This story was originally posted two years ago, but it's one of the most meaningful Christmases I experienced as I was growing up and I wanted to share it again.
It was 1979. My family had moved to Missouri because Dad could buy land there for a good price. He'd dreamed of someday owning a dairy farm and thought Missouri is where he could make that happen. He'd taught school for a dozen years or so and was ready for a career change. Before we moved there, he and a couple of my uncles and one of their friends, headed to Missouri for school--real estate school. They all got real estate licenses and Dad got his broker's license. They found a cute little house that sat on a little hill in the middle of a little town, bought it and created Pioneer Realty.
The problem was timing. It was 1979. Interest rates went insane. Shortly after they opened Pioneer Realty, they saw rates go as high as 22%. Yes, you read that right. Real Estate came to a standstill. More than half of real estate offices in the United States closed. Just as Pioneer Realty was opening.
Thank goodness Dad had secured a teaching position in the little town we lived in. So for a couple of years, Dad worked two jobs--jr. high school teacher and real estate broker. Teachers in Missouri weren't paid very well. Dad's twelve years of experience earned him $11,000 per year. And that small amount of money ended up supporting our family of 12 at that time, as well as paying the mortgage and utilites for the real estate office. I'm not sure I need to say it, but we were poor. Very poor.
I can remember scattered details of many Christmases as I was growing up, but I remember many more details from that Christmas than any other. The real estate partner that was my dad's friend was poorer than we were. I remember Mom and Dad deciding we needed to make sure they had a Christmas, so we did. Mom and I made dresses for their daughters and shirts for their sons. We took food for a good Christmas dinner and we left it on their porch in the middle of the night.
Christmas morning, we opened our presents. I still have mine. It was a coupon book. It was and is a treasure. Mom and Dad had no money, so the book was filled with things that would be redeemed throughout the year. Some were things we'd need anyway, a couple were activities we'd surely be asking to do and some were things that would cost nothing. They included:
A dinner out with Dad and Mom
A new blouse
Admission money and permission to go to a movie
A new pair of underpants (4 of these)
A new pair of socks (4 of these)
A cousin could sleepover at our house
A summer vacation with the family
A new pair of shoes (when the coupon holder and the parents agree they're needed)
A new bath towel
The privelege of preparing the Family Night lesson
An afternoon of shopping with Mom
A morning of reading scriptures when it isn't your turn
A walk with Dad
A walk with Mom
And my three favorite:
A BYU basketball game if they came to play within a reasonable distance,
A stupid mistake erased from Dad and Mom's memory, never to be mentioned again,
This coupon entitles the bearer to have a fit--act like a lunatic--without punishment and without harping. One Time Only.
I still have my coupon book and all coupons were redeemed. It was a wonderful Christmas and reminds me that the best Christmas memories aren't about the money spent or how showy they are. It's about giving and loving. And while I've always looked at that Christmas with fondness, only after I became a mother did I realize what a hard time that must have been for my parents. At the time they had ten children, and under the tree, they put ten 3 x 5 notebooks to greet us Christmas morning. They knew that they couldn't afford to buy clothes and toys to put under the tree, but what they couldn't have known was what a wonderful memory they were making and how special those Christmas coupon books would be to us.