It was one month past our first wedding anniversary and Christmas morning. As struggling college students, we had spent our year together literally banking on the saying, “Two can live as cheaply as one,” and now that we had a new, one month old baby, we were hoping to stretch that to three. While I was growing up my mom always used to say, “We’re so poor, we can’t pay attention.” Starting my own little family, we were that poor too.
Most couples had gone home for the holidays, or at least to relatives nearby, but being from Alaska, we made a Christmas for our little family in our apartment. Having little to give others, we decided to give our Christmas dinner away to the only young couple we knew of who was poorer than we were. However, making this delivery anonymously was going to require planning, luck, and athleticism. Their apartment was in a building where the front door opened into a long hallway.
With my wife waiting outside in the getaway car, I carefully set the box of food in front of their door, knocked very loudly, then shot down the hall in a flat out run. As I reached the stairs at the end of the hall, I heard their door open. I knew my only chance to not be seen was to leap the entire flight of stairs, so I did a weird jump — crouched over so as to be as low as I could be as I took to the air.
I almost made it.
My right foot hit the last step and I rolled my ankle and crashed in a heap on the landing below the stairs. I popped up and hopped at hyper speed for the outside door, crossed the icy sidewalk and dove into the car and my wife sped off for home.
I hobbled up the stairs to our apartment thinking to myself, “It is amazing how good you can feel with a severely sprained ankle.”
We could hear the telephone ringing as we unlocked the door. It was this couple. “Rats!” I thought. “He saw me!“
“Merry Christmas, Tom,” he said.
My wife looked at me as if to ask, “Who is it?” I pantomimed that it was this couple. She gasped.
“Are you enjoying your Christmas dinner?” he asked.
“Why would he ask that?” I thought to myself.
We were so busted, but I tried to play it cool. “Actually, we haven’t had dinner yet,” I said.
“That’s what I thought,” he replied.
My wife whispered to me, “Do they know?” I nodded yes.
“Guess what?” He continued. “Someone just left a whole Christmas dinner at our door, all cooked up, turkey and everything!”
“Really?” I said, wiping the sweat from my palms.
“Yeah, that’s why we’re calling you. You guys are the only couple we know of that is poorer than we are, so we were wondering if you wanted to come over and have dinner with us.”
As we entered their apartment bearing the apple pie we held back for ourselves and still unsure if they suspected us, he asked me, “Tom, what happened to your leg?!”
“I cut myself shaving,” I joked.
That was exactly 20 years ago this Christmas. I don’t remember many of the Christmas gifts I’ve received since then, but I know I will never forget what we gave that Christmas day, and how it felt.