A Hernon Christmas Story

By Katie Gamboa.

The winter of 2004 was a cold, dry one in my cramped, joy-filled Steubenville home. My parents’ house was almost bursting at the seams with five rambunctious children under nine years old and two loving dogs under one roof. In the middle of 2004, my father had been laid off, so we had to live a tight life for a few months.

He would always say, “All you can do is simply trust in the Lord, He provides.” And he was right: He truly does.

Christmas Eve in 2004 started like every other year. We woke up very early, watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, while my father made chocolate chip pancakes and my mother finished sewing our Christmas dresses. For most of my childhood, my mother saved money by buying intricate patterns for our dresses and making them herself.

“Would you like puffy sleeves on this one, Kate?” my mother would ask. I loved the little bows, puffy sleeves, and other personalized accents she added to each of our dresses.

After we had our annual Christmas Eve dinner with our best friends, we were off to sing at Christmas Eve Mass. Every year I would walk into our church with wide eyes, amazed at the transformation that seemed to happen to my parish overnight. The overwhelming amount of Christmas trees and poinsettias seemed to fill my usually simple church to its brim. My mother led the youth choir in songs that filled everyone with warmth and anticipation for our Savior’s birth. Once Mass was over, we left in our slightly disheveled minivan to take a tour of the millions of strings of lights covering our neighbors’ houses, one of the simplest joys of the season that never fails to uplift. After our Christmas lights tour, my father read us the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and tucked us all in with a prayer and kiss on the head.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, my parents went downstairs later that night and cried at the foot of our Christmas tree because they didn’t have enough presents for us all. This time is supposed to be a time of abundance and celebration, but instead it was a subject of sadness and anxiety for these two young parents trying to get by. My parents went to bed trying to resign themselves to the idea that they did the best they could.

Then, God provided.

In the middle of the night, my father was woken up by a phone call and a woman’s quiet voice on the other line saying, “Go outside. Look on your porch.”

My parents opened the door to find not one, not two, but FIVE huge trash bags, full of brand-new toys. My parents were astonished and gingerly placed these bright, beautiful packages under our tree, until the mound of gifts was so high that half the tree was covered.

When my father woke us up the next morning, he couldn’t wipe a wide grin off of his very sleepy face. “Something amazing happened this morning…” was all he could say.

We kids automatically replied, “Yes, Dad, we know: Jesus was born.”

He shook his head and then proceeded to tell us the sadness they experienced the previous night and the mysterious conversation that led to such insurmountable joy.

I will never forget the surge of excitement that flooded over me once I heard this news. When we ran downstairs, our jaws dropped faster than you could say “Merry Christmas!”

The rest of the day we imagined who the voice on the other end of the phone could be.

“Was it Mrs. Claus?” my little sister gleefully asked.

“Was it an angel?” my brother Patrick asked.

My mother replied, “It most definitely WAS an angel.”

I thought that reply encapsulated this event perfectly. It was an affirmation that God is always near and constantly caring for us. Remembering Christmas of 2004 helps me to believe that miracles happen every day and that God really does look out for His children.