Bertha Bartlett Public Library news
—by Kolleen Taylor
Whispering and hushes are occurring all throughout the Story City community….far beyond the walls of the library as the last days before Christmas are busy with family plans and last minute shopping. As we get ready to greet family and friends into our homes this year, we want to share a special Christmas story I told at the last Memory Makers storytelling function at Timberland Village. This is open to everyone in the community who are interested in telling, listening and refining stories. We usually meet on the 4th Thursday of the month, but this year it landed on Christmas Day, so we met a week early. Our theme was to share stories of favorite Christmas’s. And as I listened to some of the recollections, it triggered this one for me.
In the mid 1980’s I was living in a coastal Alabama area, working for a non-profit, and I had very limited income and no vacation time. I talked to my parents, telling them I couldn’t come home for Christmas that year. I was feeling pretty crummy about that, and for some reason, my youngest brother offered to come down and stay with me for the holiday so I wouldn’t be totally alone.
I was President of a non-profit group at that time who had decided to do a toy drive for Christmas. It didn’t seem like there was much of an effort to assist families during those years, there wasn’t the national publicity and programs. Donations didn’t have to be new to be given to families, so we took anything and everything. After several months of collecting items, we received a list of names and addresses of families who needed toys for children for Christmas. It was a pretty alarming list, and we had the job of going through all the donated items, matching up the best we could with what we knew about the families, and delivering them. There were five teams delivering these gifts, starting the process about a week before Christmas. I decided that it would be good to have my brother along with me when I made these deliveries.
We did well with the first few deliveries, finding them with relative ease. Then they started getting harder to find. I can recall driving down the same street several times before realizing where the house was located. We had phone numbers for most so we could call ahead for directions, and insure someone was home.
We had one delivery that didn’t have a phone, and we couldn’t seem to figure out where the street was. I had talked to the mayor who wasn’t real sure, but gave me a general area to look. I found a “street” that seemed close but it was a dirt road, and I couldn’t find the address. My brother and I drove this route at least 4 or 5 times over a week. By Christmas Eve, I still had not found the home. I was worried about children in a home with nothing to open on Christmas morning. We had to try again even though it was getting dark. This time we drove around town looking up and down every street, spending hours and a good bit of gas. We were about to give up, when I decided we had to try that dirt road again, so as it was nearing 9 p.m., we drove that stretch to the very end….where it dead-ended at a house.
This time, there was a man standing in the yard, and I rolled down the window to ask if he know of the family….and he said yes! He pointed to a narrow path that was between two trees and said the house was down there….a path that didn’t look like a car had ever driven on it. I asked if we got in there, could we get out. (We were not in a good neighborhood, so we were a little skeptical). He assured us we would, and we took off taking the little lane about a quarter of a mile, then spied a very dark shanty house. A tall, thin, dark woman was on the porch sweeping and she spied us, eyeing us with a bit of suspicion. When we called to her and told her who we were, her look of relief matched mine. She invited us inside, offering us water or hot tea as we brought the box with a few toys inside to the most spartanly furnished home I have ever been inside. I remembered how very clean it was with a spindly little tree in the corner, obviously cut from the woods around them, with a few handmade ornaments hanging on it’s limbs. I was acutely aware that nothing was under it, and wished that I had something for the mother, as I saw the two toddlers rush from the other room asking if Santa was there. I had an envelope with a Christmas card, and quietly put the few dollars I had in it, wishing I had more money to share.
My brother and I quietly left that home, relieved that we had found it, noting that of all the families we delivered to, this was by far the most needy, most deserving, and most appreciative of all. We took stock of what we had left….a toy for each, a board game that was intact, but obviously used, and a few children’s books. A meager Christmas, but one which we knew was better than what they would have had without that last trip.
So thanks to the Memory Makers, I remembered this special Christmas. And as I watch the holiday movies from the library, reading the enchanting stories about Christmas miracles, I will forever remember the year we tried so hard to deliver a little Christmas. My wish is that somehow, through the library, we are able to spread a little Christmas cheer all year long.