Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Wishing all my followers a wonderful Holiday Season. Here is a little Christmas story for you.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Year I Discovered Santa Claus by Darlene Foster

Most children dream of seeing Santa Claus. I stayed up as late as possible every Christmas Eve but always fell asleep, only to wake up in the morning to see the jolly fellow had visited and left gifts.

***

It was to be our last Christmas on the farm. Mom and Dad had purchased a house in the city and planned to move in the next spring.  The whole family was gathering at the farm one last time to spend the holiday with them.

We lived in Calgary at the time, a three-hour drive away. The morning of the 24th, Hubby was busy loading luggage as I pulled gifts out from under the tree to take with us. We had a couple of stops to make before arriving at the farm. It was important that the gifts that were to be dropped off first, went into the trunk last. Crawling under the tree to retrieve the carefully wrapped packages at the very back, a searing pain shot up my spine. I couldn’t move forward, backward or sideways. Paul came in for another load only to find me under the tree on all fours and in tears.

“I’ve put my back out and I can’t move,” I croaked.

He managed to lift me out from under the tree and lay me on the couch. From there I gave him instructions as to where to place each gift.

My ten-year-old daughter panicked when she saw me. “Does this mean we can’t go?”

“Are you sure you can manage the drive?” Paul asked.

I assured both of them I would be OK. I was not missing the last Christmas on the farm. So I took medication and hobbled to the car. I managed fine on the three-hour drive. Paul dropped off the gifts we needed to deliver on the way, while I stayed in the car. Once at the farm, getting out of the car proved difficult, but my dad and brothers were soon there, giving me a hand. Dad put me in his comfy chair and immediately put a heating pad behind my back. My brothers helped remove my boots and Mom made me a cup of tea. I was feeling the love, and happy to be home.

The kids of all ages, bundled up and went for a sleigh ride, a tradition in our family. Instead of using horses as he did in the past, Dad used a tractor to pull the open sleigh over the snow. I wished I could have gone along as it wouldn’t happen again, but didn´t want to risk it. I stayed back with Mom who prepared food for the evening meal and the big feast the next day. She wouldn´t let me help with the cooking preparations either.

I took more medication and by dinner, I felt better. We had a great meal as always and played a rousing game of marbles. We are a competitive family, so there was shouting and grabbing and perhaps a bit of cheating. All good fun and no one got hurt. Once the children were put to bed, Mom and I kept everyone out of the living room while we filled the stockings and arranged them around the tree. After a midnight drink, we all turned in. The beds at my parents´ house were comfy but old. The one we were given to sleep on had a very soft mattress and I kept rolling into the middle. Every time I did, the pain in my back worsened.

In spite of the extra dose of medication, I wasn´t getting much sleep. I finally grabbed a quilt, took my pillow and moved into the living room to sleep on the nice firm couch. Mom always left the tree lights on all night on Christmas Eve, which I found comforting. I felt like a kid again and soon fell fast asleep.

All of a sudden, I was woken up by someone switching on the bright overhead light. My brother, bare-chested and wearing a pair of beige jogging pants, popped things into everyone´s stocking. He obviously didn´t see me as he went about playing Santa. Then he left the room, switching off the light behind him. I smiled and fell back to sleep with no problem.

The next morning as we stuffed ourselves with pancakes, Dad asked me, “Did you sleep all right, dear?” 

I replied, “I moved to the living room and slept just fine. And I saw Santa. He came into the room while I was sleeping and filled the stockings. And – he was stark naked!”

My brother turned red and shouted, “I was not. I had my jogging pants on.” 

That was the one and only time I saw Santa Claus.

Enjoy the season, and if you’re lucky, you just might see Santa!

