Fascinated, John Tyler turned the yellowed envelope over in his hand. In his many years as a postman, he had never seen anything like it. Clearly, it was a Christmas card. Tuberculosis Christmas seals covered the back flap; instead of a return address, the sender had simply written, “Joy to the World”. The postmark was faded, but the month and year were discernible – December, 1944; the card was as old as John.
He marveled at how the card had slipped behind an old sorting bin at the post office and had not been discovered until now, some fifty years later, when the bin was torn down. What intrigued him more was a hunch he had about the addressee – Miss Joy Pritchard.
Having lived in the small town of Elwood all his life, John knew practically everybody and their families. He guessed the card was meant for Lori Samson’s mother, Joy, since Lori’s middle name was “Pritchard”, her mother’s maiden name.
It makes sense, John thought as he drove to the old Pritchard residence. He and Lori had attended school together; he never met her mother, but Lori had shared a story – something about her mother as a rebellious teenager running off with a salesman and then being abandoned. Destitute and heartbroken, she returned to Elwood with Lori. Her widowed father forgave her and took them in to live with him.
John knew, too, about other grief in their lives over the years. Lori’s grandfather died when she was ten and her mother had worked hard to raise her and send her to college. Lori married and, for a time, all seemed well. But, tragedy struck again. Her mother contracted a debilitating disease and a fatal heart attack claimed her husband, so Lori returned to Elwood to care for her mother.
Perhaps the mysterious card will bring good news, he thought as he pulled into the driveway.
An elderly woman sat in a rocking chair on the porch. Taking a deep breath, John made his way up the walk.
“Morning, Mr. Postman,” the woman smiled. “Is this a special delivery?”
“Indeed, it is, if you are. . .were Miss Joy Pritchard.”
The smile faded. Her blue eyes revealed a mixture of curiosity and surprise as her gaze fell upon the envelope.
“Is that a three-cent stamp?”
“Yes, ma’am. It appears to be a Christmas card. Are you Miss Pritchard?”
“Does it have a date on it?” Her eyes widened.
“Yes, ma’am, December, 1944 - now, if you’re Miss Joy. . .”
“Oh, dear, oh, dear - he did send it!” She cried, covering her face with her hands and rocking back and forth.
John need not ask again. He put one hand on her shoulder and placed the card gently on her lap. Her fingers touched the card tenderly. She turned it over carefully as if she were turning the reality of it over in her mind.
“Joy to the World,” she whispered. “Would you open it?”
John slit the envelope open and handed it back. Her quivering fingers brought forth the card; she clutched it against her chest as if it were a long lost treasure.
“Beloved Charlie. It’s from my husband. I never thought I’d hear from him again.”
John was full of questions, but he waited.
“Charlie and I eloped in 1944 after he was drafted, because my father wouldn’t sign papers for me to marry. I became pregnant and Charlie was shipping out. He promised to send money, so I could go to his grandmother’s in Columbus and stay until he returned. He was to put it in a Christmas card so my father wouldn’t suspect. When I didn’t get the card, I became desperate. A salesman offered to take me to Charlie’s grandmother’s, but he didn’t, he. . .,”
She sighed as tears began spilling down the crevices of her face. “After the baby came, he left and I came back home.”
With that she opened the card to reveal two $20 bills!
She closed her eyes and moaned. “Oh, Charlie, you were faithful and I wasn’t.”
“What happened to Charlie?”
“He was killed in the war.”
“I’m so sorry. . .does your daughter know?”
“Oh, yes. This will be her first Christmas card from her father, too.”
She bowed her head. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing glad tidings so long ago and, thank you,” she looked at John, “for bringing glad tidings again to me.”
“Joy to the world,” John smiled, “and especially to you.”
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