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A Christmas to remember

It was a beautiful Christmas morning with fresh snow on the ground from a blizzard the night before. I awoke to my five- year-old telling me, “Mommy, wake up, it’s Christmas!”

So I awoke with a smile, sat up and stretched and said to my son, “Merry Christmas, Baby. I love you.”

As we made our way down the stairs Michael jumped up and down with joy in anticipation of the presents waiting under the tree.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs I noticed the room was filled with our family. I saw my mother and father, my sisters and brother and all the kids. I have never felt so much love and appreciation in my life until that point but it was all a dream.

As I awoke from a loud buzzing noise, which was the alarm, I realized we were not in my mother’s house but instead in the teaching room of a church. It was Dec. 25, 2009, and my son and I were in New Pathways homeless shelter for families in Brainerd.

When I sat up that morning, I just cried watching my son sleep next to me and thinking that this Christmas we would be alone with no friends or family in this area or even presents to occupy a tree for him.

The host family for the night knocked on the door to signal it was time for breakfast and then off to the day-center for the day.

I awoke Michael and said, “Merry Christmas Baby. I love you.”

He said to me, “Mommy, did Santa come?”

And I said, “Not this year, honey. I don’t think he has our address but maybe when we get a place of our own he will come next year.”

It broke my heart to tell him such a lie but I couldn’t tell him how I couldn’t find a job and that we had nothing.

We got dressed for the day and packed up our suitcase with our clothes and headed out to the breakfast area. The overnight family was really nice and greeted us with a wonderful breakfast of pancakes and sausage instead of the usual cereal and toast. We ate quickly so we could be on our way to the day-center.

On the drive over, I just kept thinking about how disappointed Michael looked and how terrible I felt that I couldn’t make this the best holiday ever for him.

As we pulled up to the day-center, Michael said to me, “Mommy, maybe Santa came here last night because they have a tree up!”

I didn’t know what to say, I just bowed my head and prayed to God to give me strength to make it through this day.

We walked up to the door and suddenly it was opened by a teenage girl, I recognized as one of the staff member’s daughters. As we walked in, we realized her entire family was there and they wanted to spend the day with us playing games and having fun. I was excited and relieved, hoping the games would keep my son occupied that he wouldn’t realize how different this Christmas was from all the others in his life.

As I turned the corner to enter the meeting room, I was shocked at what I saw and it stopped me instantly.

There, under the tree we had put up the other day, were presents. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Had Santa really come to visit Michael?

I walked over to the tree as my son rushed passed me to see if any started with an “M” to signal it was his.

I asked, “Where did these come from?”

The only response I got was, “An instructor at CLC called the foundation office, telling them that her children wanted to sponsor a family in need for Christmas and your name was given to them.”

I started to cry uncontrollably, thanking God for answering my prayers. I realized that Santa was indeed three children from the Brainerd area that decide to give what little they had to my family so that we could have a good Christmas.

It has been two years since my experience and I have never forgotten the family who helped us and this year my son and I are sponsoring a family in the same situation we were in.

I want to thank my secret Santas for making our Christmas special again and realizing that no matter where you are in life, you will always have family around.