in a Lifetime Christmas
What is it about the Christmas season that turns some
events into giggly delightful memories that we cherish all our lives? I
remember hearing a special Christmas‑time story about just such an event.
Perhaps in the story is the answer to my question.
The setting was a small farming community during the
early 1930's. The country was experiencing the Great Depression. There were few
dollars changing hands, and most people were grateful if they still had a home
and regular meals. It was a better time to be a child than an adult. But the
children also felt the economic sting C for
most families even inexpensive things were no longer affordable.
When the children entered school that fall, most tried
to squeeze into the clothes they wore when school let out three months earlier.
The lucky ones had hand‑me‑downs from older brothers or sisters or neighboring
families. During the Depression, some families had enough food to be able to
spare some for the children=s school lunches, but some did not have enough. Often
the children would pool their lunches C they
put all the lunches together and divided everything equally. That was the best
way. It=s hard to enjoy your lunch when your friends don=t have one. In many ways it was a special time. Young
people grew up a little sooner, and people learned to appreciate small things.
As the Christmas season approached, the memories of
other Christmases prompted everyone to quicken their step, be happier, look
forward to delightful times C to catch the Christmas Spirit. But the harsh economic
realities of the time whispered into each ear: ANot this
year . . . perhaps another year things will be better.@ That is a hard way to face the Christmas season for
children. It is even harder for parents.
Now of all years for it to happen It would have to
happen this year! A new sled entered the market place C the Flexible Flyer! Wow! It was beautiful! It was red
C bright red. A gleaming finish covered the graceful
wood deck. Up front were the handlebars to steer this magnificent machine
wherever its lucky owner would choose to go. This was the ultimate in sleds C the ultimate Christmas gift for a child in a snow
covered farming community with lots of hills and slopes.
The Flexible Flyer was prominently displayed in the
local hardware store window. What a sight! What a delight! What an impossible
dream! Neatly positioned by the sled was a reminder of the Depression. It was
the price tag. $4.98! A small fortune in those days. Even though it was an
impossible dream, that did not keep the children from thinking about the
Flexible Flyer. By dreaming we can keep going; we can defy even a Great
Depression and guide our very own Flexible Flyer down delightful snow covered
slopes and enjoy the crisp fresh air rushing by us as shiny sharp runners send
a spray of snow arching from our path as we negotiate twisting turns and bumps
The school Christmas party was held as usual, and
school was dismissed for the holidays. The children were happy to be out of
school, but they did not look forward to Christmas Day with the same
anticipation enjoyed in previous years. Money was very scarce. It was a year to
be grateful for a warm bed and a tummy that was not hungry. Gifts and toys and
Flexible Flyers would have to wait for better times. The children understood.
They could see the struggle their parents were having. They did not want to see
the hurt look in their parents faces that asking for toys and Flexible Flyers
would bring. There will be other Christmases C someone
will still be making Flexible Flyers.
Now one of the young girls in that humble snow covered
farming community, let=s call her Edith, had all of these thoughts running
through her mind that Christmas. So when she went to bed on Christmas Eve Edith
was grateful for what she had, but she found it hard to anticipate Christmas
morning any more than any other morning. She slept in later than most Christmas
mornings. Edith thought, AThat will be my gift to myself C to make up for the other gifts we can=t afford this year C I=ll sleep in this morning.@
But Edith=s mother
called her and told her it was time to get dressed and meet the rest of the
family at the Christmas tree, and as Edith walked into the room she saw it!
Chills ran up her spine! Her hand rushed to her mouth as she let out a high
pitched squeal that only a young girl can duplicate. Edith crossed the living
room in two leaps landing on her knees in front of the impossible dream at the
base of the tree C a Flexible Flyer that had a large red bow on it and a
little card that said AEdith@ on it.
Edith stroked the smooth wood finish, she turned the
handlebars from one side to the other, she hugged the sled as tears rolled down
her face and then stared at her parents in disbelief. ABut we don=t have
any money,@ cried Edith. Edith=s mother
and father felt tears swelling up in their eyes now. The dear price they had
paid seemed worth it a thousand times over right now. It was a moment and a
feeling that none of them would ever forget. Never!
