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By Daris Howard

Now and then, one of my younger children will ask me how Santa fits all the toys in his sack. I tell them about a Christmas we had many years ago. It was a tough Christmas. We were a young married couple, going to college, with a brand new baby. There was hardly enough money for the necessities, like rent, let alone the luxuries, like food. Besides the tuition and the many other expenses, we were making payments to the hospital. Sometimes, gas for our vehicle could not even be purchased and I found myself riding a bike the six miles to the university through the snow and cold, with bits of cardboard stuffed in the bottom of my shoes to help keep the water from coming through the holes in them.

Our major source of income came from any job I could find on the work board at the university, though they weren’t constant nor high paying jobs. It was at this point, my wife and I made the decision that we could not afford presents. Shortly after Thanksgiving, we took my new little daughter’s favorite toys and hid them so we could wrap them up for Christmas and at least have something for her to unwrap.

Just before Christmas, I got some steady work with a carpet cleaning company. I worked hard, but every dime that came in seemed to be eaten away by past bills. The discouragement of hard classes, little money, and long hours, began to settle on me like long dark days at the north pole. To find my way out of this bleak time, I determined I would find some way to save some money, any money, to buy my wife something for Christmas. I would try to save tips or any little extra I could, even though I was still forced to use them at times. As I finished up my last job on Christmas eve, just before midnight, I counted my change and barely had five dollars.

I wanted her surprise to be something Christmasy, yet it needed to be practical, so I hurried to a grocery store which closed at midnight. When I was young, the only time I got oranges or nuts was at Christmas, and I decided to buy some for her. At ten cents a pound, I bought a forty pound box of oranges, about five pounds of nuts, and had enough left over for a candy bar.

I drove home with my surprise and left them in my pickup. Our small apartment had one bedroom that wouldn’t fit both a crib and a bed, so we slept on a lumpy hide-a-bed in the living room. When my wife went into the bedroom with my daughter, I raced outside and hauled the loot in and stuffed it in the coat closet.

About 2:00 in the morning, when my wife and daughter were asleep, I sneaked into the bedroom to retrieve one of my wife’s stockings. Now I must say, at this point, that I grew up with almost all brothers, so I knew very little about women or women’s things, so, in the dark, when I reached in her drawer and pulled out a nylon, I figured it was as good a stocking as any. I stumbled my way back to the coat closet and started stuffing oranges into it, as fast as I could. Every once in a while, I would reach into it to see if it was getting full, but the level of oranges never seemed to rise. At one point, my wife stirred and I was sure she was waking, so I quickly threw in my “I Love You Coupons”, 3X5 cards with things I had written on them like, “One I Love You Coupon Good For Breakfast In Bed” and things like that. I also threw in the nuts and the candy bar.

Her breathing leveled out and so I started throwing in more oranges. But they were now noisily hitting the nuts and the cards. She sleepily asked what I was doing. “Nothing.” I answered, “Go back to sleep.” That doesn’t work on Christmas morning and she rolled over and turned on the lamp by her bed.

There was her nylon – almost a full box of oranges in it – stretched wide enough you could fit all the people from a third world nation within its borders. She covered her mouth, trying not to laugh, but finally could contain herself no longer without choking, and chortled gleefully, as I blushed in embarrassment.

And that, I tell my children, is why Santa’s sack will hold all of those toys. It is made out of nylon.