Hi everyone. Dot here. This is my sixth Christmas in my forever home and I’m looking forward to it. At least Mom hasn’t tried to put those silly reindeer antlers on me again. Mom decorated the tree and put up stockings for me and the little terror, I mean Lia. I’m trying hard to be good so that Santa brings me something nice. I hope he remembers I don’t like squeaky toys. I like bones to chew but sometimes Lia takes them away from me. (Even though she has one of her own) That’s crazy little sisters for you.

Dad put sparkly lights outside. We like Dad. He takes us along for coffee and if it’s cold we wear our coats.

This is Lia. I’ve never written a Christmas letter before. They tell me to be good because if I am, some guy named Santa will come and bring presents. I don’t know anything about this Christmas they keep talking about. Dad brought a tree into the house and Mom hung shiny things on it. I didn’t think trees belonged in a house, but this one doesn’t smell like the trees in the forest. I like living in a house. It’s cosy and warm and there are three blankets on the bed for me to cuddle up in. I guess one is supposed to be for Dot. The bowl is full of yummy food and I get to run on the beach with Dot. I’ve made other friends too when we go for walks. I used to bark at them until I realized they weren’t going to hurt me even if they are much bigger than me. I hope there will be treats for Christmas, whatever that is. Dad gives all of us treats if we are good. Maybe he is like this Santa Claus they keep talking about. I’m trying very hard to be good. Honest.

Dad giving out treats to everyone.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope you get many treats and lots of cuddles!

Here is something from all of us. Well, Lia wouldn’t sit still long enough to be in the video.
https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/feliz_navidad/478d81d8-b35e-4789-b9ca-1714d6aed07e

Love, Dot and Lia

Today I am featured on Bernadette’s New Classic Recipe blog where I tell the story of how I got the family trifle recipe and share my version of it. Enjoy!

Our tree is decorated and we are gearing up for Christmas, so I want to share a wonderful story by a writer friend of mine. Whatever your beliefs are, it’s a story that never grows old. I love her realistic take on this age-old story.

Christmas Story by Sue Champion

Mary stepped into the night with trepidation. She felt chilled in the evening air. The donkey ride had not exactly been comfortable in her condition but was grateful she did not have to walk.

Horrified when Joseph told her they had to go to Bethlehem to register for the census. She would have given anything to have stayed at home with her mother to have the baby. It was only when Joseph read the scriptures to her, which foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that she understood it was God’s plan, and she must go with him.

Nevertheless, it was scary being in a strange town with nowhere to stay, knowing her baby was due very soon. Joseph had many relatives in Bethlehem, and he was confident one of them would have a room for them. Most greeted Joseph warmly, but when they saw Mary, they seemed embarrassed and turned the couple away. Of course, they knew Joseph had been betrothed for some time. They had all been to the engagement party, but they also knew that no wedding had taken place.

At last, one cousin had compassion on them and took them in, but was very sorry all his upper rooms in the house were full, as with this census, many travellers wanted accommodation. However, he offered them the lower part of the house where the animals were kept. By this time the couple were grateful for anything and thanking him, they agreed. There were bundles of hay to be used as a bed, and he lent them a couple of thin blankets.

That night the baby came. There was no midwife, only Joseph. No clean towels or hot water, and only one of the animal’s feeding troughs to use as a cot. Yet, when Joseph eventually placed the child on her breast, she felt an astonishing sense of joy and love. The couple looked at each other in helpless wonder, the baby was crying, messy, covered in straw, not unlike a newborn lamb might be. Could this really be the Son of God?

Joseph went outside for some fresh air, looked up, and was amazed to see an unusually bright star right above the house. He then saw some shepherds approaching, and wondered where they had come from. They came right to the door of the room. One of them told Joseph that they had been in the field minding their sheep when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them to go worship the child, whom they would find by following the star above. The star now shining above this very house.

Joseph let them in. Mary had used one of the blankets to wrap the child and had laid him in a manger. Joseph gazed at the scene and imagined he saw an angel kneeling next to them. He thought he heard him say, “Fear Not”.

