I hope you are all enjoying your nights cuddled around your Christmas tree and lit Christmas candle reading your stories.  It will be such a wonderful memory for your children that they will cherish forever.  I know I sure have.  Here is a story that my mom read every year because we would beg for it; and her mother read it to her.  It will pull at every heart string but will truly teach unconditional love, kindness, and charity.  To read our Christmas Candle tradition you can here.   Join us in our tradition.

The Gift

I remember it was the same year my father had lost his job.  He had lacked work for a time long enough to leave me with memories of using candles, because they had cut off our electricity.  Even my only sweater bore holes, and my socks resembled swiss cheese.  We had never really been poor, but the hurdles of the past year had left us quite bad off.  The neighbors offered help, but dad was proud.  He refused charity.  I couldn’t understand the whole situation, and it seemed to me that my smaller brother, Jerry, who had mowed lawns all summer long, owned $.80 of the family’s wealth.  The money sat in a big piggy bank on top of his dresser drawers.  Every once in a while I’d sneak in and grab a little, whenever I had a worthy cause, I mean, he couldn’t exactly be saving for college.  Not in his condition he wasn’t.

You see, Jerry, who was a year younger than I was–12, was different from other people.  He entered this world a mongaloid.  He looked different in a funny kind of way and had the mentality of a six year old.  He also had a speech problem, his syllables were pronounced wrong a lot and his voice was real low and gruff.

The difference had separated us, like weeds separate flowers.  Yet, we used to be so close, when we were very young, like baby cubs climbing the tree of life.  We laughed together, we cried together, we even stumbled together.  I had learned to understand Jerry and couldn’t detect any difference because we had stuck so closely together, and had been under our mother’s wing.

But as the years came along with other friends and children, so came the realization, his difference.  It was becoming noticeable.  Reality had whispered louder and louder that Jerry was different.  His difference was an illness, a disease that took him from me, that changed him continuously until he was no longer my brother.  Instead, he was a simple animal, an inhuman thing that caused me enough embarrassment to make me hate him.  Often I became cruel towards him.

I remember one time I’d gone to play some ball, and as usual he’d shadowed right behind me.  They wouldn’t let me play because in order to keep the two teams equal, they’d only let two boys join in at a time.  Nobody wanted Jerry, and that kept me from playing, too.  It had happened many times before.  Each time mounted resentment.  Each time I hated him.  There wasn’t a moment that went by without him getting in the way.  This time the mountain of hate exploded and I turned on him, “Look, you stupid lookin’ creep, why ya gotta follow me around, leave me alone and go home.”  Then I slapped him again and again ‘cause I wished he was dead.  I couldn’t go anywhere without being embarrassed.  Everyone always referred to me as ‘the one with the M.R. for a brother.’  I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  I wished he was dead.  He finally went home crying.  I didn’t care.  I was too worried about the chewing out I’d be getting when I got home.  Later on I really felt sorry for what I’d done.  I felt even worse when I got home and discovered he hadn’t told on me, instead he came up to me and apologized to me for making me mad.

I also remember one time that summer we’d gone to the beach.  Naturally I had to look out for Jerry, but all the kids started looking at us when they noticed Jerry was different.  I couldn’t take it, and I knew that if I ignored him long enough, he’d get lost.  Only he got lost for a long time.  They began to think he’d drowned.  Pitifully enough, I couldn’t care less.  Hours later, an old man brought him back on top of his shoulders and said he’d found him about two miles down the beach, behind an old outhouse, sitting in the sand and crying.  You know, it seemed Jerry did and awful lot of crying.

Well, as time passed, leaves fell, and snow came, everyone looked towards Christmas.  I was looking at a dream.  There was this beautiful watch in the jeweler’s window, a watch with a gold band.  It really wasn’t too expensive, but too expensive for us.  I knew it was impossible, but I liked to imagine that Christmas morning would find me wearing it.  Every time I passed the shop I’d stare at it forever.

I woke up Christmas morning rushing to open the one gift that was for me by the fireplace.  I was a great looking sweater, and I really needed one, too.  “Thanks a lot, Dad,” I shouted, but noticed how tired he looked so I asked him, “Dad, did you stay up all night with Jerry again?”  “Yes,” he replied, “he’s getting worse.”  You see about a week before Jerry and I had gone tubing.  Jerry ended up at the bottom of the hill, head down in a snowdrift.  He lay there, kicking and yelling for help, but again, memories of past embarrassing situations brought out my cruelty, and I watched him actually dying until I was satisfied.  When I finally dug him out, instead of realizing what I had done, the poor dumb idiot, between his gasps for air and his tears, tried to thank me for saving his life.  Anyway, he’d caught pneumonia and my parents had spent the last two nights with him.

“Let’s go join your Mother and Jerry,” Dad said.  Jerry’s room smelled of medicine and Jerry really looked horrible, but his eyes were all lit up.  I didn’t know why ‘cause he was kinda smilin’, but, Mom had been crying.  She sniffed softly and said, “Jerry’s got a surprise for you, Jim.”  I figured he was gonna hit me with another one of his homemade, butcher paper, water-colored type Christmas cards he’d made.  He tried to jump out of bed but soon found he was so weary he could barely move.  He wobbled over to his closet and pulled it out:  Another card; just a flat sheet about a square foot big, and written in red water color, “TO MY BIG BROTHER:  WHOM I LOVE THE MOST.”

While I was reading it, I noticed the broken pieces of his piggy bank in the corner.  Then he slowly reached under his bed and pulled out a small box.  He wiped his nose with his P.J. sleeve then stood there with his arm stretched out, his eyes lit up and with all the love he could muster up in the low gruff voice he said, “Werwy Kwishmash, Shimmy!”  I opened the box – – and there it was, the gleaming, reelecting watch with the gold band, the one I thought I’d never see again.  I couldn’t even stop looking at it.  Then he gave me a bear hug and asked, “Shimmy, where my pweshent?”  I looked up at him, over to the broken pieces of his bank in the corner, the watch, then back at his questioning eyes, and I didn’t even have the courage to tell him I’d forgotten about him.  I just grabbed him and started bawling like a baby.  He never lived to say “Happy New Year”, he died two days later.

It’s Christmas Even again, snowing again, too.  I’d just gotten off the phone (parents called to say “Merry Christmas”).  I laid back down on my dorm bed (I’m at college now).  I laid down with my arms folded behind me and started to look at the only object on the wall:  an old, homemade, water-colored, Christmas card.  I checked the time on my watch – – the one with the gold band; just a few seconds before midnight.  I gazed up at the wall again and read the words aloud.  “Whom I love the most.”  Then… I could actually hear him say it again, “ Werwy Kwishmash, Shimmy.”  Only this time I answered back as loud as I could:  “Merry Christmas, Jerry, Merry Christmas!”

Dedication: “To all who have brothers.”

By: Gary Acevedo, Junior