Christmas presents like the ones delivered to the house of DC Widow Marjorie Brimley and family

Christmas Eve

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone complaining that her child had just radically changed his Christmas list.  “He wants a dozen laser tag guns now!  And I just finished all of the wrapping!” the person whined.

I get it.  These small details can be annoying when we have a million things going on.  But do you know what it made me realize?

At that point, five days before Christmas, I had purchased just one present for each of my children.  ONE.

Last year it wasn’t like this at all.  I planned ahead and bought most of my presents in November, so when Shawn was in the hospital, the presents just had to be wrapped.  Shawn’s work colleagues did some of them (as a side note, they put hilarious post-it notes on top to identify them like, “an adorable little puppy that purrs when you rub its tummy!!!”) and my neighbors did the rest.  On Christmas Eve, my aunt Nancy and my Dad helped to arrange all of the stockings and make everything perfect.

Part of the reason I went all out was that Christmas morning was so important to Shawn.  He loved the drama of it all, and like many fathers, every Christmas Eve he stayed up into the wee hours of the night putting together toys and setting the scene.  He loved those first moments of Christmas morning and reveled in the joy he saw in the kids’ faces.  I worried at times that we were overindulging the kids, and that they’d get greedy with all of the presents that they received.

But I’m glad I sat back and let Shawn have his way on this one, because I will always have vivid memories of watching him every Christmas morning.  Not the kids.  Him.

Because he really was a kid at heart.

In fact, he was the person who loved toys the most in our house.  Sometimes he’d come home in November after stopping by the toy store – alone – with a toy for one of the kids.  I always scolded him and made sure he put it away for the holidays.  But other times I couldn’t stop him, and I’d come home from an afternoon off and find out he’d taken the kids to the toy store in December.

I was always mad at him for that.  Not let’s-fight-in-front-of-the-kids mad, just annoyed that he was getting them presents for no reason weeks before Christmas.  “Have some restraint!” I remember saying to him one year.

But do you know what the kids remember vividly about him?  How much fun they had at the toy store when he took them.  In fact, last week when I remembered that I had no presents for the kids, I sat down with Claire and Austin and asked them what they wanted, and they brought up those trips with their dad.

“I don’t really need anything,” Claire said, “but remember how Dad used to take us to the toy store?  Maybe we could do that.”

“Ya!” Austin chimed in.  “We always went to the diner that’s next door first and then we would go get something at the toy store.  Can we do that?”

That seemed easy enough.  I wrote out some “coupons” for a visit to the diner and the toy store, and they’ll open them tomorrow.  It felt like a piece of Shawn was there when I did it.

But as of that evening four days ago, I still didn’t have much else for them to open.  I’d do some shopping over the weekend, I figured. 

That night, after I put the kids to bed, I was talking to my dad.  “Oh,” he said, “there’s a bunch of presents in the basement.  Someone dropped them off on the front porch today and there wasn’t a tag, so I hid them downstairs.  Do you know who it was?”

I didn’t.  I went to the basement and found over a dozen wrapped gifts.  There was just one tag that read, “Enjoy.”

I started crying.  I had no idea who it was, but it was like someone had read my mind that day.  Even the handwriting seemed unfamiliar.  I turned the wrapped packages over in my hands and marveled at the fact that someone had done this for my kids.

“So who was it?” my dad asked later. 

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I mean, I guess it must have been Santa.”

It sounds like I made this whole story up, but it is the honest truth.  Santa came to our house.  Just like Shawn would have done if he was here.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


  • Melanie

    Sweet post. I think the gift of our time is the best of all, and it is beautiful that you are continuing the toy store and diner tradition your children love so much. Wishing you happiness this Christmas and New Year, but maybe more importantly, peace as well.

  • Larry & Diane Ward

    A beautiful Christmas story letting your readers hear of one of your Christmas Traditions that you have chosen to continue with. In time I believe that you and your beautiful family will be able to create a new meaningful tradition as well. May every Christmas minute have a bit of Magic in it.

    • Marjorie

      Thank you for the love, and for the wish of a bit of magic. As I wait for my kids to wake up on Christmas morning, I can feel it in the air.

  • Melissa

    This brought tears to my eyes. I fervently believed in Santa when I was little and my brother and I thought we heard his reindeer on the roof one Christmas Eve when we shared a bedroom. I can still remember the excitement of that moment. I’m glad he came to your home when you needed him most. Merry Christmas!

    • Marjorie

      Shawn used to do all sorts of things to make sure the kids believed – “Ho ho ho!” outside their bedroom late at night, for example. I miss that so much.

  • Gabe

    Oh how wonderful, I’m happy there’s some magic in your Christmas this year, I can’t think of more deserving people to get some extra love from Santa.

  • Elizabeth

    That’s amazing. Happy for all of the secret Santa’s this time of year but particularly the one who made it to your house! Love to you and yours and to still believing in magic.

  • Sheryll Brimley

    Christmas Eve of 2017 was only the second time that I got to spend with just my husband & my son. The first time was when Shawn was six months old. I can remember chatting with Shawn about past antics that his dad used to go through to make sure that everyone believed in the magic. Getting up on the roof on the house in Mississauga & stomping around!!! Walking around the house in wet boots leaving Santa’s footprints, dropping chocolate & candy on the way to the stockings. No wonder Shawn & his sisters believed in the magic of Santa Claus …for years!!
    The three of us laughed a little at those memories. I will always remember that smile on Shawn’s face.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I remember when we first had kids and he was ADAMANT that the entire experience of Santa needed to be exactly like he had as a kid – it was so impressive to me. He so loved everything you all did for him as a kid. xo