Annie’s Little Christmas Miracle
One Christmas, when a friend of mine was down on her luck, a stranger rang her doorbell. She opened the door and was amazed to find a Christmas tree deposited on her doorstep. I was thinking about that one year, as I baked cookies for my four children. We were struggling and broke, and there wasn’t any Christmas tree at our house. I was wondering if anyone would remember us — like they remembered my friend. I was hoping for a miracle.
It was mid-December and already snow glistened on all the lawns. The front door slammed and seven-year-old Annie came in; her brown ponytail swinging. She was bubbling over with excitement.
“Mom, they’re having a coloring contest and I’m entering it.”
“That’s wonderful, Annie.” I placed a tray of cookies in the oven.
“The garden center in town is sponsoring it.”
Annie was our third child, our family artist, who spent hours cheerfully coloring with crayons and markers as she filled sketchbooks with her original creations. “I hope I win the prize.”
“What’s the prize?”
“I think it's money. When I win the contest, we’ll go to the craft store to buy supplies to make Billy, Michelle, and Krista awesome Christmas presents.”
“That would be nice,” I thought. It was so like Annie to think of everyone else before herself. But I was certain that there wouldn’t be much of a Christmas that year. Frankly, I was tired of worrying about where our next dollar was coming from.
Annie grabbed a pack of markers from her backpack and started coloring the contest entry at the kitchen table, as the aroma of cinnamon sugar warmed the room. She went the extra mile, adding all kinds of special effects to her picture. When she finished, the result was beautiful. The outline was a plain Christmas tree with packages around it, but Annie’s creativity had brought the tree to life and the effect was magical. She decorated all the packages with bright colors and interesting designs.
“You did a great job,” I said.
“It looks just like my friend Katie’s tree,” Annie said. “She has a real tree just like that in her house with ornaments in every color of the rainbow. It has a golden garland on it and an angel on top. It’s so beautiful. Oh, I wish we could have a tree just like that at our house.”
I turned away, feeling an ache inside, not wanting her to see my sadness.
“I hope I win.” She clapped her hands in excitement, wishing with all of her heart.
“So do I,” I thought. “Let something good happen to this family.”
I was so tired of saying no to trips to the store and movies. And my children barely knew what a mall was, they visited so infrequently. Even if it were just a little money, enough for Annie to buy her craft materials, it would give us all hope.
Days flew by and our financial situation was worse. Christmas was coming, and we paid bills, but there wasn’t any money left for gifts. My parents offered to help out. They bought Billy a collector truck that he wanted. They purchased some pretty clothes for the girls and the stuffed lion Krista wanted. But I was still discouraged, for there was an empty corner in the living room where a Christmas tree should have been.
Soon Annie learned that people were voting for the contest entries. “Mom, you and Dad should go to the garden center where the entries are hanging up and vote. Other parents are voting for their kids and my picture needs votes.”
“Sure Annie, why not?”
Early that evening, our entire family headed to the garden center to see Annie’s picture hanging on the wall. There were so many imaginative entries to choose from, I wondered how any judge could choose a favorite. Annie raced for hers with a huge smile on her face. Her picture really stood out. We cast our votes.
Billy tugged on my arm. “Hey Mom, look.”
I looked out the window of the store and saw them. Rows and rows of regal Christmas trees were lined up outside. Families were loading them into vehicles and driving away. “Can we get one?”
I looked over at my husband. He looked as uncomfortable as I did. He shook his head sadly.
“Not today. We’ll get the tree another day.”
Fortunately, that answer seemed to satisfy Billy. We could not tell the children the cold reality. There would be no more paychecks until after Christmas. After grocery shopping for the essentials and paying the bills, there wouldn’t be anything left for a tree.
It was three days before Christmas and the children were all looking sadly at the lonely spot by the window in the living room — the empty spot where there was supposed to be a tree.
“How come there’s no tree?” asked Michelle, who was two years older than Annie. “Aren’t we going to get one this year?”
“How will Santa know where to leave the presents if there is no tree?” Krista looked worried.
“He’ll find us,” I said. “He always does.”
“When I win the contest, I’ll buy us a tree,” said Annie. Her childhood faith astounded me.
The next morning, I watched as the children left for school. I questioned my decision to stay home and raise them. I hated disappointing them, especially at Christmas. Maybe there was a job somewhere with cheap enough daycare where I could afford to work and help out with the finances.
That afternoon, as I searched through want ads, the children came dashing in, Billy leading the way.
“Guess what, Mom!” Billy said, looking happier than I’d ever seen him. “Annie won the coloring contest!”
“Wow! Did she win first prize?”
“No, she came in third.”
“Well that’s good,” I said. “Third place is good.”
“Annie, tell her what you won. You’re not going to believe it, Mom!”
Annie had a big smile on her face, and her dark-brown eyes sparkled with joy. “A Christmas tree, Mom. I won a Christmas tree! We have to go to the garden center to pick it up.”
Never had I seen a more grateful group of people.
That evening we piled in the old van and drove to the garden center to see Annie’s winning entry once again. Billy helped his father load the majestic Blue Spruce into the van and carry it into the house. The tall tree brightened the room, while the refreshing scent of pine filled the house, invigorating us all. We had a new hope for the future. The children hung lights and sparkling ornaments, laughing and singing in joyful excitement. Annie climbed a ladder to place a golden star at the top of the tree.
There weren’t many presents under the tree that year, but we didn’t care. The tree was an answer to a young girl’s prayer, and Annie’s Christmas miracle was enough to warm our hearts and give us hope for years to come.
Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas.