~ A Christmas story within a story about a little girl ~
(or is it two little girls?) named Alessandra,
dedicated to a little four-year-old girl,
also named Alessandra
"! Mommie! What did you get me? Mommie, can I see? Mommie, can I see?"
Little Alessandra jumped up and down trying to get a good look inside the shopping bags her mother was carrying as she came in the door of their small apt. Grandmama, whom Alessandra called, "Nanna," put her arms around Alessandra to try to calm her and give her daughter, the little girl's harried mother, a chance to put down her packages and take off her coat. Her day downtown amidst hundreds of other shoppers had visibly wearied her and although she was relieved to be home, she wasn't ready for such a welcoming by her child.
"My dear one, I will show you some of what I bought, but you must wait for the rest, for you know Christmas Day is some time off yet, many days still, before you can see them."
"But Mommie, I want to see them now! Did Daddeeee send them? Can I see the ones from Daddeeeee?"
"Alessandra, you know we have talked of this before. Not all the presents are for you, and you must wait for your surprises," replied her mother, slowly and very patiently.
"But, Mommie, I want to see them now! Why can't I see them NOW, Mommie? Pleeeeeeeeease! Let me see them now!!!" cried Alessandra. Huge tears sprang into her eyes as she plopped down onto the floor with a flourish of passion. She was dismayed that she could not have them NOW!
Nanna went to Alessandra and picked her up off the floor. "Now, my dear little one, you know that is not how to react when you are told you can't have something right away. Your mother is very tired and she needs you to make her feel welcome for she has spent her day doing things for others, especially for YOU! How can you thank her, your dear mama?"
Alessandra stopped her wailing for a moment, a lone tear balancing on the end of her nose and looked up at her grandmama's kind face. She said nothing for a few moments, then looked at her mother who had just sat down to remove her boots, still caked with snow from her tramping up and down the busiest shopping street after a heavy snowfall the night before. The little girl, though very young, could see that her mother was tired, and she thought she looked sad as well. Then she remembered. Her daddy was not here and maybe that was why her mother looked so very sad!
Alessandra climbed down off her grandmama's lap and walked over to her mother, saying, "Mommie, I'm sorry. I will make you happy again," and Alessandra put her tiny arms around her mother's neck and hugged her with all her might.
"Oh, sweetie, I'm happy. It's just that I"m so tired and I want you to know how much I love you. Your daddy has been so kind to make sure we can have so much for a good Christmas. We will count off the days together so you will know just how many days are left! You will not be disappointed on Christmas." She thought for a moment and a big smile came onto her face. "And I know just how to do it! Will you help me make a Christmas calendar?"
"Mommie, how do we make a Chris'mas cal'der?"
"Wellllllllllll," said her mother slowly, "we have to gather some special supplies and materials, then we'll sit together after supper to make this wonderful calendar to help you know how many days & how long till we can open up your gifts! Do you want to help me?"
"Oh, yes!!!! Let's do it now! Can we mommie? Can we make it NOW?" cried Alessandra emphatically.
"No, my dear! We must have our supper first, and Grandmama has it all ready for us. Let us thank Heavenly Father for our food, eat and then after clearing up the dishes, we shall be ready to make the calendar!" She took Alessandra's little hand and led her into the kitchen where the warm enticing smells of Grandmama's stew filled their nostrils and made them ready to sit down to eat.
Just after supper there was a knock at the door. Mother, not expecting anyone, looking questioningly at Grandmama to see if she had any idea of who it might be, but Nanna shook her head, "No."
Mother went to the door, peeped through the security hole to see if she could see anyone outside the door - no one seemed to be there. She left the chain on the door and opened it very quietly and carefully to see if she could see anyone. She did not see anyone in the hall, but when she looked down to the floor just outside the door, there was a package, wrapped as gaily and brightly as any Christmas gift she'd ever seen! She whispered, "What is this?" She opened up the door further, picked up the package, and turned to take it inside with her. She looked around again up and down the hall to see if anyone might be lingering around a corner watching, but she saw no one.
Little Alessandra came running into the living room as her mother closed and locked the door, saying, "Who is it, Mommie? What is it? Who was it, Mommie?"
Mother looked at the brightened face of her little girl and smiled at her. "I don't know who left this, but it has a note on it." As she opened the envelope and took out the note, she put her tongue against her upper lip in deep thought. When it was opened, she read aloud the message,
"Inside this gift, you will find more,
Not wrapped as this, but gifts galore:
Gifts of thought, of love, of cheer.
Gifts of caring, of kindness,
And gifts of joy forever more.
