The tree, bedecked with cherished ornaments, garlands, and twinkling lights, stood in front of the living room window. We had carefully placed the creche on a white sheet beneath it.
While we kept our gift-giving to a minimum so that it didn't usurp the true meaning of the day, that year circumstances curtailed spending all together. The country was in a recession, and my husband was out of work. So I decided to sew. I warmed up the Singer and began working on huge Raggedy Ann dolls for our two little girls. Keeping it a secret from them while having to work in front of them was the challenge. I could do the machine sewing after they had gone to bed. Constructing the body and the clothes was the easy part.
Embroidering the face, the heart, and the "I love you" took many long hours. As Christmas drew nearer, I found myself working much of the day and into the night on the hand sewing. My daughters watched me rooting every strand of red yarn for the hair.
"What are you doing, Mama?" they asked.
I wouldn't lie to them. "I'm making Raggedy Ann dolls. Do you like them?"
Their faces lit up. "Yes! Who are they for?" I knew they wanted me to say that they were for them, but a mama has to have some secrets, especially at this time of year.
"They're for two children who won't have many presents on Christmas morning. I want them to have these dolls. Do you think they'll like them?"
"Yes," each said. They accepted my explanation. I was glad they didn't ask more questions.
Christmas Eve came, and our tree was still bare of presents. On Christmas morning, however, two rather large gifts appeared behind the creche. After we read Luke 2, it was time for them to open their gifts. When they realized that each had one of the Raggedy Ann dolls, they began dancing around.
"But, Mama, you said these were for two other children," one said.
"Yeah!" the other chimed in. They thought they had caught their mother in a lie.
"I never said that." I remembered, because I had been very deliberate in my wording. "I said that they were for two children who wouldn't have many presents on Christmas morning."
That Christmas, they actually received three gifts: a mama-made doll, a lesson in critical listening, and a story to tell to friends through the years. They still have those dolls. In fact, my grandchildren now enjoy them.