Our daughter was a 2-month-old baby and had recently come home from the hospital that Christmas. My husband and I had a lot of hospital debt because she was premature, and we were students who also worked. I also had to quit my job because my daughter had serious health issues and I was her carer. She wasn’t medically eligible for daycare, even in a hospital setting. There really wasn’t money for any Christmas festivities that year. We were paying much of our income to hospital bills. We were also across the nation from our families. It was too far and too expensive to make a holiday visit. We were planning a simple meal on Christmas Day. We were told to not take the baby to church because there, too many people would come sick, with a cold or flu. My husband had offered to work on Christmas, too. We really needed the income.
On Dec. 23rd, our apartment neighbor stopped by to throw out his Christmas tree before he left to go back home and begin his practice. It was a 5-foot tree from Walgreens. This was an artificial tree that resembled a bottle brush. Our neighbor had bought it when he began his residency and had stored it in a closet. It was decorated with white twinkle lights, plastic balls and tinsel. To me the tree was beautiful. I made a star for the tree from cardboard and tin foil and put it at the top of the tree. We used that tree each Christmas for the four years that we lived there.
Our neighbor brought the tree in and set it up in our living room. He said he might as well throw it away right there, instead of in the dumpster. I had worked on the pediatric floor at the hospital where he had completed his residency. He would have coffee at the pediatric ward desk each day. He was a great pediatrician and a kindly person. He also left two boxes of his pantry food that he said he didn’t want to move. There were spices, including vanilla, chocolate chips, coffee, tea, dried milk, flour, sugar, canned goods, cereal, rice, dried potatoes, marshmallows, cocoa, pasta and more. He also left cheese, condiments, frozen meat, other food and fruit from his refrigerator. It was an amazing amount of food. My pantry shelves were stuffed. I could now bake for the holidays.
Two women who also worked with me in pediatrics at the hospital lived upstairs from us. They were retired army nurses who still were working as nurses at a public hospital. They were great neighbors. They worked neonatal and my daughter had spent several weeks in their unit. A bit after my physician neighbor left, I had a knock on the door and these neighbors were at the door. They had also knitted my baby a shawl, hat and sweater in pink yarn. I so appreciated their generosity and kindness. The baby outfit was beautiful. A few moments after they left the phone rang and the grocer was on the line. He said I had won a canned ham from the holiday drawing at his store and that I should stop by the grocery to pick up the ham by 3 pm the next day, Christmas Eve. I was so thrilled. Everything was so unexpected and lovely.
When my husband came home that evening, I bundled my daughter in her bunting and we put her in the car seat. I noticed a stuffed toy bear in the backseat. My husband said he won it and a box of chocolates in a raffle at the gas station. How lucky and odd was that. We had never won a raffle before. We then drove to the grocery and were given the ham. I bought yams and candy canes too. I used the candy canes as extra decorations on the tree that could be a sweet treat too.
The grocer also had inexpensive Christmas toys at 75 percent off the price. He said he liked to get rid of the Christmas things quickly. He also gave me a bag of ripe apples. He’d hand out to customers over-ripe produce instead of throwing it away. He was a very kind man. I also bought a cloth baby doll and a rattle for my daughter. Santa would come for her with the bear, dolly and rattle. We would have that Christmas Day dinner too.
It was snowing and blowing snow when we got back to the car. We drove back home without stopping for any other errands. There was already snow in front of our apartment door. I rolled up rugs to keep snow from blowing under the door in these types of storms. Sticking out of the snow in front of our door was a twenty-dollar bill. Someone had written on it, Merry Christmas, from Santa Claus. It was always a mystery on how it got there. None of my neighbors knew anything about it.
We had a great Christmas Eve making pasta, Christmas cookies, fudge, and two apple cobblers for Christmas Day. I gave my neighbors, the nurses, a tray of homemade cookies and candy and an apple cobbler for them to take to share at work. They also were working at the hospital Christmas Day. They said that they did not leave the money at our door.
There is a pediatrician who went to practice medicine, up north, who has a heart of gold. This man’s kindness and generosity given to a young family so long ago will never be forgotten. I never got to thank Santa Claus for that twenty-dollar gift on our doorstep in the snow.
Why was this the best Christmas? I found such kindness, generosity and spirit of Christmas giving in others that Christmas. There have been many Christmases since then. My baby daughter is now a mother of three and an attorney. We have a lovely life, yet that Christmas will always be fondly remembered as a special time, so very long ago.
-- Quora, Cheryl Kesler