tried to make small talk, but Patty quickly escaped to a lonely night of tears.
Then December arrived, bleak, dreary, and as gloomy as her own hopeless mood. Patty groaned when someone mentioned Christmas. She had neither the time nor the energy to contemplate her 25th Christmas and since she was not speaking to God, she had no intention to celebrate His Son’s birth.
A couple of days before Christmas Eve, Cal brought home a bedraggled tree. Patty sighed and kept stirring the soup. Cal puttered around in the storeroom upstairs and came down with a string of tangled lights and some dusty decorations.
After a dull supper with no conversation, he said, “Come on, Punkin, let’s put up a tree for Sandy.”
Patty knew he had her trapped. She couldn’t be a scrooge in front of her child. They did manage to make the tree sort of cute, so on her lunch break the next day she picked up a couple of toys for Sandy and a small gift for her folks—just to do her part. She couldn’t make Christmas go away, but she certainly would not participate.
After Sandy was asleep on Christmas Eve, Cal said, “Come upstairs. I need some help.” With a grimace, Patty obeyed. There was a huge box on the floor of the spare room obviously containing a child’s rocking horse—with much assembly required. Patty moaned and silently helped unpack the box of springs, nuts, bolts, screws, and rockers.
Cal handed her a screwdriver. She quickly striped a screw and they both laughed.
“I see you need a refresher course in mechanics,” her daddy teased.
Cal and Patty talked a little, argued about the instructions, and even laughed some. They worked on the rocking horse, together, until nearly daybreak.
Patty managed a short nap before Sandy announced the beginning of a new day. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee greeted her as she brought her baby downstairs into the soft twinkle of ageless Christmas lights.
“Rocky” sat proudly in front of the sparsely decorated tree. Sandy’s squeal of delight announced Christmas!
Patty took a breakfast tray to her mom and opened the blinds. From the window, she saw her childhood swing hanging back on the tree with fresh new rope. Finally she understood. Her quiet, even-tempered daddy— not prone to emotional bursts of joy—had gently planned a way to show her how to live again.
She thought, “What a sly man. He could have put that silly horse together by himself in an hour.”
She went to the kitchen, poured two cups of coffee, and joined Cal and Sandy on the porch. “Merry Christmas, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Punkin.”
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