Susan Champion, December 2021

Bio:

Sue Champion spent most of her childhood and a considerable amount of her adult life in Africa. This is reflected in many of her poems, for as anyone who has lived in Africa knows, the continent steals a part of your soul. She only began writing after retiring to Spain, where she joined a writers group and discovered a love of writing, especially poetry.

Sue has written a heartfelt book of poetry called Prayer, Praise and Poetry which can be found on Amazon.uk.com

Amazon.com

and other Amazon sites.

This book is for anyone aged nine to ninety plus. Dip into it at any time of day. Read it quietly or out loud. Let it uplift you. It would also make a great gift.

Here is my review:

A wonderful collection of contemporary poems, written from the heart. Each poem holds its own story and addresses many topical issues. It is a perfect book to pick up and open at random. Every time I do, the page speaks to me. Like when I read, “Storms Never Last.”

The book is divided into sections such as Praise, Our Planet, On a Lighter Note, War, Kids, and Bereavement. It ends with a moving poem, “Tribute to Nelson Mandela” and a lovely piece, “Wild Swans” in honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday. And finally, “Why Write?” which will ring true to most writers or those who wish to be.

This feel-good book of poems should be on everyone´s night table.

Some of you may have read this story before. It is included in an anthology of winning stories and poetry from twelve authors who took part in Stevie Turner’s ‘Share Your Short Story’ monthly writing competition, which ran from October 2017 to February 2020 on Stevie’s WordPress blog. All royalties from book sales are donated to Cancer Research.

The Bright Lights of Christmas by Darlene Foster

Ten presents this year, the best year ever. Cory Henderson’s eyes sparkled as he dropped to his knees and studied his precious pile of parcels wrapped in festive paper. Santa Clauses, reindeer and snowmen smiled back at him as he pulled out his gifts and lined them up. His mother wanted him to go to bed, but he continued to count his gifts under the tall Christmas tree covered in a profusion of bright lights and glittering ornaments.

“Just a few more minutes, please Mom,” he begged, excited as most nine-year-olds on Christmas Eve.

He counted the packages once more while arranging them under the tree with care. One from Uncle Bob; he always gave good gifts, usually something to do with sports. Two from Grandma and Grandpa; always the best because they seemed to know exactly what he wanted the most. One from Mom and one from Dad; since he´d thrown some pretty good hints around the last two months, some super stuff from his list were sure to be in those packages. One from his older brother, Scott, away studying in China; he always sent cool stuff. The old couple across the street, who he did errands for, dropped off a small package. One from Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe, another from his cousins Jim and Jeff and an odd shaped one from his best friend, Jerry. Yup, ten presents for him to open tomorrow morning.

He wasn´t sure he would be able to sleep at all when his mother finally convinced him to go to bed. But, a bright light in his window woke him up from a dream of opening hundreds of presents. At first, he thought it was a light from Santa’s sleigh. Then, he thought a space ship might be nearby. Getting out of bed and tiptoeing to the window, he could see it was not Santa’s sleigh or a spaceship causing the bright light. Flames engulfed the house next-door. Never having seen a fire that close before, he found it scary and exciting at the same time. Mesmerized, Cory stared at the brilliant flames leaping out of the roof.

All of a sudden, he remembered that two little boys lived in that house. The family moved in two months ago. They came from another country, spoke with an accent and kept to themselves. The boys were younger than him, about five and seven.

Maybe the people were still in the house. His tummy did a flip-flop. Just as he heard the wail of fire trucks, he saw two hooded figures run out of the front door. As they reached the sidewalk, he realized two adults covered with blankets, carried a child each. The blankets appeared to be wet when they dropped to the ground. The family stood shivering in their pajamas, staring at their home ablaze.

Cory ran out of his room calling, “Mom! Dad!”

His parents, already up, frantically pulled coats out of the closet.

His dad threw a jacket his way. “Hurry, put this on and go outside. And stay well away from the fire.”