There were other presents. Edith=s mother had made Edith a beautiful dress. Her brother
got the pair of cowboy boots he had wanted for a long time. It was a good
Christmas in bad times. But through it all Edith was like a frog glued to a
dozen springs C she could not be still. Her excitement was evident in
every movement, look, and squeal. AA
Flexible Flyer!@ C she must have shrieked a hundred times before
Christmas dinner was served.
After the noon‑time Christmas dinner Edith=s mother told her to dress as warm as she could, bring
her Flexible Flyer, and meet the rest of the family at the sleigh by the barn. AThere is another surprise in town,@ she said.
As they entered town Edith saw the other surprise. An
inclined portion of Main Street had been roped off to form a path several
blocks long for sleds. Excited people were everywhere. It looked like the
entire town was there. Edith saw Flexible Flyers scooting down every slope in
sight. Several sleighs pulled by the horses were being used to pull the boys
and girls on their sleds to the top of the barricaded street. Taking turns,
down the hill they came in wild delight screeching and screaming and yelling
all the way. Near the end of the incline a crowd of parents cheered the group
on. Hour after hour the group relished the magic of this special Christmas C the year the unaffordable Flexible Flyer found its
way under dozens of Christmas trees. Each family that had bought a sled had to
sacrifice to do so. But watching the ecstatic children flying down the hill was
reward enough for their sacrifice. As an added bonus, there was deep
satisfaction in being able to thumb your nose at hard times for one exceptional
As the exciting afternoon passed into evening the
wintry scene was lighted by the reflection of a full moon on the snow. Several
small fires were started to warm the group. It grew quieter as the sledders
grew tired from dozens of trips down the slope and the chill of the evening
took hold. All were reluctant to end this magical day when an impossible dream
came true for children and parents alike. Finally the group gave in to
weariness, cold, and hunger. Off they went to their separate homes with their
Flexible Flyers and their memories of a once in a lifetime Christmas.
Several days later Edith walked into the barn to watch
her dad milk the cows.. She noticed that their best milk cow was not in her
stall. Dad explained that he had sold her just before Christmas. He had some
flimsy excuse about her getting old. It was the way he groped for words and an
explanation that gave the secret away. Edith felt a rush of emotion, and tears
came into her eyes as the truth hit her C her
parents had sold their best milk cow so they could give her a Flexible Flyer
for Christmas. She ran from the barn and shed her tears where no one could see
her. She better understood now how much her parents loved her and how much she
loved them. It was a tender, growing, and character‑building moment.
As Edith shared her new found truth with her best friend
at school the next day, she learned that her friend=s father had sold apples door to door in neighboring
towns to get her Flexible Flyer money. In time, story after story surfaced to
reveal how the entire community had combined in a joint effort of extra work,
bargaining, selling, and sharing to buy Flexible Flyers. Sure, the children had
all wanted the beautiful red sled displayed in the hardware store window, but
none had dared to ask their parents for it because they knew the family could
not afford such a luxury in those hard times. But in a secret plan the parents
had combined in a dedicated effort of sacrifice and cooperation to provide a
very special Christmas for their children.
A price of sacrifice and extra effort and increased
hardship had been paid. It bought dozens of Flexible Flyers and hundreds of
memories with a value beyond price. It also bought treasures not anticipated by
As the children returned to school after the holidays
they were different. Sure, they still had to share lunches and squeeze into
clothes that did not fit quite right, and they had to do without things that
they took for granted a few years before. What was different was the spirit and
attitude the children displayed. The attitude of down‑and‑out was replaced with
an attitude of can‑do. They showed more appreciation to parents, friends, and
teachers. They sensed the love and sacrifice of their parents and the
community, and they felt a need to be better and to do better.
The parents felt the change, too. Not just in their children, the whole
community changed. Everyone moved with
more energy and determination. There
were more smiles and greetings as people met on the street. The Great Depression of helplessness seemed
to be replaced by a spirit of optimism.
As it turned out, the price paid for this very special Christmas was
small compared to the benefits received.
While buying Flexible Flyers, they also bought a renewed spirit of optimism
and determination and faith in individuals, families, and their community. This truly was a once in a lifetime