A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
God has watched over me every day of my life. A miracle that
happened in my childhood has given me a deep, abiding faith for His
continuing love and protection.
In the summer of 1958, my mother made the most loving and
courageous decision any mother can make: she gave me up for adoption.
The decision to give up an hours-old infant would be agonizing enough,
but I was not a newborn baby; I was seven years old.
This is much too complex a story to tell in its entirety here, so
I’ll condense it to this: My parents divorced soon after I was born
and my mother had custody of me until I was three years old, at which
time she was forced for financial reasons to give me up to my father.
I lived with him and my grandmother until I was five, when he
remarried and moved us from our home in Boston to live in Oregon with
his new wife.
My life for the next year became hell on earth; the new wife was a
bitter, violent alcoholic whose jealous rages against me escalated
until my father, in fear for my life, finally sent me back to my
My mother by this time was remarried, had moved to Delaware, and
had given birth to two more children; she was completely unprepared to
deal with an emotionally wounded and distraught six year old child,
especially one who didn’t want to be there. And in truth, she had not
spent more than a few days with me since I was three—we were mother
and child, but strangers. Her husband was a merchant Marine who was
gone most of the time and the stress of being, for the most part, a
single mother, was overwhelming to her. I couldn’t have come at a
worse time. She begged my father to take me back. He, of course,
couldn’t. My parents were at an impasse.
But God brought about a miracle that year; my father, through a
series of amazing coincidences, was led to a couple in Portland,
Oregon, the Wagners, who were heart-hungry for a child. And because
they were older, they wanted a child of three years or more. My father
met with them and immediately recognized the love, comfort and
financial stability these tender-hearted people had to offer his
After seeing only a small, black and white photograph of me, and
hearing my story, God touched their hearts and they agreed to take me
as their own. My father called my mother, told her about them and
asked her to sign the adoption papers that would be coming in the
The decision she now faced—whether to give me up—was a hellish one
for my mother. To relinquish her child to complete strangers was
inconceivable; she struggled with guilt and self-condemnation. But she
also knew that her own psychological state at the time was not best
for my welfare.
Finally, after weeks of agonizing and praying, she agreed, and one
day in early June, she put me on a plane and sent me across the United
States to my new family.
The Wagners were the most patient, caring people any little girl
could wish for. Bringing an emotionally scarred child into your home
is heartbreaking much of the time and frustrating most of the time. I
was angry, and scared and lonely; I did not fall in love with them
overnight. But as the months went by, their patience and love began to
heal my wounded spirit; I looked forward more and backward less. I was
becoming their little girl.
As December approached, my new parents began to talk with
excitement about Christmas. I didn’t share their exuberance; the last
Christmas that stood out in my mind was the dark and miserable one I
had spent with my stepmother. Christmas had been just another day to
But my new mother and father’s enthusiasm finally became
irresistible; over the course of events there was an excursion to
visit Santa, a drive through Candy Cane Lane to see the beautiful
Christmas lights, caroling with my new friends and neighbors, and of
course, decorating the fireplace mantle with a lovely Nativity Scene.
My mother filled the house with scents of baking holiday cookies, and
whipped soap flakes into a fragrant, fluffy snow to cover cedar boughs
for the dining table centerpiece. And the tree! There may have been a
tree that last Christmas I didn’t like to think about, but if there
was, I didn’t remember it, so this one was glorious to behold; its
sparkling lights and heady pine scent were a healing balm.
Christmas Eve brought new family members too, aunts, uncles and
cousins, for a luscious dinner that outshone even Thanksgiving. An air
of affection and joy in the gathering filled me with a sense of
belonging that was both new and wonderful. Later, during Midnight
Mass, as the true story of Christmas was read, I felt completely
surrounded by peace and love.
It wasn’t easy to fall asleep that night…Santa was on his way! The
cookies and milk were on a table by the hearth, and I had no doubts
any more that he would come. I finally nodded off wrapped in a cocoon
of my new family’s tenderness.
“Wake up, sweetheart. It’s Christmas!” My new mother’s grin made
her look younger than I’d ever seen her. My new father waited,
smiling, in the doorway. When I walked out into the living room and
looked around, I was awestruck. The entire corner of the room was
filled with presents! It looked like Disneyland!
There were gifts of every size and shape and color, some with tags
reading, TO TINA FROM SANTA and others which read, TO TINA FROM BABY
JESUS. As I walked closer, I saw even more gifts, these tagged for me
from Mom and Dad, with little hearts next to the signatures.
“Are these all for me?” I breathed.
My father scooped me up in his arms, stood up to his full 6’4
height and hugged me. “You betcha,” he said. “Looks like Jesus and
Santa think you’ve been a real good girl.” He set me back down and my
mother nudged me forward. “Go ahead and open them, honey.”
I was speechless.
It took me over an hour to open every gift. My new parents weren’t
rich by any means, but they had bought every present I had mentioned
wanting over the previous months. There were toys, Barbie dolls and
baby dolls, new clothes, Nancy Drew mystery books, coloring books,
stuffed animals, and candies. They had wrapped every little thing
separately so that there would be more packages for me to open. It was
a labor of love that even now I’m overcome remembering.
Thanks to my loving God that first Christmas, something melted in
my child’s soul. Something that had been walled off for protection
came safely into the light. Something that had been empty was filled.
I had been heart-homeless for a long time, but because of the tender
care of my wonderful new parents and of the courage, sacrifice and
love of my birth mother, I finally had a home.