Author: Ruby Zehnder

“You silly old fool,” Shirley laughed at her image in the mirror. She was dressed as Santa’s elf in a green dress trimmed with an over-the-top red collar, striped stockings, curly-toed shoes, and an elf hat with attached oversized ears. She painted her nose with red lipstick to complete the costume and left the faculty restroom to go to Santa’s workshop.
“Hey, Shirley,” Nancy laughed when she entered the workshop.
“What’s so funny?” Shirley challenged. “Ain’t you never seen a 78-year-old spinster schoolteacher dressed as an elf?”
“I just can’t help myself. You make the perfect elf,” Nancy chuckled.
Nancy was right. Shirley was only five feet tall, squat, and shaped like a pear.
“Well, what do the munchkins have to choose from this year?” Shirley asked and began studying the silver heart bracelets and the ‘I love you mom’ Christmas ornaments.
“Same stuff as last year. Everything is priced between four and five dollars.”
“When do we start?” Shirley asked impatiently.
“Today is crunch day. The kids were instructed to bring cash and told Santa’s Magic Elves would help them find the perfect gift. First up is Mrs. Morrison’s kindergarten class.” The fun began. Each student, accompanied by an elf volunteer, selected his or her Christmas gifts. After they purchased them, the presents were wrapped, and the children, all giggly and happy, returned to their classrooms.
Halfway through the event, a small child entered the shop.
“Welcome to Santa’s Magic workshop,” Shirley greeted the girl. The little girl didn’t respond.
“Who are you buying for today?” Shirley coaxed.
The child remained silent.
“There are some lovely gifts.” Shirley steered the girl towards the table filled with glass mugs and ‘I love you’ sun catchers. The child seemed uninterested. This odd behavior confused Shirley. Most children jumped at the chance to buy a trinket, confessing their love for their mom and dad.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Shirley asked. “You don’t have what I need,” the child confessed softly.
Alarmed by this reply, Shirley asked, “And what do you need?”
“I need time for my mother. She has cancer, and Daddy says she may not be with us for Christmas.”
Shirley’s heart sank. Shirley had comforted many unhappy children as a teacher, but this was tragic.
“Oh, don’t fret. I have the perfect gift for your mother,” Shirley lied. “Let me get it from Santa’s Magic chest.”
Shirley left the child and found an empty box.
“Lord, I have been blessed in my life,” she prayed as she removed her wristwatch. “I know that I have another good ten years. Maybe more. But they need it more than I do.”
She placed her watch in the box and knew he had been listening.
“Give this to your mother,” Shirley told the child and handed her the box. “It is another ten good years. Maybe more.”
“Really?” the child asked with doubt.
“It is a special gift just for your mother,” Shirley answered, knowing this was true.
The child hugged Shirley and gleefully skipped to the library to have it wrapped.
After she left, Shirley suddenly felt worn out and needed to rest, but she knew she had done the right thing. The thought of this young girl growing up and sharing all her important milestones with her mother was worth her sacrifice.
Besides, Shirley had already had her fair share of happiness and wouldn’t miss what she had given this family—another ten Christmases together. Maybe more.