Friday, December 16, 2005

In the True Spirit of the Season

I just couldn't pass up posting this beautiful story as a reminder to slow down and just remember what it's all about:
In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies andjust 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged fromthree months to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had neverbeen much more than a presence they feared.Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway theywould scramble to hide under their beds.He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries.Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings,but no food either.If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at thattime, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until theylooked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress, loaded them intothe rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in oursmall town. No luck.The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while Itried to convince whomever would listen that I was willing to learn ordo anything. I had to have a job.Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out oftown, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to atruck stop. It was called the Big Wheel.An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out ofthe window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on thegraveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 centsan hour, and I could start that night. I raced home and called theteenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her tocome and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with herpajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a goodarrangement to her, so we made a deal.That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, weall thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the BigWheel.When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and senther home with one dollar of my tip money--fully half of what I averagedevery night. As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to mymeager wage.The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons andbegan to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and againevery morning before I could go home.One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home andfound four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, nonothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken upresidence in Indiana ? I wondered.I made a deal with the local service station. In exchange for hismounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took mea lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn'tenough. Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toysfor the kids.I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting someold toys. Then hid them in the basement so there would be something forSanta to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I wassewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants and soon they would betoo far gone to repair.On Christmas Eve the usual customers were drinking coffee in theBig Wheel. These were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a statetrooper named Joe.A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion andwere dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all justsat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then leftto get home before the sun came up.When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on Christmas morning,to my amazement, my old battered Chevy was filled full to thetop with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver'sside door, crawled inside and knee led in the front facing the back seat.Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was whole caseof little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It wasfull of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of theother boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries.There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes.There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There washole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toytrucks and one beautiful little doll.As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on themost amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. AndI will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that preciousmorning.Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And theyall hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop....THE POWER OF PRAYER. I believe that God only gives three answersto prayer:1. "Yes!"2. "Not yet."3. "I have something better in mind."


Shelleen said...

I have read this story a few times and it always brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it again.

AnneS said...

What a gorgeous story - that's wonderful! Thanks for sharing it :) Your daughters stitched piece is lovely - I'm sure she'll love it :))