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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Dec 2010 - 0:51

The Best Gift

By Maxine Clark

Special to ASSIST News Service

FRESNO, CA (ANS) -- "May I borrow one of your skates, Willard?" I asked my eleven-year- old brother who was playing the piano.

"I was going to use them," he said, and kept on playing.

"Bob!" I called to my fifteen-year- old brother.

"No!" he yelled from the kitchen. "I want to keep my skates in good condition."

The back door closed, and Bob was on his way to his electronics shop in the back yard.

I found my eighteen-year- old brother in the garage changing spark plugs in his jalopy.

"Ted," I begged, "may I borrow one of your skates?"

"Sorry, Sis," he said. "I put my last skate on a skate coaster. "Why don't you ride that?"

"No, I want to skate."

"Maybe you'll get a pair of skates for Christmas," he said.

We both laughed. It was the end of the 1930s but our private depression was still on.

"Well," said Ted, "maybe Dad will get good tips from his mail route this year."

"Could be," I said, but I didn't think a miracle would happen.

At age nine, I wanted roller skates more than anything else in the whole world -- ball-bearing roller skates with red wheels, like the ones I had seen in our favorite store. My parents were well aware of my wish.

While I sat on the front porch to put on my one and only hand-me-down skate, Willard came out the door.

"Here," he said, handing me a skate. "You can borrow mine, but I need it this afternoon."


While fastening the ankle straps, I wondered what my brother Stanley would get for Christmas if he were here -- probably not skates.

I hurried across the street and up six houses to play with Diane*.

We took turns skating. We forgot the rest of the world while we laughed and skated.

In the middle of our fun, Diane's mother stepped outside. "Please don't skate in front of the house," she said. "The baby is very ill, and the noise bothers him,"

I understood. About four years earlier, Stanley was our sick baby. He was five months old when he died. I wanted Diane to hope for the best, so I didn't tell her about Stanley.

On Christmas morning, after breakfast, our family gathered around the tree. There were many presents under it. They would be inexpensive or homemade gifts, but they would be gifts of love.

My father read a portion of the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, and prayed a prayer of thanks.

He passed the first gift to my mother, and passed the rest of the gifts one at a time.

When four shoebox size gifts remained, my father handed one to each of my brothers and to me. "You may open these at the same time," he said, "but wait until I say so."

He winked at Mama, and then said "Go!"

Ted tore his box open first . . . Skates! Shiny new ones! I thought Bob's, Willard's, and my gifts would be the same--and they were!

My skates had red wheels, and were the most beautiful skates I had ever

seen. I did not have to share them or give them up for a skate coaster. They were just only mine, and I loved them. I nearly cried as I hugged Mama, Daddy, and Grandma and thanked them.

I grabbed my heavy red sweater, and hurried outside to put on my new skates. I adjusted the skates to fit my brown Oxfords, buckled the straps, tightened the clamps, and smoothed the wrinkles from my long stockings. I wore the skate key on a string around my neck. I flipped my blondish curls from under the string, and sailed off to catch up with my brothers.

The sound of roller skates click-clacking on the sidewalk attracted other skaters, and several boys joined our party. We skated through the neighborhood the rest of the morning.

After dinner and dishes, I skated to Diane's house to show her my prized possessions.

I found Diane sitting on her front steps, elbows on her knees, and chin in her hands. She wore a thin blue coat--much too thin for the weather. Her straight brown hair flew whichever way the cold wind decided to toss it.

I showed her my skates. "See what I got for Christmas!"

Her blue eyes lit up and she almost smiled.

"What did you get for Christmas?" I asked.

"We didn't have a Christmas," she replied sadly.

"No Christmas?"

"My parents spent all their money on doctor bills and hospital bills, but," she

brightened and sat up straight, "We will have a Christmas when the baby gets well."

'When the baby gets well' . . . echoed through my thoughts. I hoped he did.

"I'm sorry," I said, patting her shoulder. "My baby brother was sick once. I know how you feel."

I remembered how our family worried about Stanley, and the sadness we all felt. After Stanley passed away, Mama said her arms felt empty, and she cried alone in her room. I hoped Diane's family would not have to experience that sadness.

"Let's skate," I suggested, trying to be cheerful. "We can take turns on my skates."

"Your new ones?"

"My new ones!"

"All right," Diane said, "but we can't go far. My parents might need me to care for my brothers Tommy* and Jimmy* in case they have to take the baby to the hospital again."

Diane smiled as she fastened the skate straps around her white bobby socks. She tightened the clamps against her Mary Jane's, and for a few exhilarating moments enjoyed gliding up and down the sidewalk. "I like these skates," she said.

After she took off the skates, she resumed her sad expression. I wished I could do something to make her happy.

During the next few days we spent time together--mostly skating.

Once we skated together -- one skate on her right foot, the other skate on my left foot, our arms around each other's waist, and pushing with the foot without a skate. We tried not to be too noisy near her house.

Diane needed something more to do than to sit and wait for her mother to call. If she had her own skates, she could skate whenever she wanted . . . or at least she could look at them and touch them.

At home I found Mama in the kitchen.

"Mama," I questioned cautiously, "What would you say if I gave my new skates to Diane? Don't get me wrong," I quickly added. "I like my skates very much, and I thank you for them, but Diane needs something to cheer her up. Her baby brother is sick. Besides, Diane's family did not get any Christmas gifts."

"It's up to you, Dear, they're yours," said Mama, as she peeled potatoes for supper. "I think it would be a very nice thing to do, but remember, we might not be able to buy you another pair."

It had been five years since I received a brand new pair. I loved my skates, but I also wanted to put some fun into Diane's life.

The next afternoon I went over to her house, as usual. Diane and I took turns on my skates. On her third turn, I hung my skate key around her neck. She looked puzzled.

"You will have it with you in case you need it," I said.

She skated a few minutes, and while the skates were still on her shoes, I made an excuse to go home.

"Your skates!" Diane shouted. "Come get your skates!"

"You may borrow them!" I shouted back, and kept on walking.

"I can't do that! We might move, and I would not be able to return them!"

I went back and told her what I wanted to tell her in the first place.

"You may have my skates, Diane. We have skates at our house, and now you have a pair, too. Please keep them. I want you to have them."

"I can't. My mother won't let me."

"Please, Diane," I insisted. "The skates are my Christmas gift to you."

"Well . . . if they are a Christmas gift, then I can accept them. Thank You." Her smile was as sunshiny as the first day of spring, and so was my heart.

"I'll share them with my brothers," she said.

We hugged and said "Good-bye."

A few weeks later, Diane's family did move; and no, I never received another pair of skates. A much greater gift was mine that Christmas season -- the gift of joy. The joy of giving.

My parents taught unselfishness, and that the other person was more important than I was. I didn't know that giving would bring so much joy, and that joy could be so overwhelming.

*Not their real names.

____________ _________ _________ _________ ________

Maxine Clark is a freelance writer who has been published on church bulletin covers, in Sunday school take-home papers, and now a book: 'Seasons of Joy.' She and her husband live in Fresno, CA.

Posts : 61485
Join date : 2008-10-25
Age : 74
Location : Wales UK


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