After hours of shopping, there was one small item left on my list…Christmas Gift-Toys for Tots. Soon a darling Cabbage Patch Doll sat expectantly on the top of my pile. I rolled towards the checkout but my cart made an abrupt stop in front of a huge display of racecar tracks… suddenly, I remembered Anthony.
For several months, Anthony and his family lived in a tiny duplex next door. Life was difficult for them, and it wasn’t unusual to find them without necessities. I tried to do what I could but it wasn’t much… I tried harder not judge or notice they always had enough money for cigarettes and adult beverages.
As usual that Christmas my children were up early opening gifts, displaying them to their friends as I distributed my traditional array of baked-goods to my neighbors. Next door Anthony smiled at me proudly displaying his Christmas gift, a race car set while his sister Cassie circled the yard with her new doll and stroller. I was surprised that one of my children noticed, “Mom they only got one toy”…
The next day I saw Anthony’s mother put a box in the back seat of the car. Anthony stood crying as the car pulled away. Later, my six-year-old daughter explained.
“Mom…Anthony’s mom took his race set back to the store!”
“She said that they needed money.”
“Did they take Cassie’s doll too?
“No, just Anthony’s.”
Later Anthony sat on the front porch, hands folded eyes staring down at the cracked concrete as Cassie played in the grass with her doll. He looked up at me and his eyes mirrored the depth of heartbreak and disappointment he had already faced in his six short years. Though our own budget was already over-extended my husband and I discussed buying him another racecar track, and the likelihood that it would be sold or returned to the store for a refund. My husband decided to give him his own slot car set, just a couple years old and in perfect condition. Anthony smiled when he saw the racetrack but I know that it didn’t makeup for the disappointment of having his gift returned.
We decided that each Christmas we would support other children that might not receive a gift. We gave to needy families, through our Church, organizations like Angel tree, or Toys for Tots, but over time, our children married, had children of their own and life raced from one Holiday to the next. Eventually I forgot about the gifts…I forgot about Anthony.
Standing in front of that display, with so many Christmas memories dancing around those boxes, there was only one thing left to do. I rearranged the contents of my overflowing cart and deposited a racecar track next to that baby doll and then headed toward the checkout stand.
A young Marine helped me put the boxes in the bin just outside the store. “Thank you very much Ma’am. Have a happy holiday.”
“You’re welcome.… I replied. “It’s really nothing. I should do more…remember …we can always do more.”
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