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It's The Thought That Counts
Christmas isn’t about presents or money, its about spending time with your loved ones, creating memories, and giving to others. This year, my family and I tried to embrace that and help a family we knew in need. And it didn’t quite turn out how we planned.
A woman who works with my mom said, in passing, that they weren’t going to be able to celebrate Christmas this year because they couldn’t afford to. Heartbroken, my whole family packed up, on Christmas Eve, and drove to the local Wal-Mart, where we spent around an hour and a half going aisle to aisle picking up anything and everything that looked like the family would like.
With a cart full of goodies, we made our way back to our house. Forty five minutes later, we had everything wrapped, poorly yes, but still wrapped, and put into three huge stockings.
The five of us quickly piled back into my mothers car, wanting to get to the family’s house before it was dark. We’ve never been to these people’s house before, but my mother had managed to get the address from her work.
We were all so excited to go see these people’s faces when we gave them the gifts that it was all that we were able to talk about the hour and a half drive to the house. My parents had everything thought through. My father had dawned a very impressive Santa suit, so that the family would never know it was from us. It’s the Christmas season. We wanted to give to the family to give them, including their daughter my age, something to open on Christmas morning. The last thing that we wanted was for the family to feel in debt to us.
So we were driving into this town, we’d never been to before, with my father dressed up as Santa Claus, and three kids happily talking about what good deed we’re about to do in the back.
As we turned down the street, we should have known this wasn’t going to end the way we planned. There were so many signs that we just ignored. The first one was my mother’s gut instinct reaction. The moment we turned onto the street, my mother muttered out a small, “Oh no.” Obviously, that should have been our first turn back now moment.
Regardless, we decided to keep on going. We had spent to much money on gifts and gas right not to go all the way to the end. Pulling to the side of the narrow road, my mom killed the engine. Looking around, we all got an eerie feeling. It was like the set up for a horror movie. Dark road, no one out, and there was even a cat slowly strutting across the street. I’m not kidding, you can’t make this up. The only difference from a horror movie was the dolled up Santa in the passenger seat.
Giving each other one last are you sure you want to do this? look, we all sighed. I passed my dad his big red Santa sack, and he opened the door. Turn back moment number three. Sirens ripped through the winter night and stopped us all in our tracks. This was not a good town. What was even worse, was that this was probably the worst street, on the worst side of the bad town. I was terrified.
My dad got out of the car and lugged the bag up to the house marked 267, right next to the house that had it’s number marked on the door with chalk. I’m pretty sure that’s another sign, but obviously by now, there was no longer a turn back point. It was all or nothing by now, and we were too far past nothing.
The rest of us were crouching down in the blackened car, trying not to be seen. The woman had never met my father, but she new my mom, and we really didn’t want her to know it was us.
I found out later exactly what happened. My father puts himself into character when he dresses up as Santa. There’s no turning back for him. A man opened the door, in boxers. He was in his twenty’s, and we were planning for a fifty year old woman to open the door. It set us back a lot.
Ever the actor, my dad kept up with his plan. “Ho, ho, ho! I have a special deliver for the (blanked out name for obvious reasons)!”
The man looked at him blankly. “Yo, man. You got the wrong house. I think you want the house across the street or something.”
That was when my dad finally snapped out of character, defeated. “Really? Are you sure you don’t know _____?”
The man shook his head, and my dad thanked him and started to descend the stairs.
My dad came back to the car and slid the bag into the trunk, and looked at us. “It’s the wrong house, apparently. I’m going to walk the rest of the street.”
My mom nodded, although she obviously didn’t want him too. It was creepy out here, and set my teeth on edge.
He walked up and down the street, asking the two men that were actually out and about if they knew the woman we were looking for. They had not.
Slipping into the passenger seat, he took off his wig and fake beard and sighed. “Okay, I think we got the wrong address.” Another siren ripped through the dark, and he quickly snapped on his seat belt. “Okay, we tried. Now lets go home.”
With that, we quickly drove down the street, and made our way home. We tried so hard to give these people a good Christmas, because if we were ever in their shoes, we’d want someone to do that for us too. Sometimes it is the thought that counts, especially when you tried to do everything and you just can’t jump over that last hurtle.
We tried so hard to make this happen, and it didn’t. But that isn’t exactly what matters. What matters is that we spent our Christmas Eve trying to help another family. We weren’t cooped up in our house all day staring down our presents. What matters is that we spent the day as a family and created memories that we will keep with us forever. What matters is that we know, if we ever do this again, we will not ignore the signs, and we’ll make sure we get the right address. That, and we’ll make sure that the house isn’t in a place where dressing up as Santa scares a grown man.