Today, as we rummaged through some stored items, my eight-year-old granddaughter found a treasure. So, of course, I had to tell her the story.
Thumbelina was a Christmas gift.
I was nine years old, and the second day of Christmas break from school I broke out with a horrendous case of chicken pox. There was no vaccine back then, and I was covered from scalp to sole with terrifying little blisters that made life agony for ten of the twelve days we were off from school.
Housebound and itching, my outlook was bleak. Mom cared for me and made the siblings play with me. Most of them had already succumbed, but if they hadn’t, the ruling philosophy was “let them all be sick at the same time.
Christmas Day fell right in the middle of the ordeal.
Unknown to me, it was the year of the bicycle. One time in our childhood we received a bike for Christmas. This was a huge present from our parents, and I know now that it was a sacrifice they willingly made. My bicycle had already been purchased and was safe in hiding.
On Christmas each child received one big gift that fulfilled a wish. Christmas was a magical day filled with celebration of the birth of Christ, but there was not the flood of presents that marks many Christmases today. Our parents worked hard, and they sacrificed to provide the one special gift that stood out from the needed socks and underwear and pajamas. Mine was the bicycle, and I was stuck in bed.
I never saw that bicycle on Christmas Day, though. Instead, I opened a box that contained a beautiful doll that was soft and could move her head and looked like a real baby – to me. Thumbelina, the doll of the day, was in all the advertisements, and now I owned one! She was beautiful, and I was thrilled! I could snuggle with her, chicken pox and all.
I didn’t know the drama that surrounded my Thumbelina gift until just before the end of Christmas break. My spots were fading, and I was deemed ready to go back to school.
On Sunday afternoon, the first day that I was allowed out of the house, the family gathered in the front yard. Mom rolled a wonderful blue bicycle out from behind the house. I was so stunned that I could not believe it was mine. I had been happy with just Thumbelina.
Then mom told me the back story.
“Your dad bought this bike for you well before Christmas and hid it to surprise you. Christmas shopping for everyone had been completed. Then you came down with chicken pox, and we knew that you would not be able to enjoy the bike for the entirety of your break. Even though we usually only buy one big gift for each of you, we didn’t want you to be disappointed on Christmas morning. So, after much discussion, your dad had me buy Thumbelina to go under the tree for you. Now, here is your bicycle.”
At nine years old, I realized the sacrifice made for me. My dad would be paying Christmas bills into the new year, maybe a little longer that year because of the added expense. I had been doubly blessed, and I understood the enormity and the rarity of this deviation from the budget.
Over fifty years later, I still have Thumbelina. She no longer wears her original outfit – it was loved off of her. She wears one of my baby dresses that mom shared with me.
She has moved with me all over the southeast. She has been boxed and stored and cared for.
I keep her because she is a reminder of love that sacrifices for the good and sometime simply for the joy of another. She is a picture of the love I want my children and grandchildren to know and remember.
I was blessed to see love modeled in my interactions with my parents. They were not perfect, but they loved me. Not all are so fortunate. However, we all have access to a love from our Heavenly Father that surpasses all that we can ask or think. He reaches to us in our sin sickness, and doubly blesses us in His constant and abundant provision. This love is undeserved but, oh, so precious.
I enjoyed the bicycle for many years, but I have kept Thumbelina. Each time the opportunity to release her has appeared, I have ended up tucking her back in a safe place. Each time I take her out, I remember love.
Romans 5:8 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 13:4 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Photo – Thumbelina Today, a little worse for love, but she still works, Beth Mims