Friday, December 19, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: A young girl’s best Christmas ever; a daughter’s gift to mom

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 12/20/2013

When Nan Rockey was 9 years old, she was sure she was going to have the worst Christmas ever. But today she remembers that Christmas as the best of her life, and she shares her story, “From Worst to Best,” in our most recent Christmas book.

Nan and her family had just moved from Los Angeles to “a completely invisible” town in Ohio. They were living with a relative while Nan’s father tried to find work. Nan was also fighting a rare blood disease and was frequently hospitalized. When she was able to go to school, she kept to herself since she didn’t know her new classmates.

When Nan Rockey was 9 years old, she was sure she was going to have the worst Christmas ever. But today she remembers that Christmas as the best of her life, and she shares her story, “From Worst to Best,” in our most recent Christmas book.

Nan and her family had just moved from Los Angeles to “a completely invisible” town in Ohio. They were living with a relative while Nan’s father tried to find work. Nan was also fighting a rare blood disease and was frequently hospitalized. When she was able to go to school, she kept to herself since she didn’t know her new classmates.

When Nan and her classmates prepared for the class Christmas party, Nan cut paper snowflakes by herself instead of hanging garlands with the other children. Nan’s teacher looked on concerned; she was always trying to help Nan make new friends.

By the day of the holiday party, Nan was bedridden, recovering from an operation. Her dad picked up her homework for her every day, which helped her fight the boredom. On the last day of classes, her dad came back with a VHS tape. He put it in the VCR and an image flickered onto the screen. It was Nan’s classroom. Her teacher appeared on screen and explained that if Nan couldn’t make it to the party, then the party would have to come to her.

“The camera panned back to my peers who were holding up a bright yellow sign with ‘Get Better Soon’ scrawled in crayon,” Nan wrote. Then each of Nan’s classmates approached the camera and delivered a message, saying “uplifting words, wishing me a Merry Christmas, asking if I would play with them when I came back. I was shocked that I was cared for by people I barely knew.”

That realization changed Christmas for her. Today she doesn’t remember what gifts she received, whether it snowed that year or even how the rest of her recovery went. “What I do remember,” she wrote, “is that the Christmas when I was 9 years old remains the greatest I have ever had.”

•••

The magic of Christmas can come in the smallest packages. That’s what Malinda Dunlap Fillingim reminds us in her story “Quarters of Hope,” published in our book on the magical relationship between mothers and daughters.

Malinda wrote that her daughters, Hope and Hannah, have been blessed in many ways. They have “loving parents, keen intellect, great humor, athletic abilities and beauty — inwardly and outwardly.” The only thing “they have never had in abundance is money.”

Malinda and her husband are ministers and have never had substantial incomes. Their daughters have worn secondhand clothing and have gone without many possessions their peers enjoyed when they were growing up. But Malinda is sure they’re no worse off for it. “In fact,” she wrote, “I think they are more appreciative and well rounded because their feelings of worth do not come from external things.” They may also have developed a sense of what makes a great gift, at whatever price.

When Malinda’s daughter Hope was very young, she decided she wanted to get her mother a Christmas gift all by herself, but she didn’t have any money to do so. Money had been tight that year for the family, to the point that Malinda had given up her newspaper subscription. Reading the newspaper was one of Malinda’s great pleasures, so she’d taken to picking up free ones where she could. She and Hope often read them together.

To raise money for her mother’s gift, Hope visited neighbors asking to do minor chores for spare change. On Christmas morning, she presented her mother with a tiny package. Not much bigger than a postage stamp, the gift was wrapped in festive paper and carefully sealed with several layers of tape. Hope appeared quite pleased with herself as her mother assessed the tiny gift. Malinda peeled back the wrapping and found two quarters inside. “It’s for a newspaper,” Hope said. “We can get one fresh from the machine!” “I held those precious quarters in my hand,” Malinda wrote, “and knew then that I was a very rich woman.”

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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