The Forgotten Christmas Card

“I don’t want to and I won’t go to Grandma’s house this year! She’s old and I never liked her or Grandpa anyway. They always treat me like a child!” Fourteen year old Maisie stomped her foot as she stormed out of the kitchen. Her mother’s gaze followed as her daughter made her way up the stairs to her bedroom, clomping her foot as hard as possible on every step as she went; more like a child than a teenager.
“She’ll come around.” Maisie’s dad looked lovingly at his wife as a tear fell to her cheek. “It’s her first time to be invited to a friend’s Christmas party. Once you explain the situation to her I’m sure she’ll want to go with us to your parent’s instead.”
Maisie’s mom, Gloria, took a seat at the table across from her husband, Dave. She wiped her tears away with a red-flowered-cotton apron. The apron her own mother had sewn for her when Gloria was a child. Thinking back to those days, she could almost smell the gingerbread that permeated the house during every Christmas break.
When Gloria was fourteen, her mom had made an exact replica of the apron and proudly tied it around her daughter’s waist before inviting Gloria to join her for the holiday baking. It was a joy-filled day Gloria would never forget. Baking in the kitchen with her mother had been a privilege. She had looked forward to carrying on the tradition with Maisie this year once they arrived at Grandma’s house.
“Maisie was so close to my parents when she was younger. Once she realized Dad was different from all of her friend’s grandfather’s she hasn’t looked at him the same. I never imagined we could raise such a selfish child.”
It was set to be a sad Christmas. Gloria’s dad was still recovering from an unexpected heart attack. Her mother was devastated, and had since received worse news.
Gloria’s eyes filled with tears once again. “I don’t know how we’ll make it through Christmas if Maisie doesn’t change her attitude. With Mom’s recent diagnosis we may not have her with us much longer. I don’t know if I can…”
As Gloria’s voice drifted off, Maisie’s dad reached across the table to take her hand. “Hey. We don’t know what the Lord has planned, and I’ll be right here with you no matter what happens. You just need to hold onto me.”
His words brought a smile to Gloria’s face. Her first of the day. “I know. And I love you for that. But it’s Maisie I’m worried about. She and Dad had words minutes before he collapsed. She won’t say it out loud, but I know she thinks his heart attack was her fault. Knowing she owes him an apology makes it difficult to go to their house, especially at Christmas. If I tell her about Mom and the leukemia she may decide to go because she feels guilty. If I don’t tell her and we don’t force her to go, if Mom dies, she’ll carry that guilt for the rest of her life as well. If only they’d gotten along these past few years this might be easier.”
“Maybe it’s time we tell her the truth about – “
“No! We can’t do that. We have no idea how she would react.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to upset you further. I just thought maybe it was the right time since your dad said he’d tried to tell her last year. I don’t know exactly what he said. Maisie never mentioned their conversation. It’s like she forgot it ever happened. Did your dad ever tell you if they talked?”
“No. He just suggested the truth might be better coming from him, and I agreed. Maybe he never got around to it. Now, I’m not sure it will ever be the right time.”
***
Upstairs in her room, Maisie had thrown herself onto her bed to pout. How dare her parents try to keep her from her friend’s party. Adults never understand how hard it is to be a teenager.
She wanted to shout her resentment to the sky, but kept her muddled feelings inside. No way would she spend another boring Christmas with her Grandparents. They were old. While they had once been close, Maisie hadn’t liked going to their house for Christmas for a few years now, preferring to stay close to home and her friends.
She hated when they came to visit too. Especially if any of her friends saw her Grandpa. He had a shriveled hand and walked with a limp. Maisie hadn’t thought much about it until one of her friends pointed it out as ugly. Now keeping her friends from seeing her Grandpa was all she thought about when they were around.
Her grandparents lived close to a large pond that always froze over in the winter. She’d never been allowed to go there, and no one would say why. Recent Christmases at their house would have been so much more fun if she could have ice skated on the pond. But even stomping her foot on many occasions hadn’t changed their mind.
The last time she talked to Grandpa, he’d sided with her parents about the school project she told him she was working on. Then he’d said something very strange. He asked about a Christmas card he had given her last year and if she’d read it. She’d yelled at him over the phone that a year old Christmas card wasn’t going to help with her research. She still didn’t understand why he’d been so upset when she’d told him she was going to do a paper about their family tree. So upset he’d…
Maisie stopped that line of thinking since lately it had always brought her to tears. Her Grandpa had been so healthy that she knew his heart attack had to be her fault. Especially since it happened not long after their conversation ended. Now that he was recovering, her own heart seemed to think of him with love more than it had when he was healthy.
Pushing to her feet, she knelt on the floor to pull her box of keepsakes out from under the bed. Anytime she was sad, it always made her feel better to look through the box.
Opening the old chest, she ran her fingers over the soft fur of the stuffed bunny rabbit Grandma and Grandpa had given her when she was little. She had once loved it as much as the gift-givers. She’d put it away in the box a few years ago when she decided she was too old for stuffed toys. She hugged it tightly to her chest, then placed it on her pillow. She would sleep with it next to her one last time before she was really too old.
Rummaging through the remaining items she found a school picture from kindergarten, a dried flower that she’d kept from her fourteenth birthday party, and other nostalgic items. Funny. She’d never thought about it before, but there were no pictures of her as an infant or any other memorabilia from those years. It was as though she had no life until her third birthday. Why had it not occurred to her to wonder about that before?
Reaching the bottom of the box she noticed the lining was torn. Sticking out from under one side of the lining she could see the corner of an envelope. Maisie pulled it from beneath the worn paper covering the bottom of the chest. Her name was on the envelope, written in Grandpa’s messy cursive. It was the Christmas card Grandpa had given her last year. She must have stuffed it into the box when she got home from their house, caring more about the gifts she’d received than a stuffy old card from a stuffy old man. She tossed the card toward her trash can but it landed on the floor face up.
