Money was always tight at our house, especially after my dad died. Christmas was a struggle within our family. We lived on two pensions my mother got, one from the Civil Service and one from the VA.
Even so, we tried to share what we had. We often tried to have someone over for Christmas dinner, which usually was turkey. We all loved turkey dinner even though we’d just had one at Thanksgiving.
One Christmas was particularly hard. There just wasn’t anything extra. People, relatives, would come to the door with plates of cookies, maybe some fruit. And we had nothing for them.
As I was helping my mother with cleaning to get ready for the holiday, a strange thing happened. We had an old radio cabinet that had come from The Aunts after they broke up housekeeping. It was an odd looking piece of furniture. Radios had been large box-like structures back in the 30s and 40s. The cabinet was four to five feet long and about 18 inches deep. There were no drawers or doors. There were two fake doors on each side of the front and then a curved area in the middle. And it was hollow. Occasionally we would pull it away from the wall and dust the inside even though it didn’t ever show. This cabinet backed up to the stairway going upstairs.
I decided I had better pull it out and give it a good dusting behind since it was Christmas. As I moved it, I spotted a ten dollar bill sitting in the empty back in the dust. I called to my mother. “Look what I found!” We puzzled over that ten dollar bill. Where had it come from? We weren’t missing any money. How long had it been there? In the end we sat down and decided how to spend it. My mother had me bundle up and walk downtown to Woolworth’s. They had lovely boxes of peanut brittle for a dollar each. I bought ten boxes of peanut brittle.
We wrapped the boxes up in pretty paper and gave one to my aunts and uncles and whoever else we thought should have one. We felt so good about having something to give. To this day, I have no idea where that ten dollar bill came from. It could have fallen from someone’s pocket as they were climbing the stairs to the bathroom, but no one complained of missing that much money—and it was a lot of money back then. It could have been casually slipped into the back of the cabinet by someone who knew we would eventually find it.
Finally we stopped trying to guess and just accepted it as the small Christmas miracle it was.