In grown-up years she usually found, often by accident, at least one "perfect gift." It wasn't selected for any particular person, but just seemed to appear. Sometimes it was a small thing, sometimes larger. Always it promised to produce the look of joy, and maybe surprise, that she hoped to find when presents were opened.
As her childhood held no brothers, sisters and other kin, the mother's death left a distraught father and his little girl to themselves that Christmas. It brought with it the "empty chair" syndrome felt by many this year in Washington County.
She learned another lesson that early terrible holiday: The way to be happy at such a time is to work very hard to make someone else happy, to look for a flash of brightness in the eyes of another. She wanted that for her Dad.
She saved harder that Christmas. She aimed for a particular small thing he could use.
She knew what it was because, lacking a baby- sitter, her father took her everywhere with him, even to his newspaper office when a story broke late at night. Later, it amused her to joke that she learned about journalism sitting on the edge of city desks at all hours.
Today, in this troubled world there are people of all circumstances who have no pennies to save. Washington County has those who are alone, along with people who are ill and in physical or emotional pain.
Something in all of this shows in an isolated house with no lights turned on after dark, at holiday time or ever. It looks tired and old and everything about it seems to say, "stay away." But an amazing thing is seen there at Christmas.
Each year, in an upstairs window, shines one red candle. She has lacked the courage to knock or leave an answering candle. This Christmas, she hopes to find that courage.
Also among us are people with more subtle problems. In the midst of good things, some experience the very real seasonal affective disorder known as S.A.D.
Sufferers have a genuine need for sunshine and winter, bringing less, creates a chronic pall.
Common to those who cook, clean and decorate is a dread of holiday time as a period of hard work and exhaustion. No expert on the psychology of winter or holidays, poverty or loneliness, this writer can offer one comment only. Help is found within the self. It may take digging to find it but it is there.
In bad times it can be so hard to focus on another, to try to bring light to the eyes of someone else. It might take faith to gather the strength. For those without such solace, it may happen through some version of a white handkerchief bought with pennies.
To say Merry about Christmas can be unrealistic when no merriment exists. It may be easier to wish for a Happy Christmas. Sometimes the best we can muster is a prayer that goes, "Please God show me the way to make someone else happy, now and forward".
To those of faith and those with none, this writer offers wishes for a blessed Christmas and the chance to bring a moment of gladness to someone struggling through this celebratory season.
Dee Mayberry is a
resident who writes for