Ignoring it, she rifled through more of the items in the box. But she kept glancing back at the card. What would it hurt to see what was inside?
Retrieving the card, she sat cross-legged on the floor, opened the envelope, and began to read Grandpa’s words. Some were written on the inside of the card, but there were a couple of folded pages in the envelope as well. The first paragraph on the card was a real kicker.
Your parents, Grandma, and I, have debated telling you about your history for a couple of years.. We have decided you are old enough now to hear the truth about your past, and that I should be the one to tell you since I was directly involved in what happened.
Though you are not the child of my daughter, Gloria, you are still my granddaughter, blood of my blood, and I love you so very much. We all do.
He had run out of room to write on the card. In shock, Maisie put the card aside and reached for the papers. She unfolded them and read the rest of the story.
Your birth parents were Shari and Daniel Obard. Shari was your mom’s younger sister. I say was because your parents died in a tragic accident when you were only a toddler. They had come to tell us they were moving away and had no plans to see us ever again. Your father had finally converted your mom to his unusual beliefs and said they were joining a cult.
While we were upset that our daughter was leaving, we were even more upset that she was taking you away to live in that kind of environment. But what could we do as they were both adults?
I stood on our porch in tears as they drove away. The weather was bad and the roads were slick from an ice storm. I watched in horror as their car went into a skid, then ran off the road into the partially frozen pond.
I grabbed my keys, ran to my truck, and drove down to the pond. I never thought twice about jumping into the icy water to try and save my family. I got to you first, managed to release you from your car seat, and carried you to my truck. It took me a bit to get you out of the water and you weren’t breathing. I could barely catch my own breath. I knew I had to make certain you were okay before I went back for your parents or you would die.
By the time you came around the car was completely submerged and I knew it was too late for anyone to help your parents. Your Grandma had called 911and the police arrived along with fire and rescue.
I refused to let anyone look at my injuries until I knew you were out of danger. The water was so cold I ended up with frostbite and lost a couple of fingers on my left hand and a couple of toes. I know you are embarrassed that I walk with a limp and I know you see my hand as ugly now, so I try to keep it hidden when you and your friends are around. There isn’t much I can do about the limp.
There are a lot of things I can’t do anymore, but that doesn’t bother me. Even though I lost a daughter, my granddaughter is alive and that is all that matters. I would do the same thing all over again to save you. We were your only living relatives so the courts had no issues with granting custody to Gloria and Dave.
As you got older we all wondered if you might remember some of what happened that night, but you never said anything. All of us love you so much it didn’t matter to your mom and dad that they weren’t your biological parents. Turned out they couldn’t have children of their own so they looked at you as their blessing from God. It helped ease the pain from the loss of your real mother and father.
So, now that you know the truth we all are hopeful you can forgive us for keeping it from you for so long. It is my deepest wish that you can look on your Grandma and myself with kindness and one day come to love us again as much as we love you.
We are already looking forward to next Christmas when you will know the truth about who you are. Hopefully, we will have made a deeper connection with you long before that.
Please encourage your parents to bring you for a visit as soon as you can after you read this. There is much more we’d like to share with you.
All our love, your adoptive family.
Maisie could barely read the final paragraphs for the tears pooling in her eyes. All these years her family had loved her; not because they had to, but because they wanted to. She had behaved like such a brat and been so embarrassed for her friends to meet her Grandpa because he was deformed. Knowing him saving her life had caused his injuries made her heart swell. How could she have treated him the way she did?
All the love she’d once had for her grandparents came pouring back. She had to go see them. Now.
Maisie grabbed the card and letter and ran downstairs. “Mom, Dad! We have to go see Grandma and Grandpa!”
She stopped short in the kitchen. Gathered around the table were all of her family members.
In tears, Maisie ran to her grandpa. “I’m so sorry, Grandpa. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. Can you ever forgive me?’
He immediately enveloped her in his arms. “Now, now. None of that blubbering. I’m assuming you finally read my Christmas card?”
Maisie nodded, too choked up to speak any more words.
“There is nothing to forgive. You were a child and didn’t understand. Now that you do, I’m hoping we can have the relationship we once had. And we came here today to share some good news. Your parents said they hadn’t told you about your grandma, but just know this, her latest tests came back negative. It was all a mistake and she’s going to be fine. We’re hoping you will join your parents at our house for Christmas.”
Maisie pulled back to meet her grandpa’s eyes. “I want to come this Christmas and all the Christmases in the future. I can’t believe you risked your life to save mine, and I’m so glad I finally know about the past. I think everything is going to be better now.”
Her grandma reached around to hand Maisie a box wrapped in Christmas paper. “We wanted you to have this present early.”
Maisie looked at her parents who nodded their approval. When she opened the box what she found inside brought more tears. She had been given a beautiful pair of ice skates.
She smiled as her grandpa chuckled. “Now that you’re all grown up, you’re going to need these if we’re going skating on the pond when you visit. Your mom and her sister used to do that every winter.”
“But first we have to bake Christmas goodies,” her grandma said. “There is an apron with your name on it waiting for you at our house.”
Thanks to the love and patience she’d been shown, Maisie finally understood what it truly meant to feel like part of a family. Who would have thought a forgotten Christmas card could change her life so much?

