It was just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so. It began because my husband Mike strongly disliked the commercial aspects of Christmas—the frantic running around at the last minute and the focus on gifts instead of people and our Savior. Knowing he felt this way, I reached for something special. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level. Shortly before Christmas there was a nonleague match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters didn’t have headgear, and they dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, and they were a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly. “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”
Mike loved kids—all kids—having coached Little League football, baseball, and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve I placed the envelope on the tree with a note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.
His smile was the brightest that year, and in succeeding years. For each Christmas I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
From the Schmidt's:
I can't get over how quick this month has gone by. I haven't bought a single gift yet. I was hoping to do some shopping this past weekend, but we all got sick. I guess I will need to get busy now. Fun fun. Nothing like being late. Gotta love it. Oh well.
Not much is really happening around our house lately. Kevin had another appointment with his doctor yesterday so he is working to get some other appointments set up.
Apparently my MIL went to one of her doctors yesterday too. They say she is dropping her foot when she walks. She told Kevin that if it turns out to be her knee it could take 4 years to recover, and if it's her foot it could take about 6 years to recover. What exactly all this means we don't know. I asked Kevin if that meant she would have to live with someone for that time and he couldn't answer. Time will tell I guess. If she extends the time she is at my BIL's home then we know why I guess.
Kyle and Curtis have applied for several jobs and have a few interviews. The one Kyle applied for will be a lengthy process of many many interviews. Good luck to both of them!
Time to get back to it. Take care and I will talk to you soon.