Open the gift tonight so you can spend
The holiday learning happiness here!"
Mother, puzzled, looked at her daughter's face of delight and anticipation, thinking what could gifts could bring joy "forever more?"
The surprised three sat on the floor around the table by the sofa and as Alessandra took off the big silvery bow and the silver and red wrapping paper, Mother said to her, "Be careful to save the paper and the bow - they are so pretty, Alessandra!" Mother laid them aside and they looked at the items in the box that sat in front of them on the floor.
First, there was a book, not big, not small, but just the right size for two little hands to hold with big print and bright colored pictures. There was also another box as big as the book but deeper, and wrapped in plain white tissue paper. Then there was an audio cassette, ... and there was a paper angel with an envelope taped to it. On the envelope it said, "Read the story first, then open this note."
In the big box was also one other smaller box. Mother opened it and in it was a small nativity scene of several separate pieces carved out of wood. There were a "Joseph" figure, a mother, and a little manger and in the manger was the figure of the Christ Child, the baby Jesus. They were tiny, but very well carved. There were also a few animals, a lamb, a donkey, and a cow, and of course the visiting 'shepherd" figurines. Mother showed her mother and Alessandra these figures and quietly put this box aside.
There was also an envelope with the nativity scene but it again said to read the story first and then to open the envelope.
Then they looked at the book. The name of the book was, "Alessandra Learns About Christmas and the Paper Angel!" Mother read the title of the book aloud to Alessandra. Alessandra said, "Mommie, it's about ME?" Mother said, "Yes, it seems to be! Or about another little girl just like you."
"Can we read it, Mommie? Can we, please?" Alessandra was so excited. She'd never heard of another little girl with a name the same as hers! She wanted to hear the story NOW!"
Mother said that they would read it as soon as the other box was opened and picked it up again and took off the white tissue paper. When she lifted up the lid, inside she found a big picture in green felt of a Christmas tree with the days of December below it up to the 25th. Each day was a pocket and in it were beaded & decorated red, green & white felt cut to shapes of small Christmas tree ornaments.
The felt tree had bright gold braid & red & white ribbon arranged across it as if it were a real tree and the ornaments in the little pockets below the tree were all ready to be fastened to the tree with the sticky stuff called "velcro" already on the backs of them.
Mother read from another note she'd found in this box,
"A magic Christmas Calendar just for you.
Each morning when you awaken,
Place one more ornament for that the new day
On the calendar tree and when you are through ...
Guess what day it will be? Christmas !!!
"Hang this calendar where you will see it each morn!
Now read the story - It's for you, too!"
Mother hung the calendar in the kitchen where Alessandra could make sure each morning to add one more ornament! She would be able to count the days left which still had ornaments to add to the tree! How fun this was going to be!
Mother said as she picked up the book, "It looks like we need to read the story next. Maybe it will tell us about the paper angel we found in the box."
The story book began ... It went like this:
Alessandra (of the story book) was in the mall with her mother and grandmother just two weeks before Christmas. They loved the pretty colors and sounds and smells! Carolers and Santas, twinkling lights and cinnamon treat smells! Alessandra couldn't look at everything fast enough. It was one exciting store after another, each seeming more beautiful than the last. And there were so many other children, laughing, calling out, "Mommie, can I have this? Daddy, can I have that?"
In one store there was a very different Christmas tree by the front door. It had only one type of ornament on it -- hundreds of pretty light blue paper angels shimmering and turning 'round and 'round. Alessandra couldn't resist touching one that she could reach. It sparkled and twisted where it hung. On the back she could see that there was writing on it, but being only four years old and only knew a few of her letters, and because it was hand-written, she didn't know what it said. She pulled on her mother's coat sleeve and asked, "Mommie, what does it say?" Her mother was checking a price on a nearby article of clothing for her little girl and didn't quite hear her at first, saying, "Hmmmmm? What was that?"
Alessandra said again, more loudly, "Mommie, what does it SAY? The Angel -- What does it say on the back?"
Her mother leaned over and looked at it closely, realizing what the tree was and said, "Why, Alessandra, it is a description of a child, one who needs Christmas! A little girl who doesn't have parents who can give her presents, or if she does, they don't have much to give her."
"But, Mother, how can there be little girls like that. We have all we need. How can parents let their little girls go without presents at Christmastide? That is so mean!"
"My dear one, some parents are not as fortunate as we are. They work hard when they have work but some cannot make enough for special presents at Christmastime. It isn't their fault. This tree is here so that we can help. Does that sound like something you would like to do, Alessandra?"
