On Christmas Eve 1940, a very special gift was presented to a young twenty-year old woman.
Let me start from the beginning of this touching story.
My grandmother, Alice, faced many hardships growing up. At the tender age of 8, she lost her mother on her birthday. Her father, a smart man who was prone to sickness, passed away when she was 13 years old in the midst of the Great Depression. Most said he died of a broken heart after losing his wife. From there, the oldest son and daughter rose to the challenge of taking care of their younger 5 siblings even though they were barely adults while receiving some assistance from extended family.
For some people, this turmoil would have caused pain and heartache for the rest of their lives. For Alice, she took these events in stride and appreciated the simple blessings life offered her.
When she saw my grandfather for the first time at a picnic, she knew he was special…although he was on a date with someone else. They finally danced together but he took his time asking her out, which Alice would remark “was progress.” Finally, he asked her to a movie and she was on cloud nine. At Hollywood Theatre in LaCrosse, they saw “You Can’t Have Everything,” but in her own words, “I thought I had it all.” (When she passed away last year, she would still smile and gush at the thought!)
For Alice, her Harvey was everything she wanted in life. Going to nursing school or working at the store in town paled in comparison to being his wife and on June 12, 1940, these two country lovebirds married in a small town in Wisconsin.
By the time Christmas rolled around, the newlyweds were living with Harvey’s parents and they were trying to save money. In that house, the room off the living room had large, wooden, double doors that were suddenly closed; her mother-in-law told her that since it was Christmas and wrapping needed to be done, Alice was not allowed to enter. As someone unaccustomed to the parental figure and one who desperately wanted to learn from her, she complied.
Harvey and Alice agreed that her new dress would be the only gift. Content with all the blessings she had received that year, Alice was happy.
On Christmas Eve, as she watched the others open gifts, she was surprised when her husband opened the doors to unveil the cedar chest, a gift she had wanted all of her life. While she was unable to fully express how delighted she was, her face whenever she recounted the story told it all.
This gift was her most treasured item and per her request, it was the last item removed from her home following her passing.
When we opened the chest, we marveled at the love letters Harvey had written her, her wedding dress and shoes and veil, Harvey’s handkerchief and tie, ration cards, dance cards, her purse from prom with Harvey, and so many more treasures tucked away. Once again, this cedar chest brought joy to those around it.
To know that a gift was beloved for their entire life must be the best feeling. While this season is about appreciating the gift of the birth of Jesus, there’s also a lovely lesson about the joy of giving. Receiving items is fun but giving these kinds of gifts is a delight in itself.
May everyone have a wonderful Christmas where your hearts and minds are filled with the elation of supplying joy and memories that last a lifetime.