Mike's Christmas Present

It's 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 all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas-oh, not the
true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of
it-overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to
get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting
powder for Grandma- the gifts given in desperation because you
couldn't think of anything else.  Knowing he felt this way, I
decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so
forth.  I reached for something special
just for Mike.  The inspiration came in an unusual way.  Our son
Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at
the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a
non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church,
mostly black.  These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that
shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them
together.  It presented a sharp contrast to our boys, in their
spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. 
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was
wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to
protect a wrestler's ears.  It was a luxury
the ragtag team obviously could not afford.  Well, we ended up
walloping them.

We took every weight class.  And as each of their boys got up from
the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a
kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.  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-and he knew, 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 an envelope on the tree, the note inside
telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. 
His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas 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 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 it's allure.  The story doesn't end there. 
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded 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 wide-eyed with anticipation
watching as their fathers take down the envelope.  Mike's spirit,
like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.  May we all
remember the Christmas spirit this year and always.

Author Unknown

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