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Lots of stuff isn’t what makes a good Christmas

One of the most memorable Christmases I have ever experienced came during a time when we had very little money.

My first wife and two small boys and I lived in a 30-by-16-foot apartment in New Orleans. My wife Debbie was a school teacher and I was a full-time student with a part-time, low-paying job.

We lived in the married housing section of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and had moved to the Crescent City from a 3,000-plus square-foot home where our living room measured 30-by-15 feet.

Yeah.

So we had really been learning to readjust.

We often hung out with another couple, Shean and Erin, who also had two young boys about the same ages as ours — 6 and 4 years old — and lived nearby.

One day Erin and my wife were talking as Shean and I worked to free our youngest two boys from the crook of a tree they’d been climbing behind the apartment building.

Our conversations went something like this:

Erin: We just can’t afford to get the boys gifts this year like usual.

Debbie: Same here, and they already have a lot of toys they never play with.

Their kid: Dad! Help me get down!

Shean: I can’t reach that high!

Erin: What if we took toys in good condition that our boys don’t play with …

My kid: Ow! My foot is stuuuuuuck!

Me: I know, hold still for a minute. I’m trying to get you loose.

Debbie: … and wrap them up and swap them?

Their kid: Dad!! Get me down! I don’t like being up this high!

Shean: I still can’t reach you. And why did you climb that high if you don’t like it?

My kid: Ow! Daddy!!!

Me: Look, just slip your foot out of your shoe.

Erin/Debbie: Yes! That’s a great idea. Let’s do that.

Their kid: I’m jumping.

Shean: No, wait, I …

Kid launches from upper branches and lands hard but safely on Shean’s head and shoulder.

My kid: Hey, my foot’s out.

Me: Good. Shean, you OK?

My kid: Dad! Get my shoe.

Runs off with his friend, with just one shoe on.

Me: Shean?

Debbie: Does your oldest boy like Tonka trucks?

Me: Shean? Can you see me? Can you hear me?

That Christmas turned out great. I drew a tree, complete with ornaments, on the side of our refrigerator with dry-erase markers. It didn’t erase. I’m pretty sure it stayed on that fridge until Katrina hit.

When our children opened their gifts on Christmas morning, they couldn’t wait to show their friends. The four boys Oooh-ed and Ahhh-ed over their new toys and we were glad they could find joy in just one toy each and being with family and friends.

My kid: Hey! Cool truck! I used to have one just like it.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.