Fate threw a tree at us


During the hustle and bustle of Christmastime 1958, we told our children, ages 3 and 4, about the beautiful Christmas tree we would have in a few days. On Christmas Eve, at the bakery we had recently purchased, we counted the receipts, cleaned the shop and headed for home with our two sleepy children.

Suddenly, we remembered we had not gotten a tree. We looked for a vendor who might have a tree left, to no avail.

About a mile from home, we stopped for a red light. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew, and something hit the front of our truck. My husband went out to investigate.

The next thing I knew, my husband was throwing a good-sized evergreen into the back of the truck. He went into the mom-and-pop store at the corner where we were and asked the proprietor how much he wanted for the tree. He said he wasn’t selling Christmas trees that year.

It was a Christmas miracle! We never did find out how the tree got in the middle of the road, but somehow we feel we know. Incidentally, it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had. —Gertrude Albert, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Our carols hit the right ears

Christmas Sheet MusicDerek Hatfield/Shutterstock

I was with a small group of young guys and gals caroling on Christmas Eve, in 1942 San Diego, California. We wandered downtown to Broadway, the main street, and stopped at a block of green grass with a fountain on the plaza.

The streets were streaming with aimless servicemen, all missing the joy and solace of being home for Christmas.

We began singing familiar Christmas songs, and in a short time, the volume increased markedly. I climbed up onto the rim of the fountain to an astonishing sight—a sea of servicemen on the plaza singing with all their hearts. When a song ended, I started another, just beginning the words, and it was immediately picked up.

We sang every traditional song I could think of and didn’t leave the servicemen until near midnight, carrying a beautiful memory with us. —Winnie Phillips Stark, Modesto, California. Although the holidays should be about cheer and joy, it’s still nice to enjoy a thoughtful gift. Finding the right one, however, is a Christmas miracle all by itself. Here are 30 last-minute Christmas gifts with free overnight shipping.

It takes a village

Close-up detail of cogwheel on a vintage bicycleBangkokhappiness/Shutterstock

Johnny and I, along with our two young sons, Barry and Doyle, lived in a small rural community 
in southern Alabama in 1959. 
We had bought Barry a 
bicycle and Doyle a tricycle for Christmas, and had hidden them in the carport, where Johnny would assemble them on Christmas Eve after the kids were asleep.

But on Christmas Eve day, Johnny had to go to Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, an hour away, to repair a Thunderbird F-100 Super Sabre jet. I had my hands full with baking, preparing for Christmas dinner and caring for two energetic boys.

Just as I was making my favorite frosting for the chocolate cake, a neighbor knocked on the door. Beatrice was the only person on our road with a telephone. The base had called to say that a heavy torque wrench had come apart in Johnny’s hand, knocking his elbow out of joint and chipping the bone. My sister-in-law Ruth and her husband, Otto, took me to the hospital while my mother-in-law stayed with the children.

We got there to find Johnny with a cast on his arm, raring to get home despite the doctor’s orders that he stay. It was Christmas Eve, Johnny argued, and he had bikes to assemble for his boys. The doctor said he’d consider dismissing him the next morning if Johnny could find someone to drive him home.

On Christmas morning, Johnny contacted the base and was told everyone was off duty; there was no one to drive him home. Then he tried the motor pool. They said orders would have to come from higher up, so Johnny kept making calls. At last, a big blue car with the Air Force insignia rolled up to the hospital asking for the man who needed a lift home so he could put together Christmas bikes for his boys.

Johnny’s mother and I were putting dinner on the table when we heard the car. We were thrilled to see Johnny, his arm in a sling, getting out, assisted by a uniformed Air Force officer. With Otto’s help, Johnny assembled the boys’ gifts, and they all had a jolly time playing together that afternoon.

Johnny would later require two surgeries on his arm, but those were in the future. That cold Christmas Day, our hearts were full of gratitude for the many people who had gone the extra mile to bring us together on the holiday. — Jeanette Dyess Ryan, Robertsdale, Alabama. Avoiding family stress during the holiday season is pulling off a Christmas miracle all your own. Here are 8 ways to enjoy the holidays with a blended family.