December 22, 1999
It’s the Small Gifts that Count
by Ira Smith
Three days before Christmas, a shiny black ¾-ton truck came up the driveway. A slim woman stepped out. As she walked toward me, I immediately noticed her jaunty, bright red and white Xmas toque, with its tassel dangling from the bent over top – a total mismatch with the rest of her attire.
“Wow, I love that hat!” I shouted. She smiled and replied, “Your wife called me to come and get a TV, and that put me into the Christmas spirit.”
She was close now for me to see the hard life etched on her face. “Where are you from,” I asked. “I came from Georgia,” she said, “I came here to see some snow.” I felt there was a more compelling reason. As we approached the carport, she explained: “My name is Emily; Jenny would have brought me over, but she didn’t think she could get a TV in her car. So, I borrowed my friend’s truck.”
I led her into our basement to look at our assortment of donated TVs. She picked out a nice looking 10inch colored – the smallest in the room. “You can have any one you want,” I said, “How about this big one over here?” Emily shook her head, “No thanks, I really don’t need a big one.” I plugged in the small one and then a 12-incher beside it. They both worked OK, but she insisted on the smaller.
“Do you have a tree?” I inquired. “No, I’m limited by my SSI.” I invited her up to our living room where our austere 8-foot white pine tree waited to be trimmed. “In past years I would tape the trunks of three pine trees together to create a fuller appearance, but this year, I have been too busy to fuss that much.” “Your tree is beautiful!” Emily whispered.
“Let’s go out into the back yard and get you one!” By then my friend, Ben, had joined us. I introduced them and out the patio door we went. I grabbed my small bow saw hanging in the pool shed and the three of us trudged off into the woods to find her a tree. “You can have any one you want,” I said, with the wave of my hand. “How about this big one over here?” Emily shook her head, “No thanks, I really don’t need a big one.” She pointed to a little 2-footer, “That one is big enough.” We’ll put three little ones together,” I said. So I cut one 2-footer pine, then another, then another. Ben helped me make one tree out of three, carefully positioning their little branches to give a full appearance. While I held them, Ben taped the triad of slender trunks and then I waved the result above me, triumphantly! Tears ran down Emily’s face.
Back in the basement, I wanted to find her a tree stand, but realized I did not have one small enough. Emily said, “No problem, a coffee can will do.” On the way out of the basement, my wife, Barbara, handed Emily a plastic shopping bag full of tree trimmings.
Out in the carport, she teared up again; this lonely woman from Georgia hugged Ben then she hugged me. “You have made my Christmas!” she cried, as she turned toward the shiny black ¾-ton truck with her 10-inch TV under one arm, her 2-foot Christmas tree and bag of trimmings under the other, and her jaunty, bright red and white toque with its tassel dangling from the bent over top.