We Were a Poor Family—but My Parents Still Managed to Give Me the Greatest Gift of All

Love, joy, and the warm feeling of pulling together to rally through tough times don't cost a thing. But gifts do cost money. What's a poor family to do?

ChristmasChuckrasco/Shutterstock
Reader’s Digest editors asked the Reader’s Digest contributor network to reflect on the true meaning of community during the holiday season. The following piece was written in response to that prompt. To share your own 100-word true story for possible inclusion in the magazine or on RD.com, click here.

The Richest Poor Family in the World Celebrates Christmas

When I was seven years old I went into my parent’s bedroom and saw my mother sitting at her sewing machine making doll clothes. My mother was a beautiful seamstress and was always sewing items for the church bazaar and making clothes for people. When I asked her who the doll clothes were for, she told me that they were for the poor people, so I never gave it another thought. Come Christmas morning when I opened my present, there were those beautiful doll clothes that I had seen my mother making. I said to her “I thought the doll clothes were for the poor people.” My mother just smiled and said, “They are for the poor people. We’re poor.”

When I was nine years old my greatest desire in life was to own a pogo stick. I had recently learned to walk on a pair of stilts my dad had made for me, and I thought that if I also mastered the pogo stick that surely the circus would want to hire me for my incredible feats. (Read about how one town stepped in when a family was too poor for Christmas.)

When Christmas season rolled around again I told my mother that the only thing I wanted was a pogo stick. My mother told me they were way too expensive and that we simply couldn’t afford one. On a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks before Christmas, my mom and dad told me we needed to go to Sears to pay our revolving credit bill. While my mother and I were at the counter paying the bill, my dad said, “I’ll be right back, I need to see something in the tool department.” After the bill was taken care of my mother and I went ahead and got in the truck. Soon my dad came walking out with a long slender box. I remember wondering at that very moment if it was a pogo stick in that box.

When we arrived back at home my dad put the box in the barn. While my parents were busy with their chores, I snuck out to the barn and found the box. I was so excited and I knew that as soon as I opened that magical box my bright, shiny pogo stick would appear.

No such luck! Inside the box was a silly old broom. And so Christmas morning was both great and disappointing. I got some nice gifts but I didn’t get the present that I really wanted.

After all the wrapping paper was cleaned up my dad said he needed to tend to something in the barn. When he came back in, he was carrying my beautiful pogo stick. I couldn’t believe it, how they were able to scrape the money together for it and how they tricked me with the broom. I was so excited that I couldn’t let the pogo stick out of my sight. When I went to bed that night, I made sure my pogo stick was on the floor next to me. I’m surprised that I didn’t fall out of bed because I slept right on the edge so that I could hold onto my pogo stick as I fell asleep. My parents probably got quite a chuckle from the trick they played on me and I wonder if they were secretly watching me from the window as I snuck out to the barn to snoop for my Christmas present.

When I was nine years old my greatest desire in life was to own a pogo stick.

Although we didn’t have much money, my parents gave me the most important gift of all, an abundance of love. We had love and we had joy. My dad worked hard to provide for us and my mother knew how to stretch a dollar. Although our home was old and small, it was immaculate and we always had plenty to eat and clean, warm beds to sleep in at night.

That was over 60 years ago and I still relive those cherished Christmas memories every year during the holiday season. My parents were the best and I will never forget all the joy they brought into my life.

These stories of true Christmas miracles will restore your hope for the holidays.

Paula Parke is a Reader’s Digest reader from Star, Idaho. She is also a member of the Reader’s Digest contributor network.

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