NORMAN — At Sunday school, my 5-year-old daughter, Jamie, was given some hay to put out on Christmas Eve for Santa’s reindeer. As a new, single Mom, I planned for Jamie and I to go from Norman to my Mom’s house in Oklahoma City for Christmas Eve, then spend the night there.
I loaded all the gifts into the car and told Jamie we would spend the night in Oklahoma City.
Jamie said, “But we have to put out the hay for Santa’s reindeer. I want to be home on Christmas morning.”
I decided to drive back to Norman that night. When we reached home, Jamie had fallen asleep. She awakened as I unbuckled from the car seat and said, “We have to put out the reindeer hay.”
“I’ll put out the hay,” I said, then carried her to bed.
Having given my word to my daughter, I went outside and tossed the hay all over the lawn. As I returned to the house, I remembered that I had taken all of Jamie’s gifts to Mom’s house. I had no gift for Jamie on Christmas Day.
I decided to clear out a storage room and let that be my daughter’s new toy room as a Christmas gift. I stayed up until 2 a.m., moving items into temporary storage in the garage.
Once cleared, the room looked large and bare. I took one of Jamie’s toys, a teddy bear, and sat it down on the floor of the room.
Exhausted, I fell into bed. It seemed like only a few minutes later that Jamie was shaking me awake, saying, “It’s Christmas morning.”
I dragged myself out of bed and told Jamie that Santa had left something to show her, but it wasn’t under the Christmas tree. Her eyes grew big, and I was suddenly heartsick about what she was about to be shown. What seemed passable during the pre-dawn hours of Christmas — an empty room and a toy Jamie already owned — now seemed pathetic.
I led Jamie to the old storage room and flipped on the light. “Santa gave you a toy room,” I said.
Jamie surveyed the room with nothing in it but a teddy bear on the floor, then smiled. Jamie began to run around in circles with delight. “I love it,” she said.
Eventually, the room would fill with toys, which later gave way in Jamie’s early teen years to a music room full of guitars, drums and amplifiers. Finally, the room became a combination sewing room and art studio.
Even though 20 years have now passed, I always feel a sense of Christmas when I enter that room.