a sampling of activities that carries the Christmas spirit from an English living room to a San Francisco soup kitchen
Mom, being alone with six children, and having no financial support until Dad returned to collect his paycheck, could be heard working late into the night www.bcngame.com. While we were in school she gathered orange crates from the local supermarket and stove burners, kinobs, and dials from the junkyard, off discarded appliances. She painted the crates, glued on knobs, dials www.d3a7.com, and burners, turning another's junk into our play kitchen. A sheet of plywood became a miniature town for my brothers, with painted train tracks, twigs glued on for trees, and cardboard houses for neighborhoods and stores www.eklinks.com. Cardboard boxes with wooden wheels were painted and strung together to make a train. Slowly her garage became a Santa's workshop, and her treasure bag grew.
While she prepared for Christmas in her way www.heilink.com, we prepared for Dad's arrival. Each of us in school had learned a Christmas song that we shared with our younger brothers and sisters. That, coupled with my new ballet/tap skills, turned us into a song-and-dance troupe that would ``wow'' Dad on Christmas Eve. But as Christmas grew near, weather conditions on the other coast became hazardous. Financial constraints prohibited phone calls, so each day we watched and waited, practiced and built.
On Christmas Eve, my sister and I vowed that we would not go to sleep until we knew that Dad had made it home, but somewhere between Bing Crosby crooning ``The Little Drummer Boy'' and ``Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,'' we dozed off. The next morning we woke up and quickly ran down the hall to gather the rest of our brothers and sisters. We ran into the front room, and there on the sofa, still in his work clothes, was Dad, with Mom asleep with her head on his knee. The Christmas tree had presents under it, but none were as important to us as the picture of our parents sleeping. When they awoke, we performed our Christmas songs and dances, to great applause from our parents.
We opened our gifts, and each one drew breathless surprise. Soon we were bustled off to the kitchen for breakfast. Mom asked me to get the milk from the refrigerator, but there was none to be found. With feigned surprise she said she must have left it on the back porch. I headed for the back door - but instead of finding a gallon of milk, there were two beautiful new bicycles.
No one was more surprised than our Dad. He just stared at Mom's glowing face. I don't think I had even seen her look so happy or so beautiful as that day, sitting at the kitchen table with chin in her hands and her eyes on us.
It took years before I noticed that her engagement and wedding rings were missing from her hand. Rings she had cherished had been sold so she could cherish us. I couldn't understand why it had made her so happy to give up something she loved and that had been given to her by someone she loved.
Not until my 16th Christmas. It was the first time I had held a full-time job, and I had saved up enough money to buy a beautiful dress for the Christmas ball. I had seen it in the shop window for three months, and after receiving my paycheck, I could finally go and pick it up.
On the way, with my every penny in hand, I passed the jewelers. Suddenly, the wedding bands sparkling from the shop window were more beautiful to me than anything I had ever seen. I walked in and picked out a very modest gold band for Mom. That Christmas I sat with my chin in my hands and watched - and understood. Suesan K. Oyer, Plymouth, Mass.