Charles Christmas Gift
Charles woke up in a cold dark room. It took him a full minute to remember where he was. He couldn’t recognize the place where he lay. Even though a tiny stub of a candle was still glowing in the corner,
it was too dark to see anything and the room smelled like nothing familiar to him. The blanket that covered him was scratchy, but he pulled it closer in an attempt to get warm. It was then that he realized he was holding something else.
Clutched in his cold fingers was a small cloth wrapped package. In the dark room he was unable to see its contents, so he rolled over, hazily wondering where mother was, and fell back asleep.
The next time he woke, sharp rays of winter sun was shining through his window. The city was ready for another noisy day. Huddled in his blankets, he tried to remember how he had gotten into this room, suddenly he remembered the package in his hands.
Charles sat up and carefully unwrapped the fabric and twine to reveal a letter, a newspaper clipping and a few coins. Confused, Charles climbed out of bed, put on his coat and walked out the door. He saw a dimly lit hallway that looked no more familiar than the room where he had just slept.
Charles wandered for a few minutes before finding the front office and the matron in charge. She at least, with her friendly smile and red apron, looked somewhat familiar. When she saw him, her smiled faded and she looked at him with sad eyes. He didn’t know why, but he suddenly had a sick feeling in his stomach.
Unable to make a single sound, he handed over the letter. The matron showed him into a small sitting room and lowered him onto a comfy couch. After a deep sigh, she began to read him the letter.
My dearest Charles,
No one in this earth has brought me more joy than you. I am sorry I cannot give you the life I dreamed for you, but do not doubt that you are greatly loved.
You know that I have been sick and I think that my end is near. I am going to the hospital because I cannot bear to have you wake and see me lifeless. Please remember me as I looked the day you were born, the happiest woman on earth. Our picture is in my locket, which I now give to you.
The matron of this lodging house has agreed to take you to the Children’s Aid Society where you will be put on a train with other children to go West to find a new home. I will be watching you from heaven. For Christmas, I am sure that you will get a special gift of a new family.
Be brave my Charles.
All my love,
“Is she…” Charles asked reluctantly, afraid to say the word dead aloud.
“Yes darling, she’s gone to live with the angels now.”
This brought on a fresh wave of tears, through which the matron silently rocked him. Afterward the matron dried Charles’ eyes on her apron and gently reached for the collar of his shirt, pulling out a chain that had been fastened around his neck.
Charles recognized it immediately as the necklace his mother wore and clamored quickly opened the beautiful locket that hung from it. Through bleary eyes he gazed upon his mother’s loving face and began to cry all over again.
The matron was patient and kind and let him wear out his grief and spill his tears while she softly stroked his sandy brown hair.
At one point the matron’s assistant brought in a small breakfast and Charles was persuaded to sit up and eat. While he ate, she told him of the journey he was about to take.
“Charles, this is Anne.” Charles looked up at Anne’s beautiful face and dark hair through watery eyes. “She is also going on the train your mother wrote of. She is heading to Canada, to go back and live with her own family. She has been working in New York for a few years to raise money for her family, but has decided to move back home. I spoke to her last night about you, and she has agreed to be your riding partner until she switches trains for Toronto. So see, there is nothing to fear.”
It was only barely an hour into the day and Charles was exhausted. It was all he could do to nod and then silently eat the breakfast that was placed before him.
Photo Credit: Yahoo Picture Library; Wikimedia Commons; Shayfan