A Christmas to Remember
Gloria Jantzi, age 13, Moorefield
Why we like it: This story does a great job of portraying the hardships some families came through in The Great Depression. It has well-written dialogue as well, even including a different accent. It has a great giving theme as well. Lily’s family is not rich, but she still puts time and effort into helping others. This story reminds us all to help others however we can, even if we are young or poor.
Soft, sparkling snowflakes twirled lazily down from the grey winter sky as Lily Cohen trudged sadly home from school. Normally, at this time of year, she would’ve been very excited. It was almost Christmas, and now it was finally snowing! But Christmas would be different this year. With the Depression sweeping through the country, snatching away jobs and homes, there would be no money for Christmas presents of turkey this year. And that made Lily quite glum.
Arriving home from school, she met her mother in the kitchen making supper.
“Hello, sweetie. How was school?”
“Fine,” Lily replied unenthusiastically.
“Is something the matter, dear?” Mrs. Cohen asked worriedly. “Usually you’d be excited this time of year.”
“How can I be excited for Christmas when there won’t be presents, turkey, friends, or anything?” Lily asked, fighting tears.
“Oh, Lily, her mother sighed, putting her arm around Lily’s shoulders. “I know it’s just not the same this year, and I don’t like it any more than you do. But let’s not forget what Christmas is all about. We’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday! I know there won’t be piles of presents and delicious food, but let’s all pull together and make this a Christmas to remember! There’s some sugar I’ve been saving to make a cake, and we’ll have winter apples, and, oh, I nearly forgot! Mrs. Brown asked for your dress pattern for Mary. Would you run it over, dear, before it gets dark?”
“Sure,” Lily replied, taking the pattern and putting her coat back on.
Outside, the wind was beginning to blow furiously, sending snowflakes into her face. Lily shivered slightly and pulled her coat tighter around her before stepping out. In the way to the Brown’s, Lily stared in pity at the shacks that had been constructed by unfortunate families who had to leave their homes. How would they ever stay warm? Where would they go for the winter? As she thought about her own cozy house, her mother’s words popped into her mind. Remember? We’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday… let’s pull together and make this a Christmas to remember… What would Jesus want her to do to celebrate His birthday?
After Lily delivered the pattern, she hurried back home again to get started on her idea. The Riley’s, a family with two little girls and a new baby, lived in one of those shacks. Surely they would be glad for some extra food. They likely didn’t have enough.
I could make rag dolls of mittens for the little girls for Christmas! Lily thought excitedly. She still had some yarn and fabric scraps left. And a few buttons. So she got to work. Over the next few days, she made two little rag dolls with button eyes and yarn hair, and three small pairs of mittens. On Christmas Eve she finished, and stuffed them in a corner of her closet to wait for morning.
Downstairs, Mrs. Cohen was baking a cake, and the whole house was filled with the delicious aroma.
“Mother,” Lily began, timidly.
“Yes, dear?” her mother replied cheerfully. “What is it?”
“Well, you know the Riley’s had to leave their home a few months ago. I was wondering we could share some of our Christmas meal with them tomorrow. We don’t have much, but we do have more than they do.”
“Why, lily, I think that’s a wonderful idea,” her mother smiled.
So, the next morning, Lily and her little brother Paul carefully wrapped up the presents and food and put them in Paul’s red wagon. Large snowflakes were drifting down, and the wind had stopped. The world looked lovely.
Arriving at the Riley’s shack, Lily timidly knocked at the door. Mrs. Riley cautiously opened it and peered out. “Oh, it’s you, Lily,” she said kindly. “And little Paul, too. Come in!”
Lily and Paul stepped inside the dim room and looked about in wonder. A small fire was giving off a bit of heat, but the room still felt cool, and it was dirty. A tiny baby boy lay on a pile of blankets in the corner. In the middle of the room stood a small wooden table with a few cracked plates on it. The little girls, wrapped in large shawls, stood staring at Lily and Paul with sad brown eyes. Lily smiled and stepped to the table with her packages. “We brought a little food and things for your Christmas dinner,” Lily said, placing the bread, sausage, honey, and milk on the table. “It’s not very much, but-“
Oh, honey!” Mrs. Riley broke in, wiping away tears. “You’re a Godsend I do believe! I was just wonderin’ what I could feed the young’uns, and my man’s gone out to look for something, and oh!-“ she exclaimed in delight as Lily presented the dolls and mittens to the little girls. “It’s just too much!”
“No, No, Mrs. Riley,” Lily replied. “I just wish it could be more. Have a wonderful Christmas!”
“You too, dears, you too!” Mrs. Riley replied, and thanked them over and over again.
Even though the little girls were too shy to say thank-you, their shining eyes were thanks enough. And as Lily and Paul pulled their wagon back home to where Mama’s delicious spice cake was waiting, Lily knew it would truly be a Christmas to remember.