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Gifts of Love

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2000 edition of Pioneer Magazine

By Mary A. Johnson

It was a bit colder than usual that November of 1932. In fact, if my memory serves me right, a few flakes of snow even fell, and snow was almost unheard of in Bunkerville, Nevada.

While the snow and cold weather were treats for , they brought problems for many. Croup and pneumonia swept through the town, and with the nearest medical facility 50 miles away, the ill were treated with pioneer medications and prayer. Although the pioneer era had long passed, we were still forced by circumstances to live like in many ways.

My family, however, was looking forward with anticipation to a special happening. Mother would soon give birth to her ninth child, and we seven living children were always excited to have a new baby in our home.

November 23 arrived, and so did our new baby brother. He was so healthy! And, as mother said, ‘‘He’s one of the most beautiful babies ever born!”  But he didn’t have a chance to remain healthy in our household. Father was in bed with pneumonia and so was my eldest sister, and most of the rest of us had croup. And so it was that this beautiful, healthy baby brother also contracted pneumonia and died on December 14, leaving us heartbroken.

was just eleven days away, and with so much sickness and so little money, we hadn’t expected many presents. But now it was hard to even feel excited. Our home was so sad.

However, my parents weren’t the type to let trials interfere with making a happy home. With courage and determination, they looked forward to the holidays, carefully planning something special for each child. The Christmas party at the church on Christmas Eve, with the dancing around the big Christmas tree in the center of the cultural hall and the singing of carols and the retelling of the first Christmas story, was the perfect medication for our sadness, and we went home with the Christmas spirit burning brightly in our hearts.

Just as we were getting ready to go to bed, Santa Claus came knocking on the window to tell us to hurry and get to bed so he could come back to bring us gifts. After his warning, we could hear his string of bells ringing as he bounced off to the next house. We quickly bounced off to bed!

As we slipped into the living room on Christmas morning, the pungent pine log burning in the fireplace welcomed us and we warmed our bodies while peeking over our shoulders to see if we could spy any gifts under the tree.

“Oh, look, can that be for me? How can it be?” I thought as I ran to the tree and the little cupboard standing by it to see if my name could be on it. Yes, yes! It was for me! And there were china dishes in it, too! Exactly what I’d dreamed of—a little china cupboard like the big one in Mother’s dining room. Then my eyes were drawn to the new dress hanging nearby, which also had my name on it. I almost shouted, “There’s a new dress for me, too!”

Of course, Father made the cupboard, and Mother made the dress. Where they found the time and energy to do such things under such difficult circumstances I’ll never know, but I’m sure love and desire made it all possible.

I’m so grateful for my parents and the heritage they passed on to me!  I’m grateful for the Christmas spirit of that special day and the other Christmases in our home. I canl remember an unhappy Christmas, although each one was different. Christmas in Bunkervilie was the best time of year!

It isn’t the size of the gift we count

Nor money spent, whatever the amount

But it’s the love with which the gift is given

That spirit of love sent down from Heaven.

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