A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS
by Ann Angel Eberhardt
A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS
Here’s an extra story this month to honor the season
and wish you contented, peaceful, and charitable holidays.
What’s Christmas without a fir tree festooned with garlands and shiny ornaments? This was the approach my brother Mike and I decided to use as we gathered enough courage to ask Dad for that essential icon of the season. After all, it was Christmas Eve and we didn’t yet have a Christmas tree.
We knew Dad appreciated the traditions of Christmas, but only simple non-commercial ones: Handmade decorations on a tree brought in from the woods and Mom’s Christmas dinner. And he always happily greeted the annual visit of a Sharpsville Service Club Santa Claus. But we weren’t sure where a store-bought Christmas tree would fit into his thinking.
Dad owned and operated a printshop that occupied the first floor of our home on North Second Street in Sharpsville, PA. He loved that shop, took pride in the good business he had established, and worked hard at it day and night. So when we came to him with our request for a tree, he was, as usual, busy feeding paper into the noisy printing press, printing a last-minute order and trying to meet a deadline that allowed no time to tend to the details of Christmas. As the press continued its rhythmic clatter, he reached into his pocket and handed us two dollar bills, challenging in his tough-love way, “Okay, then. Go get yourselves a tree.”
We must have known the very place we could buy a tree and perhaps even proposed it to Dad. There was a shop on West Ridge Avenue, across from the then Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School, that had several Christmas trees on display outside its front door. I don’t recall what sort of business it was, possibly one that sold televisions. Snow must have been on the ground, as my brother brought his Flexible Flyer sled with us, as we trudged up the steep and icy Second Street hill to the store.
We selected the perfect tree, then asked a young salesman if we could purchase it with our two dollars. He hesitated, then told us to wait a moment while he went inside the store. He returned, saying “Sure, you can buy one!” We suspected that he had received permission from his boss to sell the tree to us two little kids at a very reduced price.
We hauled our precious tree home on the sled, carried it up the steps to our home, and set it up in the living room. The family spent Christmas Eve decorating it with our collection of mostly homemade (of course) decorations and enjoyed Mom’s delicious home-cooked Christmas dinner the next day.
It’s been 60-plus years since we experienced that good-hearted gesture by the staff person and the storekeeper. I’ve always wished I could thank the two of them for enabling us to have a tree, but for more than that. It was a simple act of kindness that defined for us the essence of Christmas, the sort of Christmas spirit that Dad was trying to teach us.
–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS), Goodyear, AZ, 2014