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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Union County success stories: From BRES to UTK

Savannah Jones

With anything Savannah Jones did, she always felt the warmth of her small town, as they always showed up and showed out for her growing up, whether it be during hard times of family loss or joyous occasions of graduations and high school homecoming fundraisers.
Communities are made up of friends, families, teachers, leaders, churches, businesses and much more but what truly makes an individual’s community is the connections made throughout a person’s life.

Events

Heritage Festival

Saturday, October 1, 2022 - 10:00
Union County Heritage Festival

The 17th Annual Union County HERITAGE FESTIVAL SAT., October 1st, 2022 10:00am - 4:00pm In Historic Downtown Maynardville The Cradle of Country Music
Festival locations are WILSON PARK, UNION COUNTY MUSEUM, and HISTORIC SNODDERLY HOUSE. Like us on facebook Union County Heritage Festival Visit https://UnionCountyHeritageFestival.com for more information.

Music Headliner on the Gazebo Stage: Stoney Point Bluegrass Band

Obituary

Ann Elizabeth Poston "Mimi"

Ann Elizabeth Poston “Mimi” – age 79 of Knoxville, shed her earthly body and awoke with the Heavenly Father with her body restored on August 12, 2022. Her family will miss her sweet disposition, kind spirit and endearing love each and every day.

She is preceded in death by parents, William and Helen Tharp. Left to cherish sweet Ann is her beloved husband, David J. Poston, Jr.; children, Lyda (Karl) Bell and Brian (Sarah) Poston; grandchildren, Mason Bell, Morgan, Reagan and Hunter Poston; special sister-in-law, Diane Harvey; and friend, Jennifer Hickson.

Pauline Jewell Tate

Pauline Jewell Tate-age 65 of New Tazewell passed away Saturday morning, August 13, 2022 at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. She was a member of Little Creek Baptist Church. Preceded in death by parents, James Cecil and Dewie (Smallwood) Mustard; sister, Flora Elizabeth Mustard; brother, Johnny Ray Mustard.

Survivors: sons, Darrell Tate and Jason Tate; three grandchildren; two sisters, Patricia McIntosh of Harrogate; Della Shoffner of Sharps Chapel; brother, Terry Glenn Mustard of Harrogate. Several nieces and nephews along with a host of friends.

Jeana Faye Hankins Johnson

Jeana Faye Johnson-age 50 of Corryton went with our Lord Friday, August 12, 2022 at her home. Preceded in death by father, Kenneth E. Hankins; grandparents, Claude and Velma Hankins; Bill and Nellie Williams.

Survivors: husband, Douglas Johnson, III; daughter and son-in-law, Chelsea and Josh Clevenger; mother, Janice Hankins; sister, Sonya Blair; niece, Miranda Allen; nephew, Tyler Blair along with several aunts and uncles.

Robert Lee Lawson

Robert “Bob” Lee Lawson, age 72 of Maiden passed away Monday, August 8, 2022 at Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory.

Born July 26, 1950 in Union County, Tennessee, he was the son of the late Clyde Vernon Lawson and Charlotte Parker Lawson. Bob retired from Fed-Ex after 21 years. He served in the U.S. Air Force and was a volunteer at Carolina Caring for many years. In addition to his parents, a brother, Bill Lawson and 2 sisters, Boots Hayes and Mick Damewood preceded him in death.

Left to cherish his memory:

Wife: Leanora Lawson of the home

Elmer W. Getz

Elmer W. Getz-age 90 of Knoxville passed away Monday morning, August 8, 2022 at Oakwood Senior Living.
Graveside service and interment 2 p.m. Friday, August 12, 2022 at Narrow Ridge Cemetery, Washburn, TN.
Arrangements by Cooke-Campbell Mortuary, Maynardville.

John Richard Maples

John Richard Maples-age 54 of Maynardville, formerly of Knoxville passed away suddenly Thursday evening, August 4, 2022 at his home. He was preceded in death by father, David Kent Maples; brother, David Maples.

Survivors: wife of 28 years, Yelonda Maples; son, Kevin Maples; step-son, C. Daniel Presnell; daughter, Tiffany Elizabeth Maples; mother and step-father, Lynn and Tom Cobble; sisters, Cheryl Roper, Anita Watts. Ten grandchildren, several nieces and nephews.

Roger Allan Collins

Roger Allan Collins of Washburn, passed away peacefully at home Friday, July 29, 2022, at the age of 66, surrounded by his family.

He was a long-time employee of Union Parts and Equipment of Maynardville, TN. Gray and Sons of Rutledge, TN and Self employed as a tractor mechanic for 20+ years. He attended church at Clinch Valley American Christian Church.

Charles "Chuck" Stevens

Charles William “Chuck” Stevens-age 54 of Maynardville passed away Sunday, July 24, 2022 at The Waters of Clinton. He was born March 1, 1968 the son of the late Charles and Brenda (Anderson) Geams. He was a graduate of Gibbs High School, Class of 1987. Upon graduation, Chuck enlisted in the U. S. Navy and served in the Persian Gulf. Also preceded in death by son, Josh Faust who died July 21, 2018; great-grandparents who raised Chuck, Oscar and Ethel Nicely; grandparents, James and Flossie (Nicely) Anderson.

