The following Christmas story was written by Linda Ganzel:
“Wow! Miss Ganzel, this is awesome! Do people really live in these houses or do they just decorate them for fancy?” Ten-year-old Tony leaned over the back seat to whisper in my ear.
His cousin answered for me. “Of course people live in them. Real stupid guy, eh?” Felix had his nose pressed against the passenger side car window himself.
Tony had been working on an art animation project with me before I moved to the city. I had promised him he could come visit me one weekend and I would help him finish it. Before taking him and his cousin back on Sunday night, I had agreed to give them a tour of the beautiful Christmas lights in one of the city’s upper class neighborhoods.
Tony was still not convinced. “Then how many families do you think live in one house?”
“I bet at least five,” was Felix’s guess. “At least the parents, their grandparents, their elder uncles and aunts and maybe their kids-if they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Likely nobody goes hungry and cold, or sleeps in cars in this area with all of these huge houses to help people out in,” Felix continued. “Why if I at least had that house (he pointed to a more modest ranch style house) I would let you live with me, and all my cousins (which he listed off) and my grandma and my dad and mom. Wouldn’t nobody I liked have to sleep in the cold bedroom either cause I’d have a heater that works in every room.”
“And every day would be Thanksgiving with loads of turkey and ham and sweet potatoes and pie!!” Tony was getting into the dream.
It was silent for a bit, interrupted by an occasional exclamation of “Check out those lights!” Quietly Felix broke the spell with a whisper. “We’re just being stupid. You know nobody like us ever owned houses like this unless they’re movie stars or something. They probably wouldn’t sell one to us if we was rich because they wouldn’t want us kind as neighbors.”
Tony was not to be daunted. “Yeah, probably.” His eyes sparkled. “But I wonder what they give out for trick-or-treats at Halloween. We should bring Dinah and Robyn down here and check it out next year. Probably need trash bags to haul all of the candy people give out.”
Felix brightened at that idea and expounded on it. “Yeah, probably give out TV’s and VCR’s instead of candy.”
I started to laugh and teased them, “And ten speed bikes and microwaves…”
Felix sobered and looked me in the eye. “Don’t lie, Miss Ganzel. You know these rich white folks don’t give out that stuff at Halloween. You know no kids like us go trick-or-treating in this part of town. Probably if they see us coming down the sidewalk and call the cops on us. And you know that’s true, Miss Ganzel.” Felix had seen enough lights and wanted to go back home “to where normal people live.”
It was uncomfortably quiet as we drove down the highway, sobered by the boys’ observations. As ten- and eleven-year-olds they already had more than their share of bumps and bruises in life. Yet they were not selfish. If they did have “one of those houses” it probably would be overflowing with “all of the people who needed help”.
I looked over at Tony curled up in his seat looking at the stars. “What are you thinking?”
“I was asking God for one of those big houses to help my mom and dad for Christmas.”
Felix snickered. “Yeah, right. And what did He tell you?”
Tony replied, “He told me that He didn’t never lived in a big fancy house either, and that He was born in a barn.”