CEO, Deborah Owen’s First Story

Here is my personal Christmas gift to you… a cherished memory, complete with glaring errors… the first story I ever wrote, at age 15. Believe it or not, it won third place in the high school writing contest and was printed on the front page of our school newspaper. Sharing it now for the first time makes me feel like I’m naked in Times Square. Little did I know I would become a writing tutor and found a writing school as a nonprofit charity. By the way, the setting for this story was a Quonset hut that sat behind our property.

There’s a place for comments at the end. Be kind. lol

Poverty Stricken Children Keep Belief in Santa Claus

by Deborah Owen

At night, I always take a walk, no matter what the weather. Sometimes I walk a mile and sometimes more. I often take a friend along. Tonight I would like to take you with me.

Last week I found a little house, more like a hut, in the woods. As I drew nearer, my eyes pierced the broken pattern of the frosty window. I saw a family of seven huddled around a small, pot-bellied stove. The children were shabbily dressed.

One boy, about the age of nine, wore pants almost up to his knees. The little girl was about six. She wore a short dress far above her knees. She was shivering, and her small, frail arms were bare as was most of her body. The other, youngest child, about one, lay contented on his mother’s lap. The other children were girl twins about three, with long, blonde hair. They wore different colored sleeveless dresses with no buttons on them. They shivered from the cold, cutting winds that bypassed the sagging door.

The room itself was bare of furniture. The only furniture in sight was the pot-bellied stove and a single table and chair.

No Christmas Tree

So far as I could see, there was only one other room but there was no way for me to see into it. There was no Christmas tree as you might expect to see, this being the night before Christmas Eve.

Needless to say, these people are poor and can’t even clothe themselves and their children, let alone buy a Christmas tree and gifts for the children.

At one time, these children knew as happy a Christmas as anyone until their father fell seriously ill and lost his job. Then they were put out of their home and by chance, found the little hut where they now live.

This would be the first Christmas without Santa Claus. Their mother had tried to explain to them that he had so many children to visit that he might forget some. Since they lived so far back in the woods, he might not see them. But even then, the children had faith in Santa Claus and five stockings hung on the wall for him to fill.

It broke the parents’ hearts to know the children would be so cruelly disappointed. But Ann, the six-year-old, kept saying, “Don’t worry, mommy, Santa Claus never forgets.” Anne had even given up her slight supper for him, explaining that she didn’t want Santa to be as hungry as she was.

Christmas Eve came and went as normal as any other day, in most respects. They never had anymore than canned beans and some leftover meat – no milk and no coffee.

Parents Dread Christmas

The parents were dreading the coming Christmas, dreading to witness the first real heartbreak of their children’s young lives, not knowing how to prevent it, but never ceasing in their efforts to lessen their coming grief.

It was Christmas Eve when all the children said their prayers. There was no need to pray that Santa Claus might not forget, for they sincerely believed that he wouldn’t. The coming Christmas would be one of sorrow. It would be one in which all faith and confidence would be shattered.

It was getting late, and the children were asleep. There wouldn’t be any chicken dinner for them. It would be the same canned beans they ate every day.

Then I started home, for it was getting late. As I prepared for bed, the peace and contentment that surrounded me gave way to the horizon of a new thought! The night was a busy one.

In the morning I returned to see the results of my surprise. I woke early on Christmas Day. My first thought was the poor family I encountered on Christmas Eve.

A White Christmas

Silently, I dressed and slipped out of the house. As I left, I noticed it had snowed during the night. It would be a white Christmas. I made my way to the house in the woods some two miles away.

As I neared, I saw the children jumping and laughing through the window. Ann was holding a doll in her arms, not new, but in good condition. Her big brother had a used glove and a baseball.

The twins had twin dolls, and the baby held a teddy bear. Their mother was admiring a plump chicken ready to be cooked which had a red ribbon around it and a note reading, “Merry Christmas,” and as she read the note, Ann said, “See, Mommy, I told you Santa wouldn’t forget.”

And her parents agreed with her, as they knelt to thank the Lord for another MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Christmas in the Early 1900’s

by William Battis
Volunteer Staff at Creative Writing Institute
where every student receives a private tutor!

Christmas as a boy, in the 1930s, wasn’t just one day… it was a season! It started at Thanksgiving when the merchants decorated their store windows with the most magnificent displays. Mannequins moved and little Santa figures waved as we stood spellbound while the cold wind blew around us, and snow whirled about our overshoes. Our hands were chilled in our mittens and our ears tingled as we said, “Please, Mother, can’t we watch the train come out of the tunnel one more time?”

We had to earn the money to buy gifts for our family and parents. My family had eight children – one older sister – and all the rest were boys! Grandmother lived with us, so we had to plan a gift for her, too. My favorite money task was shoveling snow from the neighbor’s sidewalks and driveways for fifty cents or a dollar.

Preparing for Christmas meant helping Mother make cookies and fruitcake. I was in the middle of the pecking order, so I became the chief baker while Mother made and cut out the cookie dough. We had fun delivering homemade fruitcake and cookies to the nuns and priests who didn’t have local families.

For outside decorating, we attached seven-watt bulb strands of lights around the edge and up to the second story. Just imagine how excite we were when we lit them for the first time! I helped my big brothers with that until I was old enough to do it alone.

One year we made a large candle out of a cardboard tube, painted it red and installed a bulb on top as a candle flame. We were so proud of that candle decoration!

My older brother and I made a crèche (nativity scene) out of a walnut stained wooden orange crate with a slanted roof, star shining on top, and light inside, ready for the tiny figurines and the baby Jesus. It has survived to this day.

Frozen Christmas trees were displayed on tree lots, and we shopped for it as a family. The trees were stiff, crooked and flattened from travel, and we had to imagine how it would look in the house with lights and ornaments on it. Dad was a whiz at straightening crooked Christmas trees. He cut off a branch, drilled a new hole and reinserted it so the tree looked balanced.

We strung sets of lights on it, and hung tinsel to mimic icicles. It took hours to get the perfect effect. Finally, it was time to put the shining star on top.

Dad had a green Oakland car that was large enough for our big family. It had red wire wheels and a spare tire mounted on both front fender wells. Very classy looking.
The only time we saw horses and carts was when the rag man or the milkman came by. The rag man bought used clothing, scrap metal and broken things, then resold them for salvage or repair. Metals were usually melted down and sold yet again.

Grandfather was a locomotive mechanic and always had to work Christmas Eve day, so off we went to get the grandparents when he got off work. When we arrived home, Mother would announce, “Oh, children, you just missed Santa Claus!” There in the living room around our Christmas tree nestled several small gifts for each child. The youngest would open his presents first, then the next oldest, and so on. My stack would usually have a toy truck or car, plus socks, mittens, or underwear. As I became older, perhaps a tie, fancy handkerchiefs, a watch or other practical gift.

When Dad took my grandparents home, Mom put the little ones in bed, unless we walked to Midnight Mass. I loved walking late at night and listening to the crunching of snow as I looked at the bright stars.

Sometimes I’d sing in the choir on Christmas day or be an altar boy. At church, I gawked at the flickering flames, smelled melted candle wax, inhaled the fresh scent of evergreens, and stared at giant poinsettias. My spirit felt so elevated and peaceful as we worshiped Christ’s Birth with Silent Night, Holy Night.

On behalf of Creative Writing Institute and my family, MERRY CHRISTMAS!