Christmas Day in the Morning – Pre-Intermediate Level
He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits he had developed when he was young were still with him! That was fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years. Yet he continued to wake up at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning it was Christmas. He did not try to sleep.
Why didn’t he feel like going back to sleep this morning? His mind went back in time, as it did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old again and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. But he had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas. He was in the next room and heard his father and mother talking.
“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”
“Well, you can’t, Adam,” his mother said quickly. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he took his turn.”
“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”
When he heard these words, something in him spoke. His father loved him! He had never thought of that before, thinking only of the tie of their blood. His father and mother never talked about loving their children. They had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm.
Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more staying in bed in the mornings and having to be called twice. He got up as soon as he was called after that, still half asleep, and pulled on his clothes. His eyes might still be shut, but he got up.
And then on the night before Christmas he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor. Most of the excitement was in the turkey they had grown themselves and the Christmas pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought him something he needed. Not only something like a warm jacket, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something, too.
That Christmas when he was fifteen, he wished he had a better present for his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas. He looked out of his bedroom window at the bright stars.
“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “What is a stable?”
“It’s just a barn,” his father had answered, “like ours.”
Then Jesus had been born in a barn…
A thought suddenly came to him. Why should he not give his father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and go out to the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up. Then, when his father went in to start the milking, he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He laughed to himself as he looked out at the stars. It was what he would do, and he must be careful not sleep too deeply.
He must have woken up twenty times, lighting a match each time to look at his old watch. Midnight, and half past one, and then two o’clock.
At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He slowly went downstairs, careful not to make a sound, and let himself out. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.
He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and get him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty, they’d be standing in the milking room, filled.
“What the…,” he could imagine his father calling out.
He smiled and milked steadily, two strong sweet smelling streams flowing into the pail.
The work went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking for once was not a job that he felt he had to do. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full. He covered them and carefully closed the milking room door.
Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed. He heard his father get up, and pulled the covers over his head so that he would not hear his quick breathing. The door opened.
“Rob!” His father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”
“All right,” he said sleepily.
The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.
The minutes were endless. Ten, fifteen, he did not know how many. Then he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
His father was laughing, a strange sobbing sort of laugh.
“Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing by his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.
“It’s for Christmas, Dad!”
He found his father and held him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each other’s faces.
“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing.”
“Oh, Dad, I want you to know… I do want to be good!” The words came from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was full of love.
He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree. Oh what a Christmas! His father told his mother and the younger children about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself. As he listened, his heart filled with shyness and pride.
“It’s he best Christmas gift I ever had. I’ll remember it, son every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”
They had both remembered it. And now that his father was dead, he remembered it alone. That wonderful Christmas morning when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.
This Christmas he wanted to write a card to his wife and tell her how much he loved her. He loved her in a special way, much more than he ever had when they were young. However, it had been a long time since he had really told her. He had been so very lucky that she had loved him. Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love. Love was still alive in him, it still was.
He suddenly understood why he was able to love. It was because long ago it had been born in him, that day he learned that his father loved him. That was it. Love alone could bring on love in another. And he could give the gift again and again. This morning, this special Christmas morning, he would give it to his wife. He would write it down in a love letter for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began to write. My dearest love…
Such a happy, happy Christmas!