By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
This is a true story. It’s a tear-jerker.
When I was four years old in 1949, I had a Christmas experience that I have always remembered, vividly.
I arose on Christmas day, went to the front window of our house at 202 Farrell Street, and gazed out the window. Father had built the house with his own hands with the help of mother’s brothers, who made their living as carpenters. I still live in the house.
I saw many children — Roseland Park Community was full of children during the late 1940s and 1950s, and they all played outside, and everybody knew everybody else. This was before television, computers and computer games. All the kids were up bright and early, playing with their shiny new toys. One child was riding his brand new bike.
I knew there was no Christmas tree in our house, and I had seen a tree at one home, so I knew something wasn’t right. But I did not realize how different it was until that Christmas morning when there was not only no Christmas tree, there were no presents, and all the other children had toys.
Mother walked into the living room and saw me looking out the window. She said nothing. But as young children will do, I turned to her and asked, “Why don’t I have a toy, mommy?”
I remember her distinctly telling me that father was sick, was away in a hospital, and that we didn’t have any money in the house. There were no government programs back then, no welfare. If the income provider was incapacitated, you depended on your church, if you had one, or your own relatives. Otherwise, you went without.
I remember that I did not understand, either. Father didn’t bring presents, Santa did, and why had he left me out.
Mother disappeared into the bedroom, and I continued to watch the neighborhood children through the front window.
Then mother reappeared, and I turned around to look at her, and she held out in her hand a 25-cent piece, a silver quarter. That was a lot of money, especially to a child back in the late 1940s, and would buy a lot of candy.
“Santa left this on the table last night with a note that said give this to David,” she told me.
I remember feeling better.
Mother struggled with three children without any means of support for about a year until father got well. Her mainstay was Roseland Park Baptist Church, the members of which made sure we had food and clothing for that entire year. Always someone from the church checked on us, and we weren’t even members. Later, though, mother joined the church, and everyone of us, including father and my two sisters, Linda and Roberta, were “saved” and baptized at Roseland Park Baptist Church.
Mother lived to be 92 years old, dying only a month after Katrina hit. You never said anything derogatory about Roseland Park Baptist Church in her presence, and if you did, you would get a stern dressing down.
After mother gave me that quarter, I walked out to the street. I felt a little more confident because I had a whole quarter in my pocket.
My neighbor, Will Davis, saw me out in the yard looking at the other children, and he walked over to see me. He knew that we were having tough times.
“And can I ask what you got for Christmas, David?” he asked me.
I proudly put my little paw in my pocket and pullled out the quarter and showed him.
I could see his eyes were watery, and I remember exactly what he said, “David, you see all these kids out here, with all these shiny new toys? They will not remember this Christmas and will forget what they got for this Christmas, but you will always remember this Christmas, and your gift.” I know now that he had seen similar Christmases before himself.
These memories were brought back again when I heard a caller to WRJW’s radiothon for the Toys For Tots on Friday say she had experienced a Christmas without a gift, and felt that “nobody loved me.”
Find someone this Christmas who is having a rough time, and help them. Give till it hurts. You will be as blessed as the one who receives the gift, and someone will have a memory that will last a lifetime. And if you are having a tough Christmas remember that Christ, the one whose birthday we are celebrating, loves you just as much as he loves everybody else.
If you want to give, WRJW is still accepting donations for Toys For Tots. If you need help call 601-569-9616. There is no shame in seeking help to make your child’s Christmas a happy one. You can be assured that when you give to Toys For Tots, your money and your gift stays here and all the money goes directly to gifts for children.