"Oh, YES, Mommie! CAN we? How do we do that?" she asked excitedly -- with eyes so big her mother thought her little girl could see everything in the world all at once.
"We shall pick this angel from the tree and as the sign says, we will read all the sizes for this little girl and buy gifts to fit her and toys that are right for a little girl her age, which seems to be the very same age as YOU! Isn't that a fun idea? How happy you will make this little girl, Alessandra!"
"Oh, Mommie! I want to make this little girl happy too! I want all little girls and boys to be as happy as you and Daddy make me! Can I tell Daddy about this paper angel tree? Please? Mommie, can I call Daddy and tell him about the angel tree?" Alessandra began jumping up and down and giggling like a bubbling waterfall.
Her mother had to laugh too, as she said to her, "Yes, Darling, as soon as we are through shopping and back home we shall call your Daddy. I'm sure he'll be happy to hear that you want to make this little girl's Christmas as happy as yours!"
Alessandra seemed to lead her mother in and out of the aisles of the children's store with excited discovery of what would delight another little girl her same age and she laughed and shouted to her mother, "Here, Mommie, this is the one! Let's give her this." Although they couldn't get everything that Alessandra pointed to, they did buy several toys and a few items of clothing that they thought would be warm and yet colorful for a little girl in need, and never had shopping been so fun for all three, Alessandra, Mother, and Grandmama.
All three were very very tired when they walked into their apt. later that night but never had they felt so happy about Christmas, for the thought of giving to others had been a seed planted in a little girl's heart and she was bursting with joy ... they all felt such gladness, Grandmama, Mother, and Alessandra!
When Mother dialed Daddy's telephone number, Alessandra was still jumping up and down and reached for the phone to talk to her daddy. When he came on the line, Mother announced that Alessandra had something to tell him. She handed the phone to her little four-year-old who said loudly, proudly, "Daddy, is that you?"
"Daddy, we found an angel tree! We picked an angel and she will have lots of presents for Christmas!"
Her daddy asked, "Alessandra, what angel tree? What is that?"
Alessandra explained very importantly, "Well, Daddy, it's a magical sparkly tree with LOTS of paper angels on it for little girls and boys who don't have what we have who need Christmas 'cause their mommies and daddies can't 'ford to give them nice things, even though they work hard, too. Sometimes little kids don't have all the nice things. Did you know that, Daddy? It is so sad. I want to make a little girl happy. She is going to get some wonderful presents from ME!
Daddy was quiet for a moment, then said to his daughter, "Alessandra, you are so very kind to want to give presents to another little girl. You sound very happy, Darling. Does it make you feel happy to give presents?"
"Yes, Daddy, I am so happy! How can I feel this happy giving to someone ELSE? I've never been this happy GETTING the presents!"
"My Darling Alessandra, that is how happy it makes your mommie and me when we give presents to you. We are happiest then. Now you know how to be that happy."
Then Alessandra said, "Daddy, that must be how happy Jesus is when he gave his gift to us. Is that how happy it made Him, too, Daddy?"
Daddy, understandably moved, answered, "Yes, Alessandra, I am sure that is how happy our dear Savior, Jesus, felt too, knowing that His gift to us would also make us happy.
Then Alessandra said, "And Father in Heaven, because he gave his Son to us so Jesus could give us that gift, would that make Father in Heaven happy also? So we could be happy?"
"Yes, Darling, that is why. So we could be happy too."
"I'm so glad, Daddy, that Heavenly Father loved us so much, that he gave us so much and taught us how to be happy giving to others. I wonder how anyone can be sad when giving gives such happiness, Daddy. Why is that?" Alessandra's question made her daddy think hard and quietly for several moments.
Then he answered softly, "I do not know why all people don't know how happy they can be if they give. It is something that some people never do learn and yet, if we try, maybe we can help more people learn how to be happy, my darling. I am so proud of you. Thank you for telling me of your special evening and of your happy discovery. I know that the presents you bought will make that little girl very happy on Christmas morning. You make me very happy very day!"
"Thank you, Daddy. I will do everything I can to help others learn how to be happy, Daddy. I love you!"
She said good night to her daddy and her mother also said goodnight to him before they hung up.
As Mother put Alessandra to bed that night, she thanked Heavenly Father for such a gift, that of this precious little girl who brought so much joy to them and to everyone who met her because she had so much love in her heart for others. The lesson her daughter learned this night is one some never learn and all their lives never can be as happy as they could be.
