Christmas Memory: “Nothing Else Mattered”

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer; and Leslie P. Layton of the Young Women general board

  • 23 December 2015

As a young child a memorable Christmas gift for Sister Leslie Layton of the Young Women general board was a toboggan—"a gift to our whole family." Later their family would cherish an even greater gift.

As a young child a memorable Christmas gift was a toboggan—a gift to our whole family. I don’t remember seeing it under the tree, but I do remember hours and hours of delight on a hill next to our home with my big brother running the show, and seemingly dozens of kids crammed on the toboggan. Sitting all in a line with our legs alongside the person in front of us, down the hill we glided. Then, up the hill we ran pulling the toboggan, over and over again; laughing and sometimes falling into the snow when we missed a turn.

We also had a Flexible Flyer, which was a sled that we could guide with a pivoting wooden cross section. We laid on our stomachs, sometimes two or three kids deep, maneuvering the sled with great ease. We tried to control the toboggan by leaning to one side or the other, but that didn’t work very well. I loved playing with our friends in the neighborhood but, most of all, I loved being with my older brother.

Leslie P. Layton of the Young Women general board

The Christmas I was 9 years old was very different. Our family had moved to the desert city of Abadan, Iran. Everything was quite foreign to me. Beautiful date palms lined the streets, but somewhere my parents found a Christmas tree for us to decorate. There was no Christmas music to be heard except the songs we sang in our own home. Our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived thousands of miles away.

According to our tradition at home, Santa Claus visited children by sleigh, bringing each a gift. There was no snow in Abadan and certainly no sleighs. The oil company for whom my father worked sponsored a Christmas party where someone dressed like Santa arrived in a helicopter.

Soon after the party, my brother became ill. He was diagnosed with hepatitis and admitted to the hospital. Days and days went by and we didn’t know when he would be able to come home. I remember visiting him in the hospital and thinking how pale he looked. I remember vividly the day before Christmas; Dad announced that Louis would come home for Christmas.

That night as we gathered in our living room, with Louis resting on the couch, we sang Christmas carols. All was calm; all was bright. Our hearts were filled with love and gratitude. Louis was home and we were together as a family. As Dad read the familiar Christmas story from Luke, everything seemed just right. Nothing else mattered. Nothing was missing.