Winfred Trula Edwards

Winfred Trula “Pike” Edwards-age 85 of Andersonville passed away Thursday morning, July 28, 2022 at Willow Ridge Center. She was a member of Byram’s Fork Baptist Church and attended Raccoon Valley Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by husband, Gary Joel Edwards, Sr.; parents, Oda and Gertie Grace (Ridenour) Pike; brothers, Bradford Pike, Hillard Pike, Lillard Pike, Hushell Pike, Kenneth Pike; sisters, Dolfie Poore and Eva Pike.

Laura Johnson

Laura Jane Johnson – age 72 of Harrogate, passed away peacefully with her family by her side, Tuesday morning July 26, 2022. She was saved at a young age and was a member of Shawanee Baptist Church. Laura was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend to all she knew.

Billy Hodge

Billy R. Hodge, 78 of Maynardville, left this earth on July 24th, 2022 surrounded by his loved ones. Billy was the son of the late Bill and Martha Hodge and the 3rd born to them of 9 children. He was born in Maynardville on September 21, 1943 and would remain in Maynardville his entire life. He married his loving wife Claudia (Davis) Hodge in 1962. Billy was the perfect image of the American Dream, showing how hard work and determination do pay off. He opened Hodge Manufacturing in 1976, and ran this family owned and operated business for 30 years.

Donny Bailey

Donny Ray “Herb” Bailey – age 59 of Luttrell, went home to be with his Heavenly Father, July 25, 2022, peacefully at home. He was a member of Nave Hill Baptist Church.

Carolyn Bailey

Carolyn F. Bailey – age 74 of Luttrell, passed away July 24, 2022 at her home. She attended Sevier Heights Baptist Church. Carolyn was a 1965 graduate of Horace Maynard High School. She will be remembered for her witty, outgoing personality. Carolyn worked alongside her husband and son at Bailey Heating and Air for 48 years and her own business Cakes by Carolyn for 30 years. She retired from Union County Highway Department in 2013. She enjoyed travelling and entertaining family and friends at her home.

David Brown

David Lee Brown-age 58 of Luttrell passed away Sunday morning, July 24, 2022 at his home. He was a member of Willow Springs Baptist Church. David was a retired brick mason. Preceded in death by his wife, Sonja Denise (Ridenour) Brown; parents, Charles Edward Brown, Jr. and Inez (Tharp) Brown.

Survivors: sisters, Donna Ridenour and husband, Ronnie Ridenour; Deborah Thorpe and husband, Scott; brother, Duane Brown and wife, Tara, all of Luttrell; five nieces and nephews.

Eddie Lee Henderson

In memory of Eddie Lynn (Mad Dog) Henderson-age 77, of Knoxville passed away Wednesday, July 20, 2022 at Jefferson Memorial Hospital. He will be missed by all his family and friends. Preceded in death by mother, Dorothy and his father, Winfred Henderson.

Survivors: son, Anthony (Tony) Henderson; grandson, Anthony Lynn Henderson and wife, Whitney; great-grandsons, Sawyer, Waylon, Silas and Mason Henderson.

The body will be cremated and no services are planned. Arrangements by Cooke-Campbell Mortuary, Maynardville.

Dail Caughorn

Dail Caughorn-age 70 of Maynardville passed away Thursday, July 21, 2022 at his home. He was of the Baptist faith. Dail was the last surviving child of a family of 12 children born to James and Marie (Roberts) Caughorn. Preceded in death by parents; six sisters, Thelma Covington, Wanda Wompler, Bonnie Heiskell, Gail Abbott, Judy Gattis, Laura Jane Long; five brothers, Leonard Caughorn, Troy Caughorn, Roy Caughorn, Bruce Caughorn and Herman Lucas Caughorn.

Wanda Ervin

Wanda Lynn Ervin - age 71 of Maynardville, passed away July 21, 2022 at Fort Sanders Regional in Knoxville. She was a member of Nave Hill Baptist Church.

She is preceded in death by parents, Hoover and Mary Nicley Kiser. Wanda is survived by son, Herbert “Huck” (Sherrie) Ervin; granddaughter, Chelsea Ervin; brothers, Bill (Micky) Nicley and Ken (Connie) Nicley; sisters, Sue (Fred) Yadon, Mick Kitts and Debbie (Doug) Atkins; and several nieces and nephews.

Robert Garry Baldwin

Robert Garry Baldwin-age 71 of Maynardville passed away Thursday morning, July 21, 2022 at his home. He was a retired building inspector for Broward County, Florida.

Survivors: sons, Bobby Baldwin and Tiffany Deguio; Eric Baldwin; four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren. Brother, Carl Baldwin; sisters, Judy Thomas, Alice Coburn and Libby. Several nieces and nephews.

The body will be cremated. A gathering of family and friends will be announced later.
Arrangements by Cooke-Campbell Mortuary, Maynardville.

Thelma Bryant Beeler

Thelma Bryant Beeler-age 84 of Corryton passed away Tuesday, July 19, 2022 at her home surrounded by her loving family. She was born December 12, 1937 in Luttrell. She was a retired employee of Levi Strauss. She was a member of Willow Springs Baptist Church and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She loved cooking and baking for people. She truly loved her family and the Lord.

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