Comments

Susan Kite's picture

That was a very nice and sweet Christmas story. Thanks!

Cindy Taylor's picture

Thank you, Susan.

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Geraldine (Richards) Bailey-age 79 of Maynardville passed away Wednesday morning, January 12, 2022 at North Knoxville Medical Center. She was a member of Macedonia Baptist Church. Preceded in death by mother, Nora Bell Richards; brothers, Benny Richards and Steve Richards; son, Roger Lynn Treece; daughter, Patricia Ann Treece.

Joyce Turner

Joyce Vandergriff Turner - age 67 of Maynardville, passed away peacefully in her sleep on January 10, 2022. She is preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Martha Vandergriff and Della Mae Oaks. Joyce is survived by son, Charles Gentry and daughter-in-law Natasha; daughter, LeeAnn Turner Large and son-in-law Eric; grandson, Dakota Gentry; granddaughters, Evelyn Gentry, Destiny and Emma Large; and siblings, Michael Vandergriff, Kyle Vandergriff, Tony Vandergriff and Patsy Mallicoat. A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Anna Kitts

Anna Leora “Lee” Graves Pollard Kitts went home to her Heavenly Father January 10, 2022 at the age of 89. She had a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ her Lord. Anna adored her children and all of her siblings. She enjoyed showing kindness to others by sending bouquets of flowers to her shut-in friends. She loved her plants, music and a good road trip. Anna was also an excellent seamstress, working for many years at Hall Brown and John H. Daniels.

Clyde L. Monroe

Clyde L. Monroe-age 93 of Maynardville passed away Saturday, January 8, 2022 at Willow Ridge Center. He was a member of First Baptist Church of Maynardville; a graduate of Horace Maynard High School, class of 1945 and a U. S. Army Veteran 1950-1951. Preceded in death by parents, Raymond and Bonnie (Palmer) Monroe; siblings, Gareth P. Monroe, Mary Jo Meyer, Willa Sue Cox, Eugene D. Monroe.

