Christmas evokes many memories because children thrive on make believe, knowing Santa Claus will come whether they have reason to believe in him or not.. (In 1975 when we lived near Cleveland, Ark., our two older children remember the night that they heard sleigh bells ringing, not knowing it was me pulling out toys from under the house near the spot where the old whiskey still once stood. I was eight months pregnant at the time)
As a child I believed in Santa Claus even though we were told he didn’t exist. One time I crept outside and placed a paper grocery bag on the porch, knowing he dared not step inside. Even though it remained empty I continued to believe.
One of my sweetest Christmas memories occurred in 1955 when I was in the first grade. There were two little girls, Marilyn and Blythe Epperly. Their parents owned an IGA country store in South West City, Mo., They lived over the store as was the custom years ago.
The girls came with their mom to our house with two dolls for my sister and myself. Those gifts planted wonder that led me to locate Marilyn and Blythe fifty years later because they moved back to Nashville, Tennessee, on Marilyn’s eighth birthday in 1956.
Being a sleuth, I had little trouble finding them because I remembered their father’s name from so many years ago.
To my surprise, she and her younger sister Blythe remembered the gifts that their mother brought to us. I assumed the dolls were from their store — not so. Marilyn explained that their parents felt that they had received too many gifts from family members and requested the girls choose a doll to give to us because they sensed our need. She went on to say that the reason their family moved was they could barely make a living in our rural area so they understood what doing without might mean.
What a sweet ending to the story as we rekindled childhood friendships. Marilyn added with fondness then that she fantasized running away to come back to see her friends as she watched her baby sister LuEllen sleeping on the back seat of the car in a baby bed inside a huge Jello box from their country store but Marilyn soon learned that God had a hand in their move because their mom had emergency heart surgery that could never have been performed in our rural area.
One of the best gifts we can give others as well as ourselves may be listening with the heart, of loving another unconditionally and without judgment. Some friendships come easily because we are magnetically drawn to others as we find soul mates and kindred spirits but sometimes friendships require courage, of making the first move, of picking up the phone to call, to extend oneself as we make ourselves vulnerable but the price is worth the effort because life would be dull without friends who know who we really are.
Having lost close friends I’m reminded that this life is not forever and that if we want to do something for a friend or relative we better do it now lest we live in regret of wasted opportunities — besides we just can’t have too many friends whether they are older or younger than ourselves.
We can never replace departed friends but life can still be beautiful as we respond to friends God places within our paths.
The Bible still says “as iron sharpens iron so a man’s countenance sharpens his friends countenance.”
Friends add a glow to our face and put a sparkle to our eyes.
One dear departed friend, Joyce Duke Moore,quoted an unknown source who wrote “our friends help us test the water.”
Luciano De Crescenzo wrote “we are angels with only one wing and we can only fly embracing each other.”
Sarah Hudson Pierce is an author who lives near Mooringsport, Louisiana