By the time they got outside, the fire department arrived. In no time, long hoses sprayed water onto the flames. Cory’s mom handed out warm coats. He noticed the little boys wearing his parkas from last year and the year before. Even with them on, they shivered.

Heavy smoke filled the air. It smelt weird. Kind of like the time his mom burnt the chicken and the smoke alarm went off. Soon the fire was under control and it started to snow.

“Mom,” said Cory, “maybe we should all go into our house and get warm.”

His mom nodded and motioned everyone to follow her.

She made hot chocolate and put out gingerbread cookies they made the day before. The neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Zafrani, spoke quietly. The boys, Omar and Jamal, didn’t say anything. Their large brown eyes stared at the big Christmas tree covered with twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments. Beds were made up for everyone, the little boys in his brother’s room and their parents in the spare room. As the boys were about to go to bed for the remainder of the night, they took one more look at the tree and cried.

“There, there,” said their mother as she hugged them. “Don’t cry. At least we are all safe and warm.” She thanked Cory and his parents and they all went to bed.

Cory felt a sick feeling in his stomach. Christmas Eve and their tree and all their gifts probably burnt. They would have no presents to open in the morning. How awful. He tossed and turned in his bed. How would he feel if it happened to him? Now he really couldn’t sleep and no longer looked forward to the morning either. How could he open all those gifts when they had nothing?

Then, he had an idea, jumped out of bed and put on the light. He pulled out some coloured paper, a pair of scissors and Christmas stickers from his desk drawer. Two gift tags made, he wrote Omar on one and Jamal on the other. He stopped for a minute and then made two more. Tiptoeing into the dark living room, he pulled out four of his gifts from under the tree. Without looking at the tags, he replaced them with the new tags. Corey went back to bed and fell asleep with a smile on his face.

The next thing he heard was his mom saying, “Wake up. It’s Christmas morning. Omar and Jamal are up already.”

Cory never slept in on Christmas morning. He ran into the living room. Dad had plugged in the lights on the tree and turned on the fire in the fireplace. The room looked cozy and warm. Jamal and Omar stared at the tree as if they had never seen one before. Cory reached under the tree.

His mom gasped and said, “Maybe we could wait to open the gifts.”

Ignoring her, he handed a gift to each of the spellbound boys.

The oldest boy read out his tag. “To Jamal. From Santa.” His eyes grew wider.

“Open it,” said Cory, hardly able to contain his excitement.

Jamal carefully removed the wrapping from his gift as if he were undressing a baby. His round face beamed when he discovered a PlayStation.

His dad looked at Cory and raised his eyebrows. He turned to Omar holding onto his gift like it would disappear if he loosened his grip. “Don’t you want to see what is in your package?”

The young boy ripped the package open and produced a huge smile as he pulled out a baseball glove. “I love to play baseball!” He slid his left hand in and punched his right fist into the mitt.

Cory’s mom looked over at her son with tears in her eyes. “I think you deserve to open one of your presents, dear.”

Fun and laughter filled the rest of the morning. Cory loved all six of his gifts, but he would never forget the smiles on the faces of those little boys as they discovered gifts under the bright, shiny tree for them.

He learned the real meaning of Christmas that year.

Check out the book for other winning stories.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52938689-an-anthology-of-short-story-competition-winners

Have you written a Christmas story or post you would like to share? If you have it on your blog, share the link in the comments.

Text and Image copyright © 2020 Darlene Foster  – All Rights Reserved

Here is my story included in the anthology With Love Comes Hope which I wrote about here

Lockdown With Anne by Darlene Foster

It’s day ten of the lockdown and I hate it. At first, I thought it would be great not to have to get up early and go to school. But Mom’s not very good at home-schooling. She loses patience with me and she doesn’t know anything about math. I miss my friends. Sure, we connect on Instagram, but it’s not the same. I missed two birthday parties already. By the time I get to wear my new top, it probably won’t fit anymore. My pajamas are wearing out. I’m tired of Mom’s cooking and wish we could at least get a take-away. This lockdown sucks big time.

