Happy Holidays – Heaven Leigh Eldeen – The Spirit of Christmas

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When I was asked to share a favorite holiday memory or tradition, I have to admit, I froze. Thinking of the holidays typically fills the minds of children and adults alike with images of large pretty boxes, bright metallic colors, twinkling lights, and feasts that could feed a small country. At least these are the images I grew up with, watching everyone around me and my favorite babysitter, the television.

My holidays as a child were much different than the peaceful, joy filled scenes that play out in every holiday special. Being raised in a home with a mother who didn’t believe in the holiday spirit and a father who barely made enough money to pay for the gas it cost for him to get to work, made the season the same as every other day… bleak. That is, until a very special Christmas I remember at the age of seven.

My family moved to California from Texas when I was five years old. We had been traveling from town to town for quite some time, so when we settled into the Cabana Lodge motel in Sacramento, I was happy to say the least. It was difficult sharing a small space with four other people and only having two double size beds, but it beat the old Chevy van I had been used to. With so many of us cramped in, there wasn’t much room for frivolous things such as toys, games or anything other than our clothes for that matter. But, there was a light at the end of my poverty tunnel.

Right next door to our new ‘home’ was the best place that ever happened to me, the Washington Youth Center. The Center (as we called it) offered an array of entertainment, education, safety and festivities. I’d never known a single place where in one room you could learn how to box like Sugar Ray Leonard, and in the next room, learn how to knit a blanket. With a basketball court, billiard room, and a huge craft room, there was always something to keep the kids of the neighborhood busy and out of trouble. Needless to say, I spent every waking moment I could at the Center, my home away from home.

And then, as if the small recreational mecca gods said ‘hey, we can do more for these kids’, the Center blew my little mind out of the water. Santa Claus decided to stop by during December of ’87. For years I had been told he was nothing more than a myth, a figment of the imagination parents told their children about to get them to behave. And why would my mother need a product of fiction to get her children to behave when she had her trusty broom? But there he was in the craft room, decked out in red velvet, black boots. He was fat and jolly just like the television said he would be.

Every child took their turn on his lap except me. Something about him terrified me. Maybe it was my subconscious loyalty to my mother, or maybe just seeing something that wasn’t supposed to be real was too much for my seven year old brain to comprehend. Whichever the case, I ran crying into the bathroom.
Barricading myself in a toilet stall didn’t stop Santa or his helpers from finding out what every child at the Center that day wanted for Christmas. Shortly after running into the bathroom, I was followed by the big guy and a female elf trying desperately to coax me out of my flushable sanctuary, to no avail. My mother was called to get me. I finally opened the stall door, to find a very angry mommy standing behind it.

As I slowly inched my way out of the stall, I was shocked at what happened next. Furious that the center would allow Santa in without a parent’s permission, my mother grabbed my arm and began dragging me out of the building, cursing up a storm at Santa and his staff as they tried to explain they only wanted to give the kids a gift they might not otherwise get. As we made it to the door, I was suddenly possessed by some creature that knew this was my one shot to test the validity of the St. Nick rumors. I knew what I was about to do would put me in the hot seat with my mom, but like I said, I was possessed. At the top of my lungs and with everything I had inside of me, I screamed “I want a pound puppy!” as the door closed.

I waited for weeks to see if the man who knew all had heard my cry. Christmas morning came, but when I looked under my pillow where I had placed my Christmas tree, a twig I had decorated with thread I had pulled from a sweater, there was nothing there. Of course, being the all-powerful, all supreme mommy she rubbed it in that he was only a man in a suit. Dejected, I left our motel room and went to the only place I felt like a kid. As I opened the door to the craft room, there he was with ten giant bags filled to the brim. As the white bearded saint saw me, he got up from his throne with a box covered in puppy wrapping paper and handed to me. Unlike the other children, I didn’t tear into it to see what I had gotten.

Carefully peeling each piece of tape, as to not tear the paper, tears flooded my little eyes as I realized what hid underneath it. Not only had I got what I had asked for, but the big man one upped it by getting me the pound puppy with babies and a carrier.

I didn’t receive any other gifts from the jolly ol’ guy after that year . It seemed every time he would visit the Center, I had chores to do. I held on to those puppies for dear life for quite some time, but more importantly, I held on to the spirit and happiness that that Christmas brought. I don’t get big into the holidays much, but I am sure to pass on a little of the joy that was brought to me so long ago. After all, when you really boil it down, it’s not about the gifts, as much as it is about lighting up someone’s day that may not otherwise know its warmth.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Do you give or volunteer during the Holidays? One lucky commenter will win a copy of Heaven’s debut release THE DEMON SIDE.  Winner will be selected 12/26/11, at 10:00 AM, CST, using random.org

SPEAKING of Helping others, take a look at my friend Leagh’s  CHILDREN’S BOOK CHARITY EVENT and GIVE AWAY.  SHE HAS a GRAND PRIZE and 6 other awesome prizes. The prizes are all adult. CLICK on picture for details.

Romance Book Craze

Cameron’s Review of THE DEMON SIDE 

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32 thoughts on “Happy Holidays – Heaven Leigh Eldeen – The Spirit of Christmas

  1. What a touching story. We usually try to donate gifts to the local hospital for the children who are there on Christmas day. It all started the year my daughter turned 7 and she got upset that friends got her dolls for her birthday (she hates dolls! Lol). So I told her we would put aside the gifts she didn’t want and donate them to children who really needed them for Christmas. We decided on the hospital because we used to spend a good amount of time in the ER there with her asthma.

    It turned into a yearly tradition. And we would even go shopping to add extras.

  2. What a heart felt story. I help out where i’m needed and try to donate to different things. Happy Holidays!

  3. Heaven, THANK YOU so much for sharing your story. YOU my dear are an amazing young lady.

    For any of the GP readers who have not visited Heaven’s page, please do so, read her story and you will be as amazed as I am.

    I have always gone overboard for my daughter. BUT one thing I started with her as soon as she could kind of understand, she was 2-1/2, is every Thanksgiving I would make her go through her toy box and pick out at least 1/2 of the toys in there. I explained to her that because she had so many toys, a lot never played with after Christmas and because I was able to pay Santa extra to bring her even more toys, that she needed to pick out toys to give to kids who’s parents couldn’t pay Santa extra. We then took them to the local community center to hand out to kids at Christmas. On top of that we always picked a family or child to “adopt” for Christmas.

    She now has a HUGE heart, she was a PAL in High School (PALS are selected by school admin to mentor kids in need at the Elementary schools). Her first year as a PAL she came home in tears and started going through her closet, I asked what was going on, she said one of her PALees did not have a coat, she was going to give her one. I told her let’s go buy one. Once we bought it, she asked me to have the little girl’s name embroidered on the coat because the little girl’s older sister might take it from her. IT BROKE MY HEART and made me PROUD at the same time.

    I have also stressed that it is not only monetary or material things that are important, that most of the time just stopping and saying “Hi” to an elderly person or even just smiling, you may make their day.

  4. Ok I was in tears by the time i got threw the story.Iam so glad you got your puppy for christmas! i sent boxes to the troops at christmas.and we try to pay aleast one gift for a child,we have a hard ourselfs but be allways try to buy something. thank you for your story and a chance to win

  5. I’ve never really done a lot of volunteer work, but I do try to always make a donation somewhere, the Veteran’s home, or adopt a family, or like this year we’ve been doing fundraising for United Way since Sept by having at least one event each month. Thanks for the beautiful story. lisagk

  6. Awww!! I usually donate toys as well, but this year I haven’t really done anything! I have always said I want to do the sponsor a family meal thing but haven’t looked into doing it yet.


  7. Heaven, what a story you shared–thank you for reminding us that for each act of giving we do, there is a real person on the other end who can possibly benefit. We do give around Christmastime and at different times throughout the year. Thank you for so graciously sharing your story with us!

  8. A very heartfelt memory. I realize that for many people the “magic of Christmas” isn’t a reality for them and that’s why it’s even more meaningful when strangers come together to give and help out during the holidays. One of the best thing about this time it’s that it’s brings out the best in people.

  9. Over the years we’ve done many things at Christmas. When I was a scout leader, we made cookies and on Christmas day I delivered them to the hospital, the police and anyone I thought might be working for the public good. The girls loved doing it and several asked to come with me.

    Since the early 90s, when we’re able, we join Mike Schwartz in delivering over 1000 Christmas dinners to the needy. He gets the list from social services and targets the elderly first followed by those with children. As the economy has gotten tighter, fewer dinners are able to go out as the need has increased. There are also fewer volunteers due to the price of gas and this is a fairly rural area. Yet, I took my kids from the time they were small and a couple continued as they became adults. It sucks working 6 days a week because I don’t get to help as much as I’d like.

    Flip side, my oldest daughter is one of the people who get on the Christmas lists as she’s on assistance. She has 3 young kids and though she works full time only makes 7.75 per hour. Not enough to support her family. This year she said she got the best birthday present. (Her birthday is 13 Dec.) Someone adopted her kids for Christmas and the social worker dropped off the presents. She was thrilled she’d have some things she could put under her tree. The kids would have gotten from family but she wanted something from her.

    Have a great holiday Heaven. Remember dreams sometimes do come true.

  10. what a story! We try each year to pick a name off of the mitten tree and give a gift for a young child through our parish. Then there is Toys for Tots for the season which is a very good cause.

  11. I had to wait for some time to post my comment because I couldn’t see through the tears. That was one of the most touching Christmas stories I have read.

    I really appreciate you sharing such difficult times with your viewers, and I’m so glad that there are people out there that care enough to make a child’s Christmas wish come true.

    Thank you and a very Merry Christmas.

  12. Thank you all so much for your comments. It was a hard story to tell but i didn’t feel right just posting the beauty of tinsel trees and glowing lights that I never truly experience.

    It also warms my heart to no end that you each find a special way to help others. As great as the pound puppy was I wished they would have given me a sweater since I ruined mine decorating my twig LOL. So every year I donate toys and sweaters to that Youth Center.

  13. We donate every year to the local animal shelter. We try to do this every couple of months but especially during the holiday season. We also give to Toys for Tots every year.


  14. Wow what a heartbreaking, but beautiful story. You are truly an inspiration. We do toys for tots and we typically adopt a family or children for Christmas.

  15. What a gift the center was able to giv e you that year, in spite of your mom & her bah humbug attitude. My family lives in a small town in Michigan with a Seventh Day Adventist University & Seminary. We get a lot of students from other countries that have never experienced snow, so every year, we adopt a family who is in our winter wonderland for the first time & probably unprepared for it. We make sure that their kids all have a good warm coat, snowpants, boots, gloves & hat, so that they can play outside in the snow.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at gmail.com

  16. Heaven, you amaze me even more and more with your warmth, honesty, integrity, and love. I continue to say thanks at the blessings I receive to know you.
    Merry Christmas you beautiful woman!

  17. Heaven thanks for sharing, that brought back some memories my family also struggled to survive for some years but what don’t kill you makes you stronger right…I try to help out wherever I can.

  18. Heaven, you never cease to amaze me. Wow, you are indeed my guilty pleasure. Your life, your ups, downs, your heartaches and your rise to author status just fill my heart with joy. When I think of you, when I read anything that you write, it touches my spirit and reminds me that all things are possible – if we just believe. Happy Holidays my friend, may all your days be sunny and bright.

  19. What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing that. We’ve done both. I lead a girl scout troop and we do a service project for the holidays. We also donate to various charities and try to stay local as much as we can.

  20. What a great story to tell. We usually give to the toy drive. My kids also go through their things around mid November to donate.

  21. Thanking for sharing your story, Heaven. Wishing you peace, love and joy.

    We donate to local food pantries and the animal shelter. There’s also a drive for backpacks and school supplies for students in need and numerous toy drives for the holidays.

  22. I do volunteer work all year long so I don’t do extra during the holidays. However, I forgot to take toys to the hospital this year! Ugh, they are in my basement. I wonder if it’s too late to drop them off now?

  23. I try to make sure to do some sort of giving or volunteering every year. This year (I work in a clinic) we collected names of families that we knew could use some holiday cheer especially those with kids that could use the basics. All the staff are encouraged to bring in new or gently used items so that we can give out to those families. The best is part is that they aren’t expecting anything from us because they don’t know.


  24. Wow, what a post. It’s heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time. I donate a lot of things all year round, but Christmas is when the toys are given.D – I think you should be proud of your daughter, and proud that you did such a good job raising her. Merry Christmas

  25. Through my tears I want to say Thanks for sharing that story with us. I’m so glad you got your Pound Puppy.

    We have always donated food to our local church for their food pantry. We also donate toys to our town hall where they distribute them at their annual Christmas party for the needy children on their list. I hope everyone had a Happy Holiday.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  26. Thank you all for stopping by!!

    THANK YOU HEAVEN for sharing and for reminding us NOT to forget The SPIRIT of CHRISTMAS when we get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays!

    CONGRATULATIONS to CYP you have won a copy of THE DEMON SIDE!!!

  27. As much as I would like to volunteer during the holidays, I just don’t have the time. It takes every last spare minute that I have just to take car of my young kids.

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