Christmas Miracle in a New Jersey Diner

  By Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president

  • 11 December 2013

Paul and Bonnie Oscarson and their children pose for a Christmas card photograph, taken in 1988 on the Raritan River in Clinton, New Jersey.  Photo courtesy of the Oscarson family.

Article Highlights

  • After a difficult move, the Oscarson family went to a small diner to celebrate their oldest daughter’s birthday.
  • Inside the diner they came to recognize what a great gift it is to be surrounded by loved ones.
  • Ultimately, they realized that no matter the hardship, the gift of those around us makes it a truly wonderful world.

“We know that when we are surrounded by people who love us, we can make it through hard times. That is a gift that truly makes it a wonderful world.”
—Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president

The year 1988 had been a hard one for our family. We had made a very difficult move from our longtime home in St. Louis, Missouri, to New Jersey.

The move involved my husband, Paul, being in New Jersey for four long months alone before the family could join him. When the rest of us finally got there so our seven children could begin school, we found that the home we were going to move into was not quite ready and we ended up spending the first four weeks living in a Holiday Inn.

The nine of us were eating meals out of a cooler, were spread out over three separate rooms, and this was all in the midst of the children adjusting to new schools, new friends, and a new Church situation. Moving a family of children can be a stressful challenge under the best of circumstances, but this move had been especially emotionally trying.

We finally got into our home and were beginning to adjust to our new life on the East Coast when November 30 came along—our oldest daughter Amy’s 18th birthday and the beginning of the Christmas season. My husband and I and our four oldest children were at Mutual that evening, and Amy was really feeling sad and blue. This move had been particularly hard for her. It had come right before her senior year of high school, and she was missing friends, activities, and all that goes with that final year of school.

My husband suggested that we stop at our favorite diner to get a little snack on the way home. We had discovered the Spinning Wheel Diner shortly after our arrival in New Jersey. It was an old-fashioned diner that was located between our home and church and was run by a close-knit Greek family who soon began to recognize us and to treat us like old friends.

It had a vintage ’50s decor with Formica and chrome and a little jukebox in each booth. It certainly wasn’t fancy, but the food was always fresh and tasty, and the price was right.

On this particular evening, even though it was late, our host, Nick, greeted us like family and seated us in one of the booths. It was a cold and threatening night outside, but we were soon cozy and warm as we sat in our booth, ordered a late night snack, and began to reminisce about Amy’s birth, our family, and all that we had been through.

Then it happened. It was one of those magical moments where everything comes together and feels right and good. Huge flakes of snow began to fall outside, and we put a quarter into the jukebox to listen to what had become our standard choice at the diner—Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.”

We looked at the beautiful snow falling, and we smiled at one another. We were grateful to be there together and happy to be alive. There was a sense that we were all sharing the same feeling. The hardships of the previous seven months melted away. Amy’s melancholy vanished as we all recognized how blessed we were to have each other, to be a forever family, and to love one another.

The beginning of that Christmas season marked a new chapter in our lives. Each time any of us hears that song, we are taken right back to that small New Jersey diner with the snow gently drifting down outside. We know that when we are surrounded by people who love us, we can make it through hard times. That is a gift that truly makes it a wonderful world.