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The Joy of Giving by H. Schussman

The Joy of Giving
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I was raised a poor kid, but I didn’t know we were so poor until I was in my teens. Born in a town too small to have a hospital, as the fourth child to parents who couldn’t afford the first three, I thought we were the richest family around. We moved three times before I turned five, finally settling in the ancestral home of the Schussman’s. It was a rambling two-story old place set on the upper slope by the highway.
Christmas meant creativity to my mom. Invention is the mother of necessity, or creativity is the mother of poverty. We worked for weeks to create gifts for each other from cast off clothes and toys, dragging various items in from the cold foggy yard. They always had a fire in the family room, but the oven was in the kitchen… tough choice. When Pop was home we gathered in the family room, otherwise we were clumped in the kitchen.
On Christmas Eve, Pop hung a sheet from the ceiling, blocking our view of the scraggly Christmas tree loaded with handmade ornaments. Our gifts to each other were already under the boughs, but there were no presents from our parents yet. How could there be? Santa hadn’t come yet! Somehow we all waited for Santa Claus, with zero expectation of there being a big chubby white bearded man sneaking into our house. I knew it was our parents and appreciated Christmas the more because of that knowledge.
Christmas morning dawned with the usual thrill of anticipation, but my father had a tradition that we hated. We had to do all of our chores and eat breakfast, before the tree could be revealed. Torture! Never did the house get cleaned so quickly as it was on Christmas morning. Mom was kind enough to make a small breakfast, saving the annual cinnamon rolls for after the gifts were opened.
Pop lined us up, youngest to oldest, or oldest to youngest, tallest to shortest, etc… He changed it every year. Then he would dramatically yank the sheet down and reveal the tree with new presents under it. We raced over to inspect the wrapped gifts, determining which one was our own. We’d form a half circle on the floor, and Pop would give us a gift to open, one at a time. From my folks we always got a pair of shoes, a jacket, homemade dresses for the girls and slacks for my brother. I can still remember being more excited when my siblings opened the gift I’d made for them, than I was with my own gifts.
Mom had taught us that giving was better than receiving… the greatest gift given to me as a child.
Thanks for dropping by to read this true Christmas story!