In 1962, when I was four, we moved from the big city to a small white clapboard sided farmhouse near Buford, Ohio. Our moving to the country was so daddy could follow his dream—owning a farm—and now he owned a 100-acre farm.
Several years later, in 1966, when I was eight, a week or so before Christmas, besides the many gifts under the tree with my name on them, there appeared a white envelope with my name on it, tucked in the tree branches behind the hanging silver icicles that Debbie and I had placed meticulously—one by one as mommy had instructed. I was surprised to see it and looked at it many times. There was no other envelope other than mine, so I felt pretty special. But, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it could be. I was stumped. Yet, the anticipation of finding out what it was made it even more exciting.
That memorable night, Christmas Eve night after returning from Grandma Fender’s house, we did what we children always did, we begged Mom “to open just one gift.” Of course, Mom always said, “No. You must wait until Christmas morning.” And then we would sulk over to Dad in despair and pathetically tell him “She said no.” And then Dad would—with a big grin—very sweetly ask, “Oh, babe, can’t they open just one?” And she couldn’t deny his pleading our case or our saddened faces and would eventually give in, “OK” she’d say, “But I get to pick which gift.” And of course, we didn’t care which one, and we four little children would jump for joy and squeal with delight! And each year it was played out just the same.
Most always, as I recall, looking back, we opened our new pajamas. Mom had secretly sewn them each year while we were at school. I still remember my 2-piece pajama set with a small rounded collar and a button-up front with large white buttons on a dreamy soft yellow flannel with white and pink flowers. I loved them! Years later I realized our new jammies made our Christmas morning pictures dashing! And what better way to start the upcoming New Year than in new pajamas. I loved them. Hint: New pajamas for everyone this year!
But this year, in addition to our matching nightgowns, I asked Mom if I could open the card on the tree and she agreed. Much to my surprise, it was a subscription card to Highlights Magazine made out to Sherry Phillips. From her bedroom, she came back with my very first issue. Oh, such fun I had with older sister Debbie helping me in the picture hunt and the word searches found in each issue. I read every story, with Mom or Debbie’s help on words I didn’t know yet. And it was so exciting to get mail addressed to me. That gift kept giving all year long.
Perhaps, as I reflected many times over the years, that was the beginning of my love for reading—I do love a good book—or my liking to write and tell stories like now. I think it certainly has inspired it. I love getting mail (not bills) but books and magazines.
So, you just never know how your gift this season will impact someone’s life. Certainly, that subscription wasn’t the most expensive gift I ever received. The matching bikes for Debbie and I from Santa that year was more expensive, but nothing more precious than that Highlights Magazine subscription that year.
So, just a few weeks ago, I ordered two subscriptions for two of my grandchildren. They have issues for all ages. Their first issue is to arrive the week before Christmas. I hope they will enjoy the surprise of each issue’s arrival as I did. I hope they will be better readers because of it. I hope they will learn to “seek and you shall find” those hidden words and pictures on those search pages as well as in life. I hope they, and you too, will find love and joy in simple pleasures during these unusual times. Make the best of it.
And, thanks, to my Momma, for that special gift in the farmhouse of my—our youth! Take Joy! It’s there for the taking.