Although the angel tree children never learn who gave them their gifts they feel so special because they know someone is thinking of them and those who give the gifts, whether child or parent, receive the most, like Alessandra who had never felt so much happiness before and she wanted to tell everyone how it felt!
On Christmas morning, the last ornament was placed on the felt Christmas tree calendar and after they'd had a light breakfast, all of them sat in the living room at the foot of the Christmas tree.
Mother had set out the little nativity scene as she does each holiday season with all the figures set out and arranged as if they might have looked on that first Christmas, except that the figure of the Christ Child was missing. Mother had wrapped it as she does every year and hung it on a high branch of the Christmas tree so it wouldn't fall.
Alessandra noticed that it had been moved down lower this morning and her mother asked her, "Alessandra, would you like to bring us the little present hanging there?" Alessandra thought she remembered clear from last Christmas what this one was but was still anxious to open it.
Her mother said, "We will wait first and since Daddy isn't going to be here with us this year, we will listen to his voice on this cassette tape as he reads the Christmas story to us." She then turned on the tape. As it played, Alessandra shut her eyes, imagining her daddy were sitting there, reading, with her in his lap, as she often is when he is home with them.
It was a short story, full of wonderful words, like "glory," "angels singing," and "shepherds." She almost wanted to hear it again, but wanted so much to open the little gift sitting in front of her.
Her mother said, "Now, Alessandra, you can open the first gift." Alessandra carefully unwrapped the most precious gift of all. She knew now that it was the baby Jesus figure for the nativity scene. She place the figure in the manger and tucked the little bit of straw around him so he looked comfortable, and she turned and smiled at her mother. "Mommie," she said, "It makes me so happy to think that Heavenly Father loved us so much that he gave us the baby Jesus. It teaches us that giving makes us happy."
"Yes, Alessandra, it does teach us that giving makes us happy and that we are loved so very much, by both Heavenly Father and Jesus."
They sang one Christmas hymn, Alessandra's favorite - at least for this year, and then they opened the rest of the gifts. Nothing could make this little four-year-old as happy as the thought she held deep within her that another little girl her age was also happy this morning to open her gifts that Alessandra herself had picked out for her.
The whole day gleamed with happiness and even in the days following, after all the presents Alessandra had received this year became more familiar and lost their appeal to her, she thought of the little girl to whom she'd given just a few gifts and again she was happier than any of her own gifts had made her when first opening them.
She knew then where happiness comes from. It comes from giving to make others happy and she had learned this from the gifts her Heavenly Father and Jesus had given all of us. She hoped that she would always remember this. Each night, she prayed to Heavenly Father (with a little help from her mother) that she would always remember how to be happy and that she could help others to learn how to be happy too.
Do YOU know anyone who needs a little happiness? Have you seen an angel tree when you are out shopping? Wouldn't it be wonderful if EVERYONE knew how to be happy?
Alessandra knows, don't you, Alessandra?
(Wink - End of story book)
When mother finished reading the story book to Alessandra, she notice that her little girl seemed very quiet, and then she remembered that they hadn't opened the envelopes on the paper angel and with the nativity scene that came in the box.
Mother opened the angel's envelope first. The note said,
"I'm a little girl just your age, and my sizes are written here.
Won't you please remember me and make my Christmas cheer?"
The instructions that came with the angel gave the store where the angel tree was and where to take gifts that were purchased for this little "angel" when wrapped.
Alessandra jumped up and wrapped her arms around her mother's neck, saying, "Oh, Mommie, Let's do it!!! I want this little girl to be happy, too!!! Can I please, Oh, Mommie, can I?"
And so, just like the little girl named Alessandra in the story book, Alessandra and her mother, and her grandmother, went shopping the very next night to get some fun things and some clothing for a little girl who wouldn't otherwise have had any presents for Christmas.
That first night, after reading the story, they'd set up the Christmas Calendar so Alessandra could see each day go by and knew exactly how many days were left, although her mother or Nanna had to help her count them each day. Each night, she would tell her daddy on the telephone how many days were left and how happy she was - just like the story book Alessandra -- and that she had learned that giving made her happy!
I wonder how many little girls and boys out there won't have Christmas presents? There are so many ways to be happy, but nothing makes us happier than giving. We can give presents, or we can give a smile, a song, a hug, a note. If we all realized how happy we could all be by giving, there would be no time for sadness and no one left to be sad. Now isn't that a thought?
~ Copyright, 2004 ~ 2020 ~
Story & Illustration by Pamela Millet Hart
Salt Lake City, Utah
~ Gallery Publishing Design ~ 1987 - 2020 ~
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