With the sorority sisters gone for the holiday, we emerged into the beautiful house.
It was 1991 and we had three children ages 4, 2, and seven months. Believe it or not, we were house parents in a sorority at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Graduate school had motivated us to drive across the country with a toddler just a few years before. I took a pregnancy test somewhere around Illinois and life as a soon-to-be family of four began.
Money was painfully scarce. It’s humbling to admit, but I used to pray that someone would invite us over for dinner after church so we could eat something really good. Then something amazing opened up to us.
While teaching childbirth education classes, I met a young couple who encouraged us to apply to replace them as house parents when they moved away. In this role, we had a one-bedroom apartment on the main floor of the house. At the time of this Christmas, our now three kids slept in the bedroom, while Russ and I slept on a futon in the “everything else” room. It was a tight fit, but with nearly all of our living expenses covered, we gladly wedged ourselves in.
That Christmas with no family near, we hosted a party with friends sharing food and gathering for a talent show in the spacious living room. We enjoyed sitting in front of the fireplace with cups of hot chocolate from the big machine in the industrial kitchen. One push of a button and the sweet liquid filled our cups.
On Christmas morning we sat on the floor of our little apartment as the girls opened the small treats in their stockings. Then we took the children into the main house and stood them in front of the heavy wooden pocket doors of the living room. Russ and I each pulled one door to the side to reveal a large red and blue Little Tykes slide. The girls ran to it with squeals of happiness while our little guy crawled as fast as he could.
It was a stretch to buy such a big toy, but as the kids played with it for days, we knew it was worth every penny. In a place where snow and very cold temperatures made it hard to play outside, the slide entertained our kids for hours inside.
Little did we know that slide would move with us from New York, to Colorado, to Idaho and eventually eleven of our children would play on it before we passed it to another family. Not bad for the one Christmas present of 1991.
Do you have a Christmas memory that has stayed with you through the years? I would love to hear!
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Courage and Hope,
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