The holidays were just too much work for one person alone.
Posted in , Oct 12, 2009
Christmas music on the radio did nothing to lift my mood.
How many Christmas cards did I have to finish? The stack seemed huge. Once that was done I had to start the baking. I had gifts to buy, presents to wrap, decorating to do.
Why can’t Christmas be like it was when I was little, I thought, taking my pen to another card.
The only job my sister and I had for the holidays growing up was to wait impatiently for Christmas morning to come. Us kids never gave a thought to how it got done: Christmas just happened all on its own.
As an adult I realized all the work my mom put in while also taking care of us and running her childcare business.
Mother had been on my mind constantly this holiday season, the first since her death. She would understand how overwhelmed I felt. I scratched my name on another card, not bothering with the careful script I normally used.
The card was for an old friend. Was he at the same address? Doffy Falk would know. I’ll call her and make sure.
I hadn’t spoken to Doffy in years, but it seemed natural her name would come to me now. She’d been a good friend of mother’s. I hadn’t known how good until I’d grown up. That’s when Mother told me how Doffy had come to her rescue when she was at her lowest.
“I was just completely worn down one day,” she’d told me one afternoon over coffee. “Your father and I were having disagreements, money was tight—this was before I had my childcare business.
"I was cleaning the bathroom sink, tears dripping into the basin. I felt completely overwhelmed. And then came a knock on the door. There was Doffy saying God had sent her to come help me!
“She stayed the whole day,” Mother said, “listening to me pour out my troubles. I believed she really was an angel sent from heaven. How else to explain her perfect timing?”
Mother’s story about Doffy seemed like proof that God saw our sorrows and reached out when we needed him. Too bad God can’t help with Christmas preparations, I thought as I flipped open my address book for Doffy’s number.
But I couldn’t expect God to help with things like that. It was enough to know he cared about my important problems. There was only one way things like Christmas cards got done, and that was if I did them. Despite how it seemed when I was a child, Christmas didn’t happen by magic.
Doffy’s cheerful voice sounded the same when she answered the phone. I could understand what a blessing she must have been for my mom all those years ago.
“My mother liked to tell about the day God sent you to comfort her,” I said. “Do you remember?”
“Of course!” said Doffy. “It was right before Christmas, like now.”
“I didn’t realize that,” I said.
“I had so much to do,” said Doffy with a laugh. “Write my Christmas cards, shop for gifts, do my baking. You know how it is for a mom during the holidays. I hadn’t even bought my cards yet. But with all I had to do I couldn’t stop thinking about your mother.
"God kept nudging me, telling me she needed me, so finally I went over. Your mom was weighed down with too many troubles, too many things she had to do for others. Even a simple thing like doing the dishes got to be too much for her to handle. That’s why we made the plan.”
“The plan?” I said. “Mother didn’t say anything about a plan.”
“After you kids went to school I would come over and help with the housework. I left just before the bus dropped you off in the afternoon so you never saw me. But I was there every day for three weeks.”
“For three weeks?” I said. “At Christmastime?” I looked at the piles of cards on my kitchen table, and the boxes of ornaments on the floor in the corner.
I barely knew how I was going to get everything done on my own. I couldn’t imagine surrendering the little time I had to help a friend every day at this time of year. “How did you manage it?” I blurted out.
“I wasn’t sure I could,” said Doffy. “But I just knew I had to. I said, ‘Please, God, just help me get my Christmas cards.’ I thought that one thing would be enough.”
I looked sheepishly at the bag of wrapping paper on my kitchen counter. Here I was wishing someone else would make Christmas happen for me, when Doffy had had to make not only her own family’s Christmas but my family’s as well. And all by herself, besides.
“It’s a shame you didn’t have anyone to help you the way you helped Mother.”
“Oh, I did have someone helping me,” said Doffy mysteriously. “Here’s how it started. One day I got the idea to make some cookies to cheer your mom up. I didn’t know where anything was in your kitchen, so she had to help me. When the two of us worked together baking was fun.
"So I brought over my holiday recipe box. Over the next week we did all my baking, and all her baking too. When we finished that, we decorated your house. By the time I left in the afternoon I was so full of holiday spirit I decorated my own house in a whirlwind.”
I never would have imagined all that going on while I was at school, I thought.
“After a while I took your mom out for a ride. We stopped at a store I thought might have Christmas cards. I’d have to take the mismatched leftovers at this point. No way could I find two hundred cards alike.
"But right inside the store were four matching boxes of fifty cards each—as if they were waiting for me. I knew God was at work again.”
“And you got all those Christmas cards written?” I asked.
“Every one,” said Doffy. “It was easier at your house without the phone ringing. Then we made a list of the shopping we needed to get done. Seemed like every place we went had exactly what we were looking for.
"Whenever your mother found an item she needed, something from my own list was right there on the next shelf.
"We spent our last few days together wrapping presents and talking about the future. With money tight your mom was thinking of getting a job, but she didn’t know where to start.
"By then we trusted in God to take care of anything. So I asked her, ‘What do you love doing?’ She said, ‘Taking care of children.’ She started the childcare business after New Year’s.”
Doffy and I talked a bit longer, then wished each other a merry Christmas and said goodbye. I turned back to my cards, ornaments and wrapping paper. I’d get it all done. God would give me the help I needed, just as he’d helped Mother and Doffy all those years ago.
Turns out I’d been right. Christmas did happen by magic.