I’m bored with TV and I’ve watched all the DVDs we have. I didn’t think I would miss school. Maybe I’ll check out a book my teacher gave me to read the last day of school. She said I would like it.

~~~

Wow! Midnight and I’m still reading. This book is so good. It’s about a girl, Anne, who’s thirteen years old, like me.  She has to hide in a small apartment during World War II in Holland, along with her family. They are actually German so you’d think they’d be OK but they are also Jewish. If the Nazi soldiers find them, they will be sent to a concentration camp and most likely killed like so many other Jewish people.

It isn’t just Anne, her parents and older sister living in this hidden annex, which nobody knows about. They’re sharing the place with another couple, their son and an old man. Anne makes friends with the couple’s son, Peter. But, here’s the thing, they can’t make any noise during the day because there are people working downstairs in the office and warehouse. They can’t even flush the toilet. And, they have to keep all the windows closed and the curtains drawn.

How awful. No fresh air or sunshine. I would go totally crazy.

When Anne turned thirteen, just before they had to go into hiding, she got a diary for her birthday. So, to keep herself busy while in isolation, she writes in it everyday. She actually wants to be a writer one day. She writes things like “I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me. “ She names her diary Kitty because she has no girlfriends to talk to.

I am so loving this book. There are even pictures of the rooms and the bookcase that hides the stairway to the secret space. It’s called The Diary of a Young Girl and is a true story written by Anne Frank.

~~~

I finished the book and I’m so sad. In the end, after two years of hiding and being very careful and quiet, someone tells the soldiers about them. They are found and taken away. Anne doesn’t survive. In fact, her dad is the only one who lives. After the war, he comes back to the building, finds her diary and has it published. So her dream of becoming a writer did come true, but she doesn’t live to see this happen.

~~~

It’s day fourteen of our lockdown and Dad says it will be another two weeks at least, probably more. Many people are getting sick and dying. I don’t want to die. I want to grow up and get married and have kids. I want to go to Holland and visit Anne Frank’s house.

I’m doing my homework online and not arguing with my mom as much. Yesterday we made chocolate brownies together and then we all completed a huge jigsaw puzzle. It was fun.

And, we can make noise. I can sing as loud as I want and even go in my front yard and make dance videos. At eight o’clock every evening, we all go on our terraces or balconies and clap in appreciation of the healthcare workers, police, ambulance, firefighters and grocery store staff for keeping us safe and well.

I don’t have to be afraid I’ll be taken away because of my religion. This lockdown sucks but it is so much better than what Anne Frank had to deal with.

I will get through this.

With Love Comes Hope, filled with a variety of fiction and nonfiction stories, would make a great Christmas gift.

This book can be purchased in print or digital format on most Amazon sites.

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

Amazon.es

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2020/08/30/with-love-comes-hope-stories-and-inspiration-during-the-2020-pandemic/

Text and Image copyright © 2020 Darlene Foster  – All Rights Reserved

Dot is a guest on Ani’s blog today where she talks about the pandemic from a dogs point of view. Enjoy.

The Small Dog

Dear Santa,

I have my friend from Spain over today. We haven’t actually met, but then, she lives a long way away and although the two-legses usually get to gallivant all over the place, they don’t seem to like it if we wander off on our own…

But, this year, even the two-legses have been kept on a short leash, so we’ve had them at home a lot more, which is good for us, even if they’ve not been too happy about it.

They do seem to be getting a bit peaky though. I’m sure mine is starting with kennel cough from not getting out enough. And she is definitely in need of more exercise… I think maybe we should all just ask you for an end to all this staying at home malarkey…

Mind you, I have to wonder about you, Santa. You get out and about plenty… a…

View original post 1,263 more words

This will be my last post until after Christmas so I would like to wish everyone a fabulous holiday season, whether you spend it with family and friends or if you spend it with yourself, some cookies and a good book! I will be spending Christmas in sunny Spain with hubby and Dot but thinking of my family and friends in Canada and all over the world.

I was delighted to be a guest on fellow Canadian author, D.G. Kaye´s blog, where I answer questios like:

Do some of your own character traits or personal experiences spill into your book’s characters?

Q and A with D.G. Kaye, Featuring Children’s Author Darlene Foster
December 20, 2019
Welcome to the last of 2019 author interviews. And I’m happy to send off the season with my featured author guest Darlene Foster. Darlene has recently released another book in her Amanda travels series – Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. And Darlene is already working on the next book in the series! Let’s find out what she’s up to!

Read the rest here

https://dgkayewriter.com/q-and-a-with-d-g-kaye-featuring-childrens-author-darlene-foster/

However you spend this wonderful tme of the year, may it be full of Joy and Peace! Here is a great version of one of my favourite Christmas songs.

Dot´s letter to Santa Claus is featured on Sue Vincent´s blog today, where she admits she hasn’t always been good. Dot and Sue´s dog, Ani have become blogging friends. Dot is helping Ani out so she doesn’t have to wear the awful reindeer antlers this year. Check it out. Merry Christmas from Dot and everyone at her house. Woof woof!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Dear Santa,

I’ve been wondering what my two-legs would like for Christmas. I mean, there are loads of things that would be nice for her, but she says there’s not much she needs.

But, today I heard her muttering. And I’ve found something!

She needs fish.

Not just any fish, mind… special ones.

And not to eat (though I am partial to a bit of salmon or tuna…)

You see, we’ve got this fish tank and she looks after it all the time, but one of the fish is a bully. Well, two of them really, but one of them just dashes at everyone when it is feeding time. This one bullies its mate…and she is really not happy about that! I mean the two-legs, but I don’t think the mate is either.

The poor little female fishy is getting battered. And that’s no joke. So, she’s done her research…

View original post 1,475 more words

Stevie Turner is holding a short story competition with a Christmas theme for the month of December.  You might like to submit a story as well. https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/share-your-christmas-short-story-or-poem/  

This is my entry. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

The Bright Lights of Christmas by Darlene Foster

Ten presents this year, the best year ever. Cory Henderson’s eyes sparkled as he dropped to his knees and studied his precious pile of parcels wrapped in festive paper. Santa Clauses, reindeer and snowmen smiled back at him as he pulled out his gifts and lined them up. His mother wanted him to go to bed, but he continued to count his gifts under the tall Christmas tree covered in a profusion of bright lights and glittering ornaments.

“Just a few more minutes, please Mom,” he begged, excited as most nine-year-olds on Christmas Eve.

He counted the packages once more while arranging them under the tree with care. One from Uncle Bob; he always gave good gifts, usually something to do with sports. Two from Grandma and Grandpa; always the best because they seemed to know exactly what he wanted the most. One from Mom and one from Dad; since he´d thrown some pretty good hints around the last two months, some super stuff from his list were sure to be in those packages. One from his older brother, Scott, away studying in China; he always sent cool stuff. The old couple across the street, who he did errands for, dropped off a small package. One from Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe, another from his cousins Jim and Jeff and an odd shaped one from his best friend, Jerry. Yup, ten presents for him to open tomorrow morning.

He wasn´t sure he would be able to sleep at all when his mother finally convinced him to go to bed. But, a bright light in his window woke him up from a dream of opening hundreds of presents. At first, he thought it was a light from Santa’s sleigh. Then, he thought a space ship might be nearby. Getting out of bed and tiptoeing to the window, he could see it was not Santa’s sleigh or a spaceship causing the bright light. Flames engulfed the house next-door. Never having seen a fire that close before, he found it scary and exciting at the same time. Mesmerized, Cory stared at the brilliant flames leaping out of the roof.

All of a sudden, he remembered that two little boys lived in that house. The family moved in two months ago. They came from another country, spoke with an accent and kept to themselves. The boys were younger than him, about five and seven.

Maybe the people were still in the house. His tummy did a flip-flop. Just as he heard the wail of fire trucks, he saw two hooded figures run out of the front door. As they reached the sidewalk, he realized two adults covered with blankets, carried a child each. The blankets appeared to be wet when they dropped to the ground. The family stood shivering in their pajamas, staring at their home ablaze.

Cory ran out of his room calling, “Mom! Dad!”

His parents, already up, frantically pulled coats out of the closet.

His dad threw a jacket his way. “Hurry, put this on and go outside. And stay well away from the fire.”

By the time they got outside, the fire department arrived. In no time, long hoses sprayed water onto the flames. Cory’s mom handed out warm coats. He noticed the little boys wearing his parkas from last year and the year before. Even with them on, they shivered.

Heavy smoke filled the air. It smelt weird. Kind of like the time his mom burnt the chicken and the smoke alarm went off. Soon the fire was under control and it started to snow.

“Mom,” said Cory, “maybe we should all go into our house and get warm.”

His mom nodded and motioned everyone to follow her.

She made hot chocolate and put out gingerbread cookies they made the day before. The neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Zafrani, spoke quietly. The boys, Omar and Jamal, didn’t say anything. Their large brown eyes stared at the big Christmas tree covered with twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments. Beds were made up for everyone, the little boys in his brother’s room and their parents in the spare room. As the boys were about to go to bed for the remainder of the night, they took one more look at the tree and cried.

“There, there,” said their mother as she hugged them. “Don’t cry. At least we are all safe and warm.” She thanked Cory and his parents and they all went to bed.

Cory felt a sick feeling in his stomach. Christmas Eve and their tree and all their gifts probably burnt. They would have no presents to open in the morning. How awful. He tossed and turned in his bed. How would he feel if it happened to him? Now he really couldn’t sleep and no longer looked forward to the morning either. How could he open all those gifts when they had nothing?

Then, he had an idea, jumped out of bed and put on the light. He pulled out some coloured paper, a pair of scissors and Christmas stickers from his desk drawer. Two gift tags made, he wrote Omar on one and Jamal on the other. He stopped for a minute and then made two more. Tiptoeing into the dark living room, he pulled out four of his gifts from under the tree. Without looking at the tags, he replaced them with the new tags. Corey went back to bed and fell asleep with a smile on his face.

The next thing he heard was his mom saying, “Wake up. It’s Christmas morning. Omar and Jamal are up already.”

Cory never slept in on Christmas morning. He ran into the living room. Dad had plugged in the lights on the tree and turned on the fire in the fireplace. The room looked cozy and warm. Jamal and Omar stared at the tree as if they had never seen one before. Cory reached under the tree.

His mom gasped and said, “Maybe we could wait to open the gifts.”

Ignoring her, he handed a gift to each of the spellbound boys.

The oldest boy read out his tag. “To Jamal. From Santa.” His eyes grew wider.

“Open it,” said Cory, hardly able to contain his excitement.

Jamal carefully removed the wrapping from his gift as if he were undressing a baby. His round face beamed when he discovered a PlayStation.

His dad looked at Cory and raised his eyebrows. He turned to Omar holding onto his gift like it would disappear if he loosened his grip. “Don’t you want to see what is in your package?”

The young boy ripped the package open and produced a huge smile as he pulled out a baseball glove. “I love to play baseball!” He slid his left hand in and punched his right fist into the mitt.

Cory’s mom looked over at her son with tears in her eyes. “I think you deserve to open one of your presents, dear.”

Fun and laughter filled the rest of the morning. Cory loved all six of his gifts, but he would never forget the smiles on the faces of those little boys as they discovered gifts under the bright, shiny tree for them.

He learned the real meaning of Christmas that year.


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