It was Christmas Eve, 1969. My sister Lisa and I were huddled together in the dark room we shared, terrified.
“Why aren’t you asleep?!” I whispered harshly.
“Why aren’t you asleep?!” she answered, unable to hide the fear in her hushed voice.
“I think I heard something on the roof,” I said, tears starting to form. “Do you think he’ll pass us by if we can’t go to sleep in time?”
“Yes, Ann-Marie,” Lisa responded despondently. “Yes, he will…”
The last thing I remembered that night was squinching my eyes so tightly together I saw electrical-like sparks mixed with blackness. Thinking back, rather than falling asleep I probably passed out from the strange combination of exuberant excitement and deadly fear. Nevertheless, we did it! We managed to fall asleep and were awakened soon after by the muted light of the morning Christmas sun, slowly rising through our pink curtains.
As we shoved our feet into our matching fuzzy blue house shoes, Lisa and I were filled with the anticipation of seeing our Christmas tree laden with all the toys we’d asked for in our letters to Santa Claus. That year I had asked Santa for a doll I’d seen in our local drug store. She was simply beautiful with long, curly blonde hair and a blue polka-dot dress. But most of all, and what separated her from just my regular, every-day dolls to one of extraordinary, exquisite specialness, was that she had a pair of sunglasses! Those sunglasses would make her especially unique amongst all my other non-sunglassed dolls.
So finally, a full year of being on our best behavior (or at least the past few months prior) had paid off and my sister and I made it to Christmas morning!
And yet, just as Lisa and I were about to go to our parent’s room to wake them up, I remember being filled with doubt. What if I didn’t get any presents at all? What if Santa knew I hadn’t exactly been a ‘perfect’ little girl that year? In fact, I had been a major brat and it seemed I’d done more ‘bad’ than ‘good’. What if Santa knew I’d pinched Monica Lee for no reason other than the fact that she had more friends than me? What if he knew I’d stolen candy out of my teacher’s desk because she only gave it to students with good math grades (meaning I never got any)? Yes, I’d confessed that particular crime to my mother, who made me use my allowance to buy my teacher an entire bag of candy for her and apologize–but still…
Holding hands, Lisa and I slowly approached our living room. Other than the twinkling of hundreds of Christmas lights on our tree, the room was still quite dark. As our eyes adjusted, every trace of doubt disappeared as we both saw our ‘Santa gifts’ under the tree. All our Christmas wishes had been granted!
And yes, there she was—the doll from the drug store, resplendent in her lovely polka-dot dress and those amazingly cool, otherworldly sunglasses. Lisa was in a frenzy of her own, squealing with every ‘find’ on her Christmas list.
That Christmas morning was the first time I remember really taking notice of my surroundings. I watched my parents’ happy faces as they unwrapped their presents, and felt joy as my sister unwrapped hers. Mostly I remember feeling grateful, recognizing the many blessings we shared as a family. And I said a silent prayer that morning, thanking God for bringing His son, Jesus, into the world for all of us. God had been so good to us—the least I could do was to live my life trying to be the best I could be for Him.
After all the presents had been opened and Mom was in the kitchen preparing lunch, I lay down under the tree and looked up at all the twinkling lights and Christmas ornaments. I saw my reflection in a shiny gold Christmas ball, with my sunglass-clad doll next to me, and I smiled. My front tooth was still missing. I looked goofy. I wasn’t perfect—far from it. But that Christmas morning I learned a lesson that I’ve carried with me throughout my life: All we can do is our very best—and God will take care of the rest.
(By the way, within the first hour of playing with my doll those glorious sunglasses fell off her face and…broke. Into many unfixable pieces. Unfortunately in 1969 Superglue hadn’t been invented yet so my now not-so-special doll ended up getting piled up with the rest of my regular dolls, loved completely, but yeah…she was never quite as ‘cool’ again…)