Glued to the window, her nose reddened from the cold, five-year-old Maddy was mesmerized by the array of toys displayed at Norwell’s Toys. There was a princess doll, so beautiful in her green velvet gown and sparkling tiara next to a candy red fire engine with it’s shiny ladder lifted to the sky. The wood doll house with its open front showed elegant rooms with tiny replica furniture the same that you could purchase in the nicest furniture stores her Mom explained. These toys she enjoyed looking at, but there was only one that held her in rapt attention. There it sat surrounded by dozens of other toys, books, and stuffed animals in all its splendor. The black paint shone with sunlight reflecting back to her. The trim legs held that beautiful piano with it’s top lifted and the keys gleaming. Maddy couldn’t take her eyes off it until she closed them fervently wishing to have it for Christmas.
Holding out her hand, Beddy Ellton called to her daughter, “C’mon, Maddy, we’re just window shopping. I’m sorry, luv, I wish things were different, but, at least, Santa will bring you something for Christmas.” Beddy had asked for gloves, a new coat, and a hat for her daughter at the Merry Christmas for Kids organization and hoped that they would include just one toy for her baby. Her salary only bought food and rent for them both. It would have been easy for her to blame the death of her husband or the low paying job, but, truthfully, she was just relieved that she had a job. So many people didn’t that she considered herself lucky and was truly grateful. However, being grateful didn’t stop the regrets that Maddy’s Christmas would be so spare. As they turned the corner to head home, she remembered the birth of her only child and thought of all the dreams she’d had for that baby. Those dreams died a long time ago as had others for herself and her family. Now, it was just the two of them. She knew that Maddy dreamed of having a piano. She always lingered after church to sit with the pianist and “help” play.
Their tiny rental home was barely warmer than the clear, crisp air outside. Beddy hung their coats and started to make the hot chocolate that Maddy so loved adding the last of the marshmallows since it was Christmas Eve. She put Maddy’s presents under the tree while Maddy, stretched out on the floor, colored in her much beloved coloring book. Each page was colored from edge to edge since after coloring the characters she would later go back and fill the background with color. As she colored, she hummed “Away in the Manger” which she had learned in Sunday School.
“How many can I open tonight, Mommy?” she asked. She just couldn’t wait any more. The presents were so pretty with their gay wrapping and pretty ribbons. They were too small to be the piano, but she was sure Santa would bring it tonight. “After all, Santa will bring more stuff tonight.”
“Nice try, kiddo. You know we have to wait until tomorrow. We’ll have hot chocolate instead and then it’s bedtime for you.” she smiled recognizing the excitement that radiated from Maddy. “Besides, the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner Christmas will be here.”
“Awwww, Mom. That’s no fun. We need to change that tra…tra…” she stopped with her face concentrated trying to remember that special word.
“Tradition,” she reminded, “And it wouldn’t be a tradition if we changed it. So, get your pajamas on and come back to finish your hot chocolate.”
After tucking Maddy in and reading her a dogeared copy of her favorite book, Beddy curled up in her chair sipping her drink wondering how to handle her daughter’s disappointment tomorrow. Last year, it had been hard explaining why Santa didn’t bring the special gift that Maddy had wanted. This year would be worse. She started at a knock on her door. Who could be here at this time of night she wondered and pondered not even answering. The knock repeated sounding even more insistent this time. Warily, Beddy opened the door just enough to see who was there. “Oh, Mrs. Ross, please come in.”
“Oh, Mrs. Ellton, I so glad you answered. I know it’s late, but this is important.” Evelyn Ross of Merry Christmas for Kids replied. “My husband is right behind me. We weren’t sure you would be here so he waited in the car until we were sure. You see, we were going over the lists of requests and realized that you hadn’t asked for a toy for Maddy. We had some extra toys that were last minute donations so we looked for families that could use them. It’s just the oddest thing.” she stopped to take a breath as she put her finger to her cheek.
“What is?” asked Beddy.
“Well, we had the last of the gifts processed out for all our families and were ready to close up when this man came in. He said he owned a toy store and had seen all the kids longing for the ones in the window. Anyway, he decided today after watching a little girl today looking in that he should just empty the window and give those toys to us. Isn’t that wonderful? Anyway, we know how much Maddy loves the piano at church and thought this would be perfect for her. Henson get that box in here, for goodness sake! We have more stops.”
He was struggling to get inside with the heavy box as Beddy was holding her breath. She saw all the Santa faces smiling at her from the wrapping and the size of the huge box. Henson placed it under the tree and took a cookie from Santa’s plate, “Think Santa will mind if I steal a cookie? Haven’t had dinner yet and my rumbling stomach can’t wait much longer.”
“You can have them all. I know you’re in a hurry. And thank you, thank you, thank you. I could only ask for three things and clothes were so much more important. Now, she will have a toy. That makes this a special Christmas. Oh….” she stuttered as the tears began to flow and hugged both Hensons tightly. “This means so much.”
Over Beddy’s shoulder, Evelyn and Henson’s eyes met glowing from bringing such joy into this deserving home. They hurriedly left returning to their car as Beddy waved goodbye. She closed the door and leaned back on it since her legs felt weak from the elation that overwhelmed her. Her baby would have a toy and from the size of it, it seemed to be the one she so badly wanted. Could that possibly be? How? She was all nerves now and was glad Maddy was soundly asleep.
“Get up, Mommy, get up! It’s Christmas! Christmas, Mommy!” This was the urgent chant Beddy heard as she groggily awoke. She had finally fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning. It was way too early to be up, but it was Christmas morning so maybe she and Maddy could nap this afternoon. But now, she had to be with Maddy as that unexpected gift was opened. “Okay, little lady, I’m awake. You wait here while I brush my teeth and hair and get the camera. After all, we have to document this Christmas so we won’t forget.” If that gift was what she suspected it was, she would never forget nor what she ever feel so hopeless again.
There under the tree sat the presents with Maddy posing in front bouncing with joy for the new present that hadn’t been there last night. It was big and the tag said, “From Santa”. She could read a little now that she was a kindergartener. She literally couldn’t stand still. “Finish the pictures, Mommy. Can I open them now? Now, Mommy?”
“Yes, now” she answered going over to sit on the floor near her daughter. “Merry Christmas, love. May all your wishes come true.”
Wrapping paper flew as Maddy attacked the biggest box and now it sat there. The same piano that had been in Norwell’s window. Maddy sat on the stool and began to pick out songs from the book. The other presents were forgotten as she stroked the keys and Beddy snapped photo after photo of her child sitting at her own baby grand piano. The content look on her face said everything and Beddy would never forget this day thanks to an unknown giftor.