The Best Christmas

The Best Christmas

The Christmas party was over. Several of the men were sitting at a table reminiscing about the Christmas days of their childhood. The conversation turned to the best Christmas of their lives. As they went around the table, they noticed one man hadn’t said anything. They asked, “Come on.. Frank, What was your best Christmas?” Frank said, “The best Christmas I ever had was when I didn’t even get a present.” The others were surprised. They had to hear the story. Frank began to talk…

“I grew up in New York. It was the great depression and we were poor. My Mother had died when I was just eight years old. My Dad had a job but he only worked two or three days a week and that was considered good. We lived in a walk up and we just barely had enough food and clothes. I was a kid and didn’t really notice.”

“My Dad was a proud man. He had one suit. He would wear that suit to work. When he came home, he would take off the jacket and sit in his chair still wearing his shirt, tie and his vest. He had this big old pocket watch that had been given to him by my mother. He would sit in his chair, the chain from watch hanging out, connected to the fob in his vest buttonhole. That watch was his proudest possession. Sometimes, I would see him, just sitting there, looking at his precious watch. I bet he was thinking of my mother.”

“One year, I was about twelve, chemistry sets were the big thing. They cost two dollars. That was big money but every kid wanted a chemistry set including me. I began to pester my Dad about it a month or so before Christmas. You know, I made all the same kid promises. I would be good. I would do my chores. I wouldn’t ask for anything else again. My dad would just say, ‘We’ll see..”

“Three days before Christmas he took me to the carts. There was this area where all the small merchants keep their street carts. They would undersell the stores and you could get a good buy. He would take me to a cart and pick out some little toy. “Son, would like something like this?” I, of course, would tell him, ‘No, I want a chemistry set.’ We tramped to nearly every cart and him showing me some toy car or toy gun, and me refusing it. I never thought that he didn’t have the money to buy a chemistry set. Finally, he said, we better go home and come back the next day.”

“All the way home, I pouted and whined about the chemistry set. I repeated the promises. I said I didn’t care if I never got another present. I had to have that chemistry set. I know now that my Dad felt guilty about being able to give me more. He probably thought he was a failure as a Father and I think he blamed himself for my mother’s death. As we were walking up the stairs, he told me, that he would see what he could do about getting me the chemistry set. That night I couldn’t even sleep. I could see myself inventing some new material. I could see the New York Times.. ‘Boy wins Nobel Prize!”

“The next day after work, my Dad took me back to the carts. On the way, I remember, he bought a loaf of bread, he was carrying it under his arm. We came to first cart and he told me to pick out the set I wanted. They were all alike, but I went through them, like I was choosing a diamond. I found the right one and I almost yelled. ‘This one. Dad!'”

“I can still see him, reaching into his pant’s pocket, to get the money. As he pulled the two dollars out, one fluttered to the ground, he bent over to pick it up and as he did, the chain fell out of his vest. The chain swung back and forth. ‘No watch.’ In a flash, I realized that my Dad had sold his watch. He sold his most precious possession to buy me a chemistry set. He sold his watch, the last thing my mother had given him, to buy me a chemistry set.”

“I grabbed his arms and I yelled, ‘No.’ I had never grabbed my Dad before and I certainly had never yelled at him. I can see him, looking at me, a strange look on his face. ‘No, Dad, you don’t have to buy me anything.’ The tears were burning in my eyes. ‘Dad, I know you love me.’ We walked away from the cart and I remember my Dad holding my hand all the way home.”

Frank looked at the men. “You know, there isn’t enough money in the world to buy that moment. You see, at that moment, I knew that my Dad loved me more than anything in the world.”

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