Contributing Works Stories

A Christmas Promise by Nancy Sharpe Ellis

A child doesn’t see the hard times his parents face, but this little boy knew his father would keep his word.

This true story happened in 1942 in Liberty, North Carolina.

It was just before Christmas when the family harnessed the mule to the wagon for the trip to town. They were going to replenish farm and household supplies. The stores were displaying a few Christmas toys and winter clothing in the windows. Christmas was just a few weeks away.

There it was in the window of the hardware store, a shiny red wagon; one like a little boy could use to carry his valuable finds from the yard and fields and even haul wood for the fireplace.

The little red-haired boy’s eyes brightened as he saw the shiny red wagon. He told his father he wished he could have that wagon for Christmas. His father knew he could not buy the shiny red wagon in time for Christmas. He could only promise that he would buy it as soon as he could. A Christmas Promise was all he had to give the little boy.

Being the only child, he was the apple of his father’s eye. He was cherished by both of his parents. Later a sister would be born, but for now, it was just the little red-headed boy.

His father had been disabled as a child by polio, unable to stand and walk. He had worked in the fields while holding onto the plow being pulled by a mule in the foothills of North Carolina. He learned to walk with metal braces on his legs and a cane, but with great difficulty.

It was in these foothills that the little red-haired boy was born to Willie and Hattie, good God-fearing people.

The family had moved out of the foothills to Liberty, North Carolina, hoping for a better life. Still, times ere hard and material things were sparse. Hattie would scrub the floors and walls of the tenant house with hot water and lye soap to make it acceptable for her family. This helped rid the place of bugs and other pests.

The main meal of the day on the farm was called dinner, as the field workers came to the house to eat at the noon hour. Hattie would save a piece of fried chicken for her little red-haired son. She had a hiding place in the cabinet for his food, making sure he had food when the farmworkers went back to the fields to work.

There was no doubt that the little red-haired boy was loved by his parents. So when the boy asked his father for the shiny red wagon for Christmas, the father told him they would have to wait for the government subsidy check from the sale of their tobacco. Silently he hoped it would come before Christmas. A promise is a promise.

Time passed, Christmas came and went. No check came. Christmas was bare that year in 1942. But a promise is a promise of the shiny red wagon.

Finally, in April 1943, the check came. The father hitched the mule to the wagon and the family made the trip to the hardware store to buy the shiny red “Christmas Wagon”.

Not only was the wagon bought, but also a generous supply of candy. He ate so much candy that he was sick to his stomach. The mule pulled the wagon back to the farm carrying one happy little red-haired boy and his parents. Christmas Promised was fulfilled.

The little red-haired boy grew to be a successful farmer and cattleman. He is humbled when he tells the story of the promised shiny red “Christmas Wagon” in the hardware store window. Tears well up in his eyes, not because of disappointment, but because he remembers the love of his parents and the promise kept.

Christmas Promised came in April that year. Our Christmas Promise was foretold from Genesis to Revelation in the Holy Bible. This message is repeated during the Christmas Season across the world as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth is recorded in Matthew and Luke for all to read. Churches present the Good News of the Savior’s birth through concerts, plays, and special events.

In my childhood days, the Christmas story was performed by the children wearing homemade costumes. The choir sang songs, even though off-key, from the heart. It was a joyous sound. At the end of the program, everyone was given a brown paper bag with some nuts, fruits, and candy inside. They left with the feeling of peace and goodwill of Christmas. We even celebrated Christmas at school.

I wish you an old fashioned Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

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