Christmas 01: Christmas in a Tent

[Give it an active start.] Caroline had dreaded Christmas before, but not as much as this year. Since the divorce it had become increasingly difficult to make sure her three children had a nice Christmas. That didn't mean that they got four wheelers every year, or new bikes even. It meant that they each received a few nicer gifts, and a new book since they all had their favorites. She drove home from class a little slower today because it was December 15, leaving her little time to come up with anything. It wasn't going to be easy looking at those little faces and their lists for Santa Clause, and she knew that likely nothing on the list was going to be delivered.

She had taken a new job, and the partners in the company she had gone to work for had a falling out, leaving no work for anyone they had hired. Only one paycheck for the past two and a half months had been received from them as their times had been hard too. She had taken odd jobs here and there, some paying $25 or $50 for sometimes a whole day's work. It was hard to find something that worked with her full-time school schedule. It was finals week [what does that have to do with it?], so she hoped that an opportunity to work at least a whole week before would present itself. So far nothing.

Caroline wondered how the Lord felt about being on speed dial, it seemed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. [Good] Then she remembered promises that she would be able to somehow provide if she were faithful.

"Mom, know what I want?" said Joey, her oldest at 12 years of age, the second she opened the door?"

"You want a robot to clean your room so Santa will come visit, right?" she smiled and hugged him tight so he wouldn't see the tears welling up in her eyes. A deep breath followed as she let go and winked at him.

"Mooommmm! Santa doesn't have those!" grinned Joey. [He's 12. Does he really believe in Santa?]

"Ah, well, you definitely want to take care of that room then before he sees it. Or you know what you'll get...the dreaded lump of coal." she said.

Joey laughed and went back to writing his list.

"I'll just give you the list when I'm finished." he said.

She toussled his hair as she walked by him at the table.

The younger two, Robbie now 10 and Tyler now 8, were playing trucks in the living room.

"Vroom, crash, oh no Tyler , you ran into me....vrooooooooom, vrooom, vrooooooooooooom!" said Robbie with his best motor imitation.

"Hey, you ran into me!" said Tyler .

"Now I have to get a new truck for Christmas!" he half cried.

"Boys, it's time to put the trucks up for now so we can have dinner." said Caroline.

"Do you want my list mom? I know what I want for Christmas." said Robbie

"Sure Robbie, but a little later, ok?" she said as she sat down on the floor beside him and hugged him.

About that time Tyler took full advantage of the dog pile opportunity and threw his arms around his mom and Robbie's necks tipping everyone over.

"I want lots of new trucks for Christmas, Mom, and a BB gun." Tyler said.

They all laughed and wrestled for a minute. She felt the tears welling up again though, so she cut the dog pile short and went in to the kitchen to make dinner.

She went through the mail and found a bill from the dentist. They were sending her to collections if she didn't pay $25 on it before December 20th. She had $25 dollars, three kids to buy Christmas for, and no prospect of making money before then. She would have to deal with collections she thought.

This didn't seem like it was going as promised. She was taking her children to church, fulfilling her calling, teaching them at home, and the world was still falling apart.

The very second she opened her eyes in the mornings, she prayed to find a way to take care of her obligations and provide for her family. The $25 dollars wasn't going to cover any type of Christmas. What if they needed a gallon of milk sooner than she planned? She had gone without eating much for quite a while to make sure her children had food. They didn't know that. They needed to know they were loved and that life is good. Days filled with worry went by.

On December 21st, her friend called. She had confided most things in her over the years, but this particular thing she hadn't.

"Caroline, it's me, how are you? I have been trying to reach you for days." said Rebecca.

"Oh, I've been very busy with the kids and school. How are you?" she asked.

"Doing well. I went to my company Christmas party last night, and I won a tent as a door prize. Can you imagine me using a tent?" Rebecca laughed.

They bothed laughed for a moment, and Caroline said, "Now that you mention it, no."

"So I was wondering if you could use it. Maybe you could give it to the boys for Christmas. It seems like you said they didn't have one last summer when you went camping." Rebecca added.

"That would be so great. They will love it." Caroline said.

"Oh, and it's not from me to them, it's from you or Santa, or however you want to do that." said Rebecca.

At that point she knew she thought maybe she had been a little more transparent than she thought about their situation. [awkward] Rebecca would drop the tent off the next day.

Caroline knew that the tent was going to be the main gift at that point, and that it could come from Santa, and all would be well. She began searching for things that went with a tent that she could add to it to make Christmas a little more complete.

She noticed advertisements for fly tying classes at a local sporting good shop. She could make certificates for a class for each of the boys, and did so. They could officially sign up after the first of January, but the certificates could be part of Christmas under the tree.

She went shopping the next day at the sporting goods store and found some inexpensive camping gear the boys would enjoy.

Christmas Eve came, and her parents had asked if they would spend the night and have Christmas morning there. [Where? It's not clear who's staying at whose house.] Reluctantly she agreed. The tree wasn't going to be very full this year, and she really didn't want everyone else to know that.

After the boys were tucked into bed, and her parents went to bed, she sat out in the living room and cried. There just wasn't much under there. There was a tent and three little presents each, including the gift certificates for the classes. Then she had an idea. She got the tent out of the case and set it up in the living room. It filled the area in front of the tree up nicely, looking like there were more presents. Then she decided she would make a treasure hunt for the boys from the bedroom to the tent.

It's about 3 a.m. at this point, but she got on her mom's computer and made paper fish, printed them out, colored them green and wrote clues on them to help the boys find Christmas. All of the presents would be hidden inside the zipped-up tent.

She made the trail, left flashlights by the first fish and went to bed. At about 6:00 a.m. she awoke to delighted squeals. The boys had found the flashlights and were on the hunt for Christmas. She hoped they would stay excited through the end of the trail. They had a great time, and when it was time to open the tent to find the other presents, they were ecstatic to end up in a tent in the living room!

This was a great Christmas after all. Caroline cried a little as she watched the boys have so much fun with not much under the tree. They then read the Christmas story and talked about the true meaning of Christmas. The boys thought they had the best one ever--especially since they could all stay in the tent all day. After all, the baby Jesus was born in a stable. They could spend Christmas in a tent.

She remembered how she had been promised that she would be able to take care of her family if she was faithful, and it didn't necessarily mean she would have more money to help. She came to realize that it could mean receiving blessings through other people to help her do this, and to help her find the true meaning of Christmas for her family in a very unexpected way. That it's about love and being together. Even if it's in a tent.

Watch out for typos, sentence structure. You change tenses a few times. Parts of the story are not really clear and you dropped a few things. Is she in school? Robbie keeps asking about the list, but Mom never follows up with that. Are her parents at her house or is she at their house? Where are her parents on Christmas morning? They went to bed and disappeared from the story. Do more showing of the events. Get the senses involved. Tighten up the writing, cutting the unnecessary and repetitive parts. Play up the miracle of her friend calling with the tent and how that was an answer to her prayers. I like the idea of the treasure hunt, but you need a reason for why the clues were on fish. I also like the tent inside the house idea.

What I liked best: Setting up the tent in the living room.

Magazine ready? Not yet.


Anonymous said...

I vote Christmas in a Tent.

Anonymous said...

A sweet story that probably a lot of parents can relate in some degree to. I would like to vote for this one.