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Christmas Tradition
« on: Dec 22, 02, 10:54:01 am CST »

White Envelopes

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our
Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has
peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true
meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it, overspending,
the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle
Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation
because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts,
sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for
Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son, Kevin, who was
12 that year was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended,
and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a
team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed
to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast
to our boys in the spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new
wrestling shoes. As the match began I was alarmed to see that the other
team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to
protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously
could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight
class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around
in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't
acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I
wish one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential,
but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved
kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football,
baseball and lacrosse.

That's when the idea of his present came. That afternoon, I went to a
local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear
and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On
Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling
Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was
the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.
For each Christmas, I followed the tradition, one year sending a group
of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a
check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground
the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the
highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on
Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand
with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the
tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way
to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The
story doesn't end there.

You see we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas
rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the
tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree,
and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope
on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will
expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with
wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

Author Unknown

"Idiots are fun. No wonder every village wants one."
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