One Christmas season when I was about five, I saw in a store window a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of an old fire engine going full speed down the street. The horses pulling it were galloping, smoke from the engine chimney was blowing out behind, and dogs were barking. I passed that store window many times and glued my eyes on that picture. I wanted that puzzle for Christmas more than I wanted a sled or skates or anything else.
When Christmas morning finally came, I found hung on my chair a stocking full of good things. But right off I spotted my puzzle. It was wrapped in bright paper, but I could tell by the shape what it was. I quickly opened the box and was soon lost in the pleasure of putting the puzzle together.
Before long my father came into the room and explained to my younger brother, older sister, and me that the Jensen family down the street had recently come from Denmark. He said the father had no job and no money, and then he suggested that we take our Christmas dinner to them. He also asked each of us to select our most loved toy and give it to a child in the Jensen family.
Father said we would leave at eleven forty-five and were to be ready then with our toys.
Before we left for the Jensen’s, I spent three happy hours playing with and enjoying my puzzle. I thought about giving something else, but I knew deep down that there was only one gift to give.
At eleven forty-five we all started out. Father carried the turkey on a platter. Mother and my sister Emily followed with potatoes, gravy, dressing, cranberries, and dessert. And under my arm, carefully rewrapped, was my fire engine puzzle.
When we entered the Jensen home, Father placed the turkey on the small bare table in the corner, and the others followed.
Each one of us in turn then gave his present. Emily gave her beautiful doll to the girl. I stepped forward and looked at the boy about my age. “Here,” I said as I pushed the puzzle at him. He took it from me and smiled. Next my brother gave his offering to the smallest child. And then we returned home.
It was strange, but somehow as I walked the block between our house and the Jensen’s, it seemed as if my feet didn’t touch the ground. I felt as though I were floating on clouds of good feeling, for I knew I had made someone else happy.
Even our Christmas dinner of canned beans, bread, butter, and bottled fruit had a special and unforgettable meaning on that special Christmas Day!