my holiday gift to you, I share this story, slightly edited. It was
written by Pearl S. Buck and it evokes in me an experience of being
undone by boundless love:
was fifteen years old and still on his father's farm. He loved his
father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas,
when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.
I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He's growing so fast and he needs
his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I
wish I could manage alone."
"Well, you can't, Adam." His mother's voice was brisk. "Besides, he isn't a child anymore. It's time he took his turn."
"Yes," his father said slowly. "But I sure do hate to wake him."
he heard these words, something in him spoke: his father loved him! He
had never thought of that before, taking for granted the tie of their
blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their
children--they had no time for such things. There was always so much to
do on the farm.
that he knew his father loved him, there would be no loitering in the
mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling
blindly in his sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes shut, but he
then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was fifteen, he
lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and
most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and
mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother
and father always bought him something he needed, not only a warm
jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and
bought them each something, too.
wished, that Christmas when he was fifteen, he had a better present for
his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a
tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before
Christmas. He looked out of his attic window, the stars were bright.
"Dad," he had once asked when he was a little boy, "What is a stable?"
"It's just a barn," his father had replied, "like ours."
Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds had come...
thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his
father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He could get up early,
earlier than four o'clock,
and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He'd do
it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start
the milking he'd see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He
laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do,
and he musn't sleep too soundly.
He must have waked twenty times, scratching a match each time to look at his old watch -- midnight, and half past one, and then two o'clock.
a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept
downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The cows
looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.
had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept
thinking about his father's surprise. His father would come in and get
him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting
dressed. He'd go to the barn, open the door, and then he'd go get the
two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn't be waiting or empty, they'd
be standing in the milk-house, filled.
"What the--," he could hear his father exclaiming.
He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant.
task went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking
for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father
who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered
them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch.
in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the
darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the
covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
"Rob!" His father called. "We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas."
"Aw-right," he said sleepily.
door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few
minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from
minutes were endless -- ten, fifteen, he did not know how many -- and
he heard his father's footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of laugh.
"Thought you'd fool me, did you?" His father was standing by his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.
"It's for Christmas, Dad!"
found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father's
arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each other's
"Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing--"
Dad, I want you to know -- I do want to be good!" The words broke from
him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was
bursting with love.
got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the
Christmas tree. Oh what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst
again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the
younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.
"The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I'll remember it, son every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live."