Franklin and Simon brought in the small pine twig and set it in the kool-aid pitcher.
“We can wrap this around it,” Franklin said, handing Simon a bright red baby blanket.
Lily popped popcorn in the kitchen as the Simon and Franklin fiddled with the twig so that it would stand up straight.
The three spent the rest of the night stringing popcorn and listening to each other tell Christmas stories.
“It’s time for bed, Simon.”
“Ah, Mom!” Simon started to protest but remembered that Santa only visits good little children when they are asleep, so he relented. “What about Santa’s cookies?”
Lily and Franklin looked at each other and sighed.
“You know, Simon,” Franklin said, “Santa eats so many cookies and pieces of fudge left by other children, how about we give him some carrot sticks instead?”
Simon stared at his dad for a moment then smiled. “Carrot sticks with ranch dressing?”
“Ah, how about plain carrot sticks so that he can share them with the reindeer?” his mother asked.
Simon nodded and placed ten carrot sticks on a small paper plate and left a note for Santa.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” Simon asked as Franklin tucked him into bed.
“I know he will.”
Franklin returned to the living room where Lily was putting the carrot sticks back into the cold water for Simon’s lunches that week. They looked at each other and didn’t say anything. Each knew what the other was thinking. Lily’s eyes filled with tears as she closed the lid on the old tupperware bowl of carrot sticks.
They went to bed dreading waking in the morning and hearing their son’s cries.
“MOM! DAD!” Simon screamed from the living room. “DAD! MOM! COME QUICK!”
Franklin and Lily ran into the living room and nearly fainted. The tiny pine twig had been replaced by a magnificent seven-foot Christmas tree complete with decorations, lights, and gifts resting under it. Where the paper plate sat hours before was now overflowing with mouthwatering sugar cookies.
Simon dove under the tree and handed a large box to his dad. “This one’s yours.”
Franklin stood stunned, then slowly made his way over to the couch and sat down. Lily’s jaw dropped as Simon handed her a small box held shut by a red ribbon with silver and gold stars on it.
Simon smiled and bounced on his knees waiting for them to open their gifts.
Franklin was the first to open his box. “A suit? Who? What?” A note at the bottom of the box read, “Have faith.”
Tears streamed down his face as he motioned for Lily to open her gift.
She gasped as she opened the lid and saw a gift card for the local grocery story. A note under it read, “Support for the Supporter.”
Franklin and Lily watched as Simon dove back under the tree and opened boxes of new clothes, reading books, a telescope they could share, and more arts and crafts supplies than their budding artist could ever use.
No one knew where they really came from, and there was never another Christmas like it, but the family talked about it every year until Franklin passed away, then Lily. Simon told his grandchildren the story every year. The story of how his father found the strength to find another job, and how his mother opened her own cake company out of their kitchen. It was the best Christmas he ever remembered.