Johnie Marie McCurry

Johnie Marie McCurry - age 80 of Corryton, went to her heavenly home January 8, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. peacefully surrounded by her loved ones. Johnie Marie was born February 7, 1941 in Luttrell. Her love and humor were adored by everyone who knew her. Johnie was a mother, sister, mamaw, friend and devoted care giver to many. She was one of the founding members of Fellowship Christian Church where she spent her Sundays serving her savior.

Dusty Sexton

Joshua Dustin (Dusty) Sexton, age 34, of Maynardville passed away Saturday, January 8, 2022. He was born on October 14, 1987. Dusty is preceded in death by his mother, Janice Sexton and grandparents. Dusty is survived by his father, Jerry Sexton and step-mom, Brenda Sexton; his children, Aubree and Konnor Sexton; his siblings, Toni (Tim) Brown, Chris (Kayla) Sexton, Gina (John) Hale, Jennifer (Jeremy) Brake and his nieces and nephews.

Rev. Glen E. Beeler

Rev. Glen E. Beeler went home to be with his heavenly Father on Friday December 31st . More than anything Glen loved Christ fiercely and reflected his love for Christ through the way he adored his family, served his community through pastoring, and encouraged others to get to know his risen Savior.

Barbara Sue (Wyrick) Rutherford

Barbara Sue (Wyrick) Rutherford-age 71 of Maynardville, born October 25, 1950 passed away Thursday morning, December 30, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center. She was a member of New Friendship Baptist Church. Preceded in death by son, Russell Luke Tolliver; daughter, Rebecca Pierce; parents, Calday and Francis Wyrick; brothers, Fred Wyrick, O. G. Wyrick, Theodore Wyrick; sisters, Carolyn Kitts, Othella (Sally) Corum, Pearl Atkins, Hester Atkins.

Nellie Wynn

Nellie Wynn – 48 of Maynardville, passed away December 26, 2021 with family by her side. She was born March 27, 1973 to Willis and Mildred Wynn. Your life touched so many others and will be remembered forever more, to leave the world a better place than it had been before.

Peggy Bates

Peggy Lou Sharp Bates was born July 13, 1936 and passed away December 22, 2021 due to pancreatic cancer at the age of 85. She was a member of Cedar Ford Baptist Church in Luttrell. Peggy was a 1954 graduate of Horace Maynard High School, cheerleader for four years and captain her senior year, and a member of the school paper staff.

Mamie Jo Collins

Mamie Jo “Wood” Collins – age 91 of Maynardville, passed away on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, with her sister by her side. She was a member of Alder Springs Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by her husband Robert Collins; son, Michael Collins; and parents Fonzie and Vileto Wood. Mamie is survived by her sisters Wanda Vandergriff of Maynardville and Clara Ramsey of Kentucky, several nieces, and nephews.

James Henry Owens

James Henry Owens-age 64 of Sharps Chapel went home to be with the Lord Tuesday evening, December 21, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center. He was a member of Oak Grove Primitive Baptist Church. Preceded in death by mother, Panzie Sherritze; brother, Robert Owens; grandson, Alton McKeen.

Jennifer Rena (Hickman) Shepherd

Some people only walk this earth for a short time. Their departure reminds us that God knows when he is ready to take his children and turn their trials and tribulations in for Angel wings. Our loved ones are now our protectors, watching over us from above.
Jennifer Rena (Hickman) Shepherd, age 45, of Luttrell, went home to Jesus to gain her angel wings on December 18th, 2021 at North Knoxville Medical Center.

James David Edwards

James David Edwards-age 64 of Sharps Chapel, born January 11, 1957 passed away Friday, December 17, 2021 at Claiborne Medical Center. He retired from Chrysler Corporation in Kokomo, Indiana. He was a very loving husband and father. He loved everyone he met and never met a stranger. David was saved at Lily Grove Baptist Church at a very early age. Preceded in death by parents, J. R. and Nadine (Johnson) Edwards; brother, Douglas Alvin Edwards; sister-in-law, Sharon Moyers Edwards; aunt, Jo Ann (Edwards) Bailey; grandparents, Roy and Ruth (Shoffner) Edwards; Ed and Ocie Johnson.

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