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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Holiday Hop: The Final Gift

Aren't the holidays wonderful! So many parties and family events, and the decorations are so beautiful. I've had a great Christmas already. On Sunday, my family got together to paint miniature houses. The results ranged from the creative to the hysterically funny, but we all laughed and had the best time ever. I'll post a few pics for you throughout the post.

But there were a few missing faces around the table where we were working. During the holidays I always miss my dad who died a few years ago. He loved his family so much that he thought of a way to give us one final gift after his death. This is the way it was.


Okay, I admit it; I was always a daddy’s girl. My daddy was the first person I ever told a story to. I couldn’t write at the time, I hadn’t even started school yet, so I dictated the story to him, and he wrote it down for me. After he died I found that story written in pencil on notebook paper safely packed away in the cedar chest where he kept important papers.


He used to work the second shift and didn’t get home until eleven. I remember begging to stay up until he came home. Sometimes Mama would let me. When she did Daddy and I would watch the late news together while he ate a fried egg sandwich. He always shared with me. I don’t even like eggs, but sharing one with Daddy made it tasty.

Daddy also gave me a marvelous gift when I was eleven. I was horse crazy, but my mother was afraid for me to have a horse in case I should get hurt. Daddy talked her into it, and one icy Christmas morning I got a beautiful palomino mare from Santa.

Years later after I got married and moved to another state I was washing dishes one morning and looked out the window when a car stopped in my driveway. It looked like Daddy’s car, but what would he be doing at my house on a workday? He said he missed me and thought he’d take a day off to drive up and see me.

When I had my first child Daddy and Mama went crazy over him, especially Daddy. After a family of girls I expect that little boy did thrill him. That little boy was Daddy’s best man at his second wedding. My mother died young.


The last Christmas Daddy was alive he baked a fruit cake to bring to my house for Christmas dinner. I know what you’re thinking: fruit cake. Daddy loved to bake. If you’d ever eaten his fruit cake you wouldn’t turn your nose up at it.

Anyway, he only brought half of the cake. He said, “I decided to freeze half of it for you to have next year. I don’t think I’ll be here.”

Everyone pooh poohed him, but Daddy was right. He died in March of the following year.
As Christmas rolled around my stepmother said, “We still have the fruit cake that David baked. I’ll bring it.”

Those words struck terror into my heart. How could we eat the last thing my father baked? Once it was gone there would never be any more. The cherries and nuts that decorated the top had been placed there by his own hands in a pattern of his own design. It wasn’t right to eat it!


But on the other hand, how could we not enjoy it as he had wished us to do? Wasn’t that why he cut it in half the previous Christmas?

I went back and forth in my mind for several weeks, but the issue was decided a week before Christmas. The cemetery in our community hosts a remembrance ceremony right before Christmas each year. They put candles in white paper bags on each grave, and after playing a carol and having a prayer, relatives of the dead light candles in remembrance of their loved ones.

My heart felt like a lump of ice in my chest as I joined my stepmother at the cemetery. This was the first Christmas without my father, and it had cast a shadow over my holiday. As we lighted the candle on my mother and father’s grave my stepmother said, “It’s his first Christmas in Heaven.”

I thought about that for a long time. Wasn’t Daddy’s Christmas far grander and more glorious that anything I could imagine? Wasn’t he singing with the angel choir as all of Heaven celebrated the birth of our Lord?


I looked at that candle, and for the first time since March I felt something other than loss. I felt grateful for having had such a wonderful parent, and even though we're parted for a while, one day we’ll meet again. When we do, I intend to tell him how much I enjoyed that last fruitcake.


I'm giving away one copy of The Captain and the Cheerleader, one copy of The Table in the Window, and one copy of Her Kind of Man. Enter to win by leaving a comment telling me one of your precious Christmas memories. 



10 comments:

Patricia Kiyono said...

What a lovely story, and such a heartwarming memory of your dad! My memory of Christmas is getting a box of gifts from my uncle in Okinawa. He and his family were our only English-speaking relatives, and the only ones who celebrated Christmas. While all our friends went to celebrate with our families, we were pretty much alone. That box helped us remember we had family too, even though they were far away.

Elaine Cantrell said...

It warms your heart, doesn't it?

Jeannie Morton said...

My favorite memory wasn't what Santa left under the tree but it was close. I can remember my daddy ( I was very much a daddys girl too. ) took me to a store in our small town, The Western Auto, the windows were decorated with beautiful lights and a tree but what caught this little girls eys was all the toys under that tree! We entered as my daddy held the heavy glass door for me and a man rushed to meet us. My daddy told me he was a friend of Santa and he worked at the store during December so he could find out what the children wanted Santa to bring them so he could tell him when he saw him before Christmas Eve. The man was very nice and he walked with us over to the girl toy section of his store and told me to pick out what I wanted and before we left he would come back over and look so he would be sure Santa got the right toys for me. I was so excited and of course everything looked amazing. I remember choosing a Black haired baby doll because I thought she looked like my Aunt Edna, a package filled with dress up pink shoes, a mink cape, a crown with pink stones, and lots of jewelry. Then I found a Barbie Doll House, a case for all the Barbie clothes I saw and a beautiful blonde Barbie and of course a very good looking Ken doll too. Finally daddy approached me and he gently said " Honey I dont think Santa can bring you EVERYTHING in the store thats for a girl because he has other little girls he has to bring toys too. " as the man working there approached from behind I heard him chuckle. I wasn't worried because I knew between my daddy, the man in charge of telling Santa, and Santa himself I was sure I would get all I had picked out. Christmas morning as I rushed to the tree I quickly realized I was right. There it was all placed around the tree by Santa himself. I sure with Santa brought us older women gifts , wouldn't it be fun to go in the stores and pick what we want and have the sales clerks quickly making notes for Santa.PS. I named my baby doll Edna, and I looked just like a Princess in my Dress Up things too!

Elaine Cantrell said...

What a lovely memory, Jeannie. We did something very similar one Christmas when I was a little girl. Those are day that we never forget. Magic ruled in those days.

Tonette said...

Yes, even when things were not great in my life, Christmas was magical. I love your stories, Elaine! Very touching about the last thing your father baked...it would have made me pause, too.
I love the houses!

Dawn said...

My favorite childhood memories involve my dad as well. One of the best things to see at Christmas was what my daddy had purchased for my mama. He never failed to surprise her with the most wonderful gifts from a fur coat to a rocking chair and many things in between. The best part was the wrapping of the present. He was always a last minute shopper and preferred to shop on Christmas eve so there was very little wrapping paper left. He made do with what was left and so the present was always wrapped in 4 or 5 different kinds of paper. Sometimes I wrap my presents with more than one kind just to remember him during Christmas. I was a daddy's girl too!

Dawn said...

My favorite childhood memories involve my dad as well. One of the best things to see at Christmas was what my daddy had purchased for my mama. He never failed to surprise her with the most wonderful gifts from a fur coat to a rocking chair and many things in between. The best part was the wrapping of the present. He was always a last minute shopper and preferred to shop on Christmas eve so there was very little wrapping paper left. He made do with what was left and so the present was always wrapped in 4 or 5 different kinds of paper. Sometimes I wrap my presents with more than one kind just to remember him during Christmas. I was a daddy's girl too!

Heare2Watts said...

Christmas 1976, we just married, had no money and he went to a pawn shop and bought us a little Black and white TV.

sawlibrarian said...

My grandmother made a creche set for my family, and I loved helping to set it out each year. She's now in Heaven, but I always think of her and childhood Christmas memories when I see that creche.

Glad you had that one last gift from your father to help you experience Christmas without him in a new way.

Joselyn Vaughn said...

It was so fun to watch the kids decorate the tree this year. They were so excited about it. I didn